Paradise Found

Surrender to madness and embrace the pandemonium of Jameis Winston

John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost chronicles the life and times of Lucifer, the devil himself, after his literal fall from grace and his descent into the realm of hell. Among other things, the epic poem is famous for its protagonist’s oft-quoted line, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heav’n.” There aren’t too many comparisons to make between a 400 year old tale of a fallen angel and the hobby of fantasy football, but there is wisdom in the dark lord’s quote. If it were to be amended for a modern, fantasy-savvy audience, Milton could possibly be persuaded to update the famous line to, “Better to lose with Jameis, than to win with Russ’ll (Wilson).”

Granted, if you were fortunate enough to start Wilson in your fantasy championship, his 350 yard, 4 touchdown performance likely resulted in your name being etched on whatever inside joke passes for your league’s trophy moniker. But an infinitely more likely result if you had Russ, the consensus QB4 or QB5 in 2016 drafts, was that you didn’t even come close to sniffing the playoffs. Forget his 5 interception meltdown in week 14 that likely cost millions of fantasy players a shot at advancing, forget his insistence at playing through pain, which clearly affected his already subpar performance for weeks – no, no, those were minor hiccups compared to his month-long stretch where he didn’t throw a single touchdown. That’s right, from week 5 (a BYE week, to be fair, but this is the Russ hate segment) to week 8, Wilson couldn’t muster a single scoring strike. That’s the entire month of October. When you consider the current pass happy era of quarterbacks in the NFL and the obscenely (in retrospect) high price you had to pay for Wilson on draft night to attain his rights, selecting the Seattle signal caller in 2016 was surefire way to secure a one-way ticket to shit town.

I don’t mean to pile on poor old Russ (hah, who am I kidding? Of course I do), but the point of this is to illuminate the futility of picking QBs in the 4-8 range. If you’re not securing Aaron Rodgers, Brees, or Tom Brady, then you might as well hunker down and wait for a good value pick. Someone who can get the job done with good volume, preferably who has an all-pro, 6’5” wide receiver at his disposal. Someone who just inherited both the league’s signature deep threat and the consensus top tight end in the draft this offseason. Someone who simply can’t resist the siren’s call of crustaceans at a five-finger discount. That’s right, I’m talking about our boy Jameis Winston. If the at-times indecipherable motivational speeches aren’t enough to sell you on drafting Jameis Winston in the QB10-12 range this season, there are numerous on the field reasons to sweeten the deal. And unlike in 2016, it’s more of a surefire bet for solid production this season than the dice-roll on an up-and-coming star it was a year ago.

He’s Cooking the Soup

Despite knocks against his immaturity coming into the league in 2015 (the aforementioned love of gratis crab legs comes to mind, not to mention his very blunt version of a sex education class on a picnic table), the reality entering year three is that Jameis Winston’s leadership and maturity are in fact his greatest assets as a football player. While on a surface level it seems like those skills may not translate to fantasy points, the reality is that Jameis has full control of his team, and by extension, his offensive output. Despite a brief stretch where Dirk Koetter took the ball out of Jameis’ hands and placed it squarely in Jacquizz Rodgers chest 30+ times per game, Winston flashed all of the hallmarks of a franchise quarterback last season. Were there turnovers? Oh yes. Did some passes inexplicably sail over the head of Mike Evans’ 6’8” wingspan? You better believe it. But there is one universal truth that concerns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis is gonna toss that thang.

The aforementioned turnovers are a thorny issue, but on a game by game basis, Winston generally paid the bills if you selected him around his ADP (10th round or later). His season totals of 4019-28-18 averaged out to roughly 250-2-1 line per game (give or take some trademark fumbles lost). These stats were largely accomplished on the back of Mike Evans and his breakout campaign last season, as the former Texas A&M giant was Jameis’ preferred option wire to wire, resulting in a staggering amount of targets (he lead the league with 175). Just look at this play at marvel at their connection, aided by Jameis’ pocket maneuvers that could only be described as the gridiron equivalent of “old man game” in a pickup game at the YMCA.

