Why You Are Too Low On Jameis Winston
I get it. You don’t like Jameis Winston. He throws too many interceptions, he stole crab legs while he was in college and he might not be a very nice person. His head coach from 2019, when he lead the league in passing yards, also seems to not be very fond of him. So if all of this is true, it seems pretty clear that there should be an obvious takeaway: if there are emotional reasons that the market doesn’t like a player but that player puts up stats anyway, that player is probably a value.
Further, a huge chunk of the risk of Winston not being an immediate starter is already priced in. Right now, in regular dynasty ADP on Dynasty League Football, Jameis is going off the board 161st overall. In SuperFlex ADP, he is going 57th overall but still after the likes of Kirk Cousins and even Matthew Stafford. FFPC Best Ball drafters are a little sharper than the average person in the market, giving Jameis an ADP of 94 overall. FFPC SuperFlex Best Ball drafters are the sharpest of all, giving Jameis an ADP of 28th overall and QB10. This sets up a really interesting dynamic where the less intelligent or “sharp” a market is, the more likely that market is to be low on Jameis Winston.
So, the right way to frame this problem is not as a redraft one. Jameis is exceedingly likely to sign with a team and start in 2020, even if it is not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, the Buccaneers have reported that they are not all that interested in re-signing Jameis, though I suspect that is mostly an emotional decision from Bruce Arians and not a top-down agreed-upon decision.
Here is the list of players with more than 19,000 passing yards in their first five seasons: Dan Marino (Hall of Fame), Peyton Manning (Hall of Fame), and…Jameis Winston.
A reasonable come back to that from someone who doesn’t like Jameis, doesn’t think he is good for fantasy, and so on would be to simply say “Well the eras have changed and it is easier to put up stats now”.
Here is a table of all quarterbacks in NFL history who threw for more than 10,000 yards before their 26th birthday with the Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt Column highlighted.
Even when adjusting for sacks and interceptions (both of which Jameis is legitimately horrible at preventing), he has been more productive on a per attempt basis than young versions of Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Derek Carr, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford and even older players like Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe.
Forgetting fantasy football for a moment: what are the Buccaneers doing? Is the median expectation of their replacement quarterback going to do better than Winston’s 8.1 YPA or even his 7.1 adjusted yards per attempt from last season? Jameis threw NINE more interceptions than any other player in football last season and still had better adjusted yards per attempt than Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and other young quarterbacks who the public regards as promising.
Maybe the team is enamored Jordan Love, Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason. Selecting at 14th overall, not only are they not even within shouting distance of Tua but they are almost assuredly not going to be able to select Justin Herbert either. If the team is really moving on from Winston, their most likely outcome is signing some sort of patchwork veteran like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, or Andy Dalton. Obviously, this is a disaster for them as an organization and doesn’t make them any more likely to win games, in fact, it makes them much more likely to lose games.
Early win total projections for the Buccaneers have them mostly unchanged, with their total sitting at 7.5, though I expect that will move half a win in either direction depending on how free agency goes for them. For my argument though, we have to have a plausible case that Jameis ends up starting in 2020 if he is not re-signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A few of the teams that would have a QB opening: Los Angeles Chargers (we all like Tyrod, but Jameis is better), Indianapolis (as seen in the table above, Jameis and Luck are basically the same player from a ANY/A standpoint), New England Patriots (this seems essentially impossible even if the team does have a QB opening as recent reports suggest but it is for sure the funniest location), Carolina Panthers (they will not commit to Cam and have not even tendered Kyle Allen as an RFA), and if you want to be SUPER saucy, you could even put in teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.
So will Jameis have a starting job in 2020? Even if you remove the Buccaneers from the equation, we can comfortably weight the probabilities towards YES that he will in fact open the 2020 season as a starter. This isn’t a Teddy Bridgewater/Tyrod Taylor situation where he is likely to sign as a backup.
The onus is pretty simple at this point: is Jameis a good fantasy quarterback while starting? The answer is pretty obviously yes. He finished as QB5 last season and in his other two non-injury shortened seasons he finished as a top-15 QB in both. In four of his five NFL seasons, he has added 49 or more rushing attempts. He scored six rushing touchdowns as a rookie and hasn’t had more than one since; any sort of positive regression there would add to his fantasy tallies in a meaningful way. There is also the inference that any team that signs Jameis would not be interested in turning him into Derek Carr and would encourage the deep passing game that had Jameis lead the NFL in passing yards in 2020. There is no reason to expect that a player who has been a QB1 (in fantasy) would turn into a pumpkin based on a location change.
This is a rare opportunity in the market: a good fantasy player is undervalued due to some nebulous circumstances in which we will soon have more clarity. Take advantage of the uncertainty and buy Jameis at the cheapest price he will be in all of 2020.