In Hindsight, Did Tim Wright Mean More Than the Buccaneers Realized?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded away promising young tight end Tim Wright to the New England Patriots this preseason, and in exchange added a veteran left guard (who is already injured) and allowed more snaps for their other tight ends and receivers.
In Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers, we saw that modified offense in motion. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was really, really bad. But the Bucs were going up against the Carolina Panthers, our third-best defense last year, and were without their offensive mastermind Jeff Tedford, who has been recovering from a medical procedure over the past couple of weeks.
But there are still fantasy and real football lessons to be learned from how the Buccaneers played on Sunday, especially at the tight end position. How did the Buccaneers adjust after dealing away their best tight end from a year ago?
Brandon Myers rose to the occasion, in typical Brandon Myers fashion, finishing third on the team in targets with eight, catching six for 41 yards. His longest reception on the day was nine yards.
Myers may have been the least-drafted Buccaneer tight end in fantasy football, as Tim Wright and Austin Seferian-Jenkins drew most of the fantasy attention this summer. Seferian-Jenkins was thrown to twice, picking up one catch for 26 yards. On that catch, Seferian-Jenkins shrugged off would-be tacklers after skying high to pull down the ball.
And in that one play, he proved why rookie tight ends are so appealing, yet so frustrating for fantasy football. He is, by any measure, a better athlete and better option than Myers in the passing game. Yet his role within the offense will be limited by his inexperience, while Myers will continue to dominate the tight end looks in Tampa for the time being.
Which is worth noting, because Myers isn't that bad of a player. In his final year in Oakland in 2012, Myers hauled in 79 catches for 806 yards and four scores. On a per-target basis, he was just as efficient as Greg Olsen and Dennis Pitta, according to our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric that season.
His first game as a Buccaneer saw him post a similarly low yards-per-reception average, something that is to be expected of an unspectacular athlete at tight end. But his role within the offense is now obvious after a slow preseason in which he didn't feature in training camp practices or preseason games. He is the safety valve for Josh McCown, which may be a valuable role in a PPR league.
That's because the Buccaneers are a train wreck along the offensive line, allowing pressure to get to the quarterback on most of his drop backs on Sunday. If McCown needs to get rid of the ball in a hurry, you can bet that Myers will be the one he targets over the middle of the field.
Myers played in 80% of the Buccaneers offensive plays on Sunday, which was more than other tight ends Seferian-Jenkins (36%) and Luke Stocker (25%) combined. The coaching staff trusts him as a veteran, and he's proven to be productive and efficient as a short-yardage target in the passing game.
Which means the biggest fantasy football takeaway from Sunday's season opener in Tampa is that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is in the same situation most rookie tight ends find themselves in. He's stuck at the bottom of the depth chart, and despite showing obvious advantages in terms of skill and ability in the passing game, his floor remains low due to the well-documented issues with rookies at the position fitting in early in their NFL careers.
And from a real football perspective, it calls into question the decision to trade Wright, who posted better per-target NEP numbers last year than Myers ever has in his NFL career. The Buccaneers badly needed a left guard, and made a trade to get one, but now may be lacking for receiving options on an offense that was already destined for the NFL's basement this season.