The Evans-Winston connection is a marvelous thing, but it’s not the only lovefest brewing in the cutthroat confines of Raymond James stadium. Cameron Brate came on strong towards the end of the season, hauling in 8 touchdown passes, the majority of which occurred from inside the red zone. The tight end is rising up draft boards, and for good reason. Brate’s solid season and Evans monstrous one combined to produce 20 of the 28 touchdowns that Jameis threw in 2016, which bodes well for a quarterback poised to make the 3rd year leap after adding even more weapons. With the additions of Desean Jackson and OJ Howard, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to envision Winston’s touchdown total growing to the 33-36 range this season, which would make him a QB1 in basically any format.

Brate
Cameron Brate will be a big factor in Jameis Winston’s touchdown surge this season

Jameis is currently the QB12 on FantasyPros ADP ranking, plopping him firmly in a group teeming with value. The Bucs QB could be had around the same time Marcus Mariota, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger, and Phil Rivers start going off the board. Of all of these players, I like Winston’s upside the most. Mariota has tremendous scoring potential, but will likely need to be drafted a round or two before you’re comfortable taking him. Big Ben sounds like an amazing value at QB13, but you’d have to bet on the Steelers’ all-world skill players being on the field at the same time, which has been a sight rarer than Bigfoot over the past few seasons. And as for “Kurt” Cousins, well, let’s just say I’m as high on him as his own team’s president…

Enjoy The Ride

At the core of all of this discussion is the primary tenet of my fantasy football philosophy: this is supposed to be fun. This simple concept extends to who you select on draft day, as you’re not going to be having many enjoyable Sundays if your NFL Redzone experience consists of a highlight reel of players you regret owning. If nothing else, Jameis is enjoyable to own. Many, many more quarterbacks are not.

Blake Bortles looks like a middle aged director of business development for a golf apparel company, and he would be more successful in such a role. There is more mystery surrounding Andrew Luck’s degenerative injuries than the demise of Otto Warmbier. Jay Cutler openly mocks fantasy and NFL fans alike by merely showing up, and he knows it. Alex Smith’s game is so droning and incremental that each Kansas City drive feels like a 9-hour long Ken Burns documentary. Odell Beckham would have 20 touchdowns per season if it wasn’t blatantly obvious that Eli Manning refuses to get hit anymore. Dak Prescott was crowned too quickly, just like his predecessor, only he’s 10x worse than Tony Romo – and I loathe Tony Romo. The only thing stronger than Philip Rivers’ sperm count is his seemingly biological imperative to throw back-breaking interceptions in the middle of a comeback. Andy Dalton not only is Roger Klotz, but he will let you down precisely in the game that you think he will explode in. Russell Wilson is corny as hell, and, as previously mentioned, will kill you with his inconsistency.

Corny Russ
This guy is a bona fide cornball, and drafting him would make you a cornball by extension

Cam Newton seems more interested in looking like he’s hosting a riverboat poker tournament than rewarding his owners with back-to-back 15+ point outings. Joe Flacco throws the ball 700 times per year, but only 20 of those go for touchdowns. Carson Palmer is a normie. Sam Bradford looks like an unwilling participant in the MKULTRA experiments every time he drops back. Matt Stafford has accomplished jack shit in his career, yet he’s considered “reformed” because he has a 70% completion rate in a new offense specifically designed for high-completion percentage throws (hint: the throws are all four-yard slants.) Derek Carr will cost too much this year, to say nothing of the fact that he cosplays as Glen Danzig every game. Tyrod Taylor will throw for 300 yards only if you let him count his commute to the stadium as passing yardage. Mike Glennon looks like a teenage movie theater usher from a Midwestern town that got signed to an NFL team, Rookie Of The Year-style. Tom Savage’s older brother, Brian Savage, was the quarterback at my high school, where he once pretended to give me a handshake before punching me in the balls and said, “You get NO ASS!!” I was fourteen years old.

Unlike the majority of the QBs in the league listed above, Jameis Winston will be enjoyable as hell to own. You’ll have a hard time not getting pumped up at his pregame rants that echo sermons from a fiery Baptist preacher. And how appropriate – “Jaboo” is the guy who can deliver you to fantasy salvation. So as your league’s draft approaches this month, buy yourself a first class ticket on the stone crab express to glory.

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