The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most exciting young team in fantasy football. With more experience, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jameis Winston, should continue to build on a productive rookie year by continuing to distribute the football to explosive young players: Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Charles Sims. Beyond the marqee players, George Kritikos notes that Kenny Bell compares favorable to Odell Beckham. With a full array of young playmakers with high-end pedigrees in the launch position, the Buccaneers’ offense is primed to take a major leap forward in fantasy production next season.
Third-year running back Charles Sims has the best opportunity to benefit from the Buccaneers offensive growth in 2016. Overshadowed by Doug Martin’s season in which he ran for the second most yards in the league, Sims quietly posted an efficient, 1000-total yard season with 529-rushing yards and 561-receiving yards on 51-receptions.
Early reports suggests that the Buccaneers hope to re-sign Doug Martin. However, Martin will command a top running back contract, and he may be interested in joining a team that will use him in a three down capacity. The Buccaneers should be skeptical of signing Martin to a huge deal even if he wishes to return to the team. His amazing rookie campaign in which he started every game and compiled 1,926 all purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns was followed by two disappointing seasons. In 2013, Martin’s yards per carry dropped from 4.6 to 3.6, and he mustered just 522 total yards and one touchdown in six games before his season abruptly with a torn labrum. 2014 wasn’t much better for Martin, he missed 5 games with two lower-body injuries and had 558 total yards and two touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry.
Doug Martin’s 2015 season was enamoring with 1,673 total yards and 7 touchdowns, but moving forward will he be the dynamic back that we saw in the book end years of his rookie contract or the disappointing player we saw in between?
Charles Sims’ best comparable player on PlayerProfiler is DeMarco Murray. Like Murray, Sims was a 3rd round pick who was lauded for his pass catching ability, and both players began their NFL careers as third string running backs. Murray quickly took over the every down workhorse role as a rookie, commandeering the top spot on the depth chart from Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. In week six of the 2011 season, Felix Jones suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him from playing the next week when the Cowboy’s faced off against the St. Louis Rams. Although Choice was named the starter for the game, Murray broke the Cowboy’s single game rushing record with 253 yards on 25 attempts, and the rest is history.
Unlike DeMarco Murray‘s Cowboys, Charles Sims‘ Buccaneers featured one of the most talented running back corps over the past couple seasons. With Doug Martin injured to start the season in 2014, Tampa Bay elected to siphon most of the RB touches to the more experienced Bobby Rainey over then-rookie Charles Sims. However, Sims took over the No. 2 running back job from Rainey later that season, but received limited opportunities with Martin healthy and back on the field. This season, Sims was part of the best backfield tandem in the league. Tampa’s one-two punch featured Martin as a between the tackles runner on first and second down, and Sims excelled in a third down role.
While Doug Martin was one of the most prolific and efficient pure runners of 2015, Charles Sims was even more efficient than him in every phase. In comparison, Sims had a better Production Premium, and Yards Per Touch. He also bested Martin in Juke Rate and Fantasy Points Per Opportunity, ranking 13th in both categories.
Though increasing Charles Sims ‘ touches will necessarily create drag on his overall efficiency (the workhorse paradox), Tampa Bay should install Sims as the team’s primary running back in 2016. In a salary capped sports such as the NFL, the Buccaneers would be better off devoting cap money to the defense, which allowed the 7th most points in the league in 2015. Specifically, Tampa Bay must upgrade a defensive secondary that ranked No. 26 in pass defense efficiency according to Football Outsiders. Signing Doug Martin to a long term deal, when the team already has Charles Sims who checks every box on the bell cow profile, would be amount to a misallocation of resources. The Buccaneers would be better off offering the 26-year old Sims the opportunity to prove that he can be a productive and efficient every-down back. Owed a total of less than $1.5 million through 2017, Sims minuscule salary makes him one the NFL’s best-value offensive players.
With Doug Martin’s contract status uncertain, fantasy owners should immediately begin targeting Charles Sims in all leagues across all formats before NFL free agency opens on March 15, 2016. With an elite all-purpose running back ceiling in the mold of Demarco Murray operating in the NFL’s most exciting young offense, Sims is a risk worth taking. Even if Martin does re-sign, Sims’ will retain a high floor after he established himself as an efficient, high-volume pass catcher last season and projects keep that role regardless.
Charles Sims: maximum upside, minimal downside