The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the 17th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft to select Kansas State’s Josh Freeman, with the intention of slowly grooming him to become the team’s franchise quarterback.
The expectations were for Freeman to watch from the sidelines for a year, and then get more involved in 2010.
Those plans were abandoned, however, after the Buccaneers got off to a rocky 0-7 start to the 2009 season. Freeman was thrust into the starting role in Week 9, and he became the Buccaneers' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
In his first NFL start, he led Tampa Bay to its first victory of the year vs. the heavily favored Green Bay Packers. He threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns in the surprising 38-28 victory.
He also led the Buccaneers to victories in two of the final three games, including a shocking overtime win vs. the New Orleans Saints in Week 16. He finished the season with a 3-6 record as the starting quarterback.
While he did show flashes of brilliance as a rookie, Freeman also had his fair share of growing pains during his nine NFL starts. He often struggled with accuracy and decision making.
He completed just 54.6% of his throws, and threw 18 interceptions compared to 10 touchdowns. He finished 30th in the NFL with a 59.9 quarterback rating.
Freeman is a physical specimen at 6’6” and 248 pounds. He possesses a cannon arm, and has surprising speed and mobility to scramble out of the pocket.
The Buccaneers believe in him and have stated publicly that the organization’s plans are to build their team around him. Freeman has the physical tools to succeed, as well as the support of management to become the leader of the franchise.
Time will tell whether Freeman becomes a winning quarterback in the NFL. For fantasy owners, however, the question is whether Freeman is capable of putting up ample fantasy points on a consistent basis.
In an interview with Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune, Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik stated, “You certainly need to be able to run the football. I see us being a football team like the Jets. That's the kind of football team you've got to be and that's the kind of football team we want to be, a team that runs first…we want to win on the heels of our backs.”
Expect Tampa Bay to rely heavily on the running game, while giving Freeman a relatively small amount of passing opportunities in 2010.
The focus will be on managing games by increasing his accuracy, and teaching him to protect the football. This may turn out great for the Buccaneers, but not necessarily for fantasy squads.
Another impediment to Freeman’s upside is a lack of playmakers at the wide receiver position. It is uncertain whether the starting receivers from last season will return in 2010, but the fact that Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton, and Maurice Stovall combined for just 79 receptions, gives a clear indication that the team needs to improve at the position.
Freeman cannot develop into a viable fantasy quarterback if tight end Kellen Winslow is his only big-play weapon.
Freeman is a gifted athlete and should improve upon his rookie performance, but expect a conservative game plan, and a lack of weapons to limit his fantasy upside in 2010. There are plenty of better options in re-draft leagues.
Most keeper leagues allow for only a limited number of players to be retained, so it is likely your team has safer and more desirable alternatives to carry forward in these formats.
Dynasty league rosters may have a spot for him since he is only 22 years old, but your plan should keep in mind that it could take several years before Freeman develops into a useful fantasy option.
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