A vast majority of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL have been the best for a long time. The top six passers in terms of yardage last year are all at least 31 years old and that doesn’t even include Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger, who could easily be in the top 10 if they and their receivers stay healthy.
Sure, Cam Newton has emerged and Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are elite fantasy options. But overall, fantasy owners are dying for the quarterback position to see an infusion of young talent.
Although there is hope for several young signal callers to develop, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is quickly becoming one of the must-grab young fantasy players under center.
Winston finished his rookie season with 4,042 yards, which was third-most among rookies ever. That’s impressive, but it’s important to note that today’s level of passing attempts inflates those types of statistics. The 22-year-old ended his rookie year ranked 12th with a 7.56 yards per pass average (he was 11th in passing yards) while also completing 58.3 percent of his attempts. Finally, Winston had 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
That’s pretty similar to his college stats. The year he won the Heisman Trophy, Winston had 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but the following year, he threw for 2.2 fewer yards per attempt, just 25 scores and 18 picks.
The reason, though, owners could feel pretty good about the Buccaneers quarterback heading into his second year was because of the brilliant flashes he occasionally showed as a rookie. From Weeks 10 to 15, Winston appeared to turn a corner, as he averaged 259.67 passing yards per game and threw for 12 touchdowns versus four interceptions.
Throw in 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Winston averaged 19.4 fantasy points in standard leagues during those six weeks.
The 22-year-old carried that second half momentum from last season into 2016. In Week 1 versus Atlanta, he completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 281 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. That was good enough for 25.54 fantasy points in standard leagues.
Winston started out very slowly against the Falcons, going 2-for-6 passing on the first two drives. He missed Mike Evans on a wide open pass in the end zone and threw an interception, but he went 21-of-26 passing the rest of the game and found four different receivers for touchdowns.
That’s one of the biggest reasons to be so excited about Winston’s potential — he’s in an offense with plenty of weapons to help him. Evans, who is now in his third season, is the No. 1 guy; he caught five passes for 99 yards and a score. There’s also oldie but goodie Vincent Jackson, who had four straight 1,000-yard seasons prior to last year when he missed six games due to injury.
But then there’s also Adam Humphries along with multiple tight ends — Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers and Cameron Brate. And don’t forget running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims, who scored a really nifty touchdown on a screen pass from Winston last Sunday.
The young signal caller certainly doesn’t have a shortage of options, and then he also has Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter as his play caller. Koetter was widely responsible for the prolific offense in Atlanta a few years ago when Matt Ryan had all his toys — Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner.
Koetter is just the man owners want helping Winston fulfill his potential. With so many weapons and Koetter as play caller, Winston is on the verge of breaking out.
As always, it’s important not to get too carried away after one strong performance, but Winston is on the rise in every fantasy league. He is a solid QB2 in two-quarterback formats and should be considered a top 15 signal caller overall moving forward. It shouldn’t at all be a surprise if he’s able to crack the top 12 at quarterback in scoring by the end of the year.