Will Josh Freeman develop into a viable fantasy option in his second season?
Hope springs eternal in every NFL camp this time of year. There's good reason for it, too, even among the 20 teams that didn't reach the postseason last year.
It just doesn't have to take long to turn things around anymore.
New Orleans was a three-win team before Drew Brees' arrival there in 2006. Miami went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 and a division championship in 2008. Cincinnati won the AFC North in 2009 after going 4-11-1 the previous season.
Nowhere are the constantly changing fortunes of NFL teams more evident than in the NFC South, where no team ever has repeated as champs (Be careful, New Orleans!). Even the Saints were a last-place team in 2008 -- albeit a pretty decent one -- before winning the division and eventually the Super Bowl last season.
All of that means there is precedent for the optimism coming out of Tampa Bay this spring. The Buccaneers are excited about the prospect of a rebuilding job that began with a massive overhaul of the roster last season.
But here's a splash of cold water on that optimism.
Tampa Bay is placing its hopes for a turnaround squarely on the shoulders of 22-year-old Josh Freeman. That would be a whole lot to ask of any second-year quarterback with only nine career starts under his belt, but especially one with the limited resources on offense with which Freeman has to work.
The Buccaneers did try to help Freeman in this spring's draft by drafting wide receivers Arrelious Benn (second round) and Mike Williams (fourth round). Benn will be expected to contribute right away, and Williams has a legitimate chance to start as well. Tampa Bay also upgraded its defensive line by selecting DTs Gerald McCoy (with the third overall pick) and Brian Price (in Round 2).
All of those are steps in the right direction, but the destination is likely still at least a year or two away…as is Freeman's fantasy value.
Bottom line: Chances are that Freeman will eventually develop into a viable fantasy option, but it won't happen this season.