Kellen Winslow is expecting a big year in 2011, and he has a good reason to be optimistic. He finally has a franchise quarterback throwing him passes.
Winslow was impressed with how Josh Freeman played in 2010 when Tampa Bay was one of the surprise teams in the NFL since the Bucs went 10-6 and nearly made the playoffs. He said in a recent phone interview that Freeman can be even better in 2011 – and so will the Bucs.
"Josh made it look real easy," Winslow said."He puts the time in to be successful. He's so calm out there on the field, and we know who our leader is out there. The sky's the limit for him."
Freeman had a breakout year in his second season with 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and 364 rushing yards. We consider Freeman a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback heading into 2011, and you won't get any argument from Winslow on this status.
Winslow thought Freeman would "struggle" more in his sophomore campaign, but now he expects his quarterback to become a star.
While we won't go that far, there is plenty to like about Freeman, and the same goes for Winslow. After a slow start in 2010, Winslow closed the season on a tear.
He had 30 catches for 337 yards and no touchdowns in the first eight games of the season, but he finished with 36 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns in the final eight games. It wasn't the best year of his career (that came in 2007 in Cleveland), and he even regressed from his first season in Tampa Bay in 2009 when he had 77 catches for 884 yards and five touchdowns.
But Winslow feels like he's building something with the Bucs, and the main reason is Freeman.
"I have a great quarterback out there, and we can grow together," Winslow said. "I finally have a guy to click with in Josh Freeman."
Fantasy owners should draft Winslow as a No. 1 option with a mid-round pick. He's not a Top 5 or even Top 10 tight end, but the potential is there if he and Freeman can put together a full season like they did in the final eight games last year.
Aside from Winslow and Freeman, the Bucs have two other starting Fantasy options this season in running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Mike Williams. Blount should be considered a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back after the way he played in 2010.
Blount, who went undrafted out of Oