Despite all of the drama and frustration surrounding Josh Freeman following the 2012 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback walked away with the most productive line of statistics in team history. His 27 touchdowns were the most in the history of the franchise, his 4065 yards were 250 more than the next best Buccaneer signal caller’s season, and he did it all with a completion percentage that was closer to his rookie season’s numbers.
And while it’s clear that 2013 will hold huge implications for Freeman’s future with the franchise, it could also have a big impact on your fantasy team. Freeman finished 13th among quarterbacks according to NFL.com’s scoring system last season, and he was closer to 12th (Andy Dalton) than he was to 14th (Joe Flacco). Considering that most fantasy players are in 12 or 14 team leagues, Freeman would have been a worthy starter for you last season. But chances are, if you added Freeman during his hot streak during the middle of the season, you caught him just in time to get his worst weeks near the end of the season.
But the total numbers are hard to argue with. From a strictly fantasy perspective, Josh Freeman was a number one option at QB in 2012. Can he be better in 2013?
Freeman obviously struggled with interceptions last year, and in most leagues, that means Freeman lost you points every time he threw the ball to the opposing team. But as I mentioned when I took a look at all of Freeman’s interceptions last season, a large majority of those interceptions came when the team was behind in games, and Freeman was trying to force the play. Another handful of interceptions came when he was targeting Dallas Clark, or on plays where his wide receiver did not run the intended route, or gave up on the play. The former issue is gone as Clark does not figure to be back in Tampa in 2013, and the latter should be improved this year thanks to the familiarity that comes with many of the same players and coaches returning for the second year in a new system.
So let’s just assume that Freeman cuts down on the interceptions by about one-fourth, and only throws 12 as opposed to 17. This would also lead to more yards and possibly touchdowns on the drives he now gets to continue because he hasn’t turned the ball over. So assume his touchdown production doesn’t change much at all, and Freeman nets 28 scores. That places Josh Freeman in the upper echelon of quarterbacks once again, as only the Big Four (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers) and Matt Ryan registered more than 28 touchdowns last season, and they did so with an interception total that averages out right around the 12 we are projecting Josh Freeman to throw. So among quarterbacks who earn the majority of their points with their arms, that would leave Freeman as arguably the sixth best option, and overall it would cause him to be worthy of being selected alongside Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III in the run on quarterbacks just outside the elite options like Manning, Brady, and Brees.
This is obviously Freeman’s ultimate upside, with the downside being lower than most of the other players mentioned above. So obviously, draft with caution. But based on early rumblings and rumors about Josh Freeman’s fantasy stock in 2013, he is going to be well worth selecting as your second quarterback to stash on the bench, because he is a slight improvement away from being one of the better fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL. So if you grab the recovering RGIII or the elderly Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, it might not be a bad idea to stash the young and potential-filled Josh Freeman on your bench… just in case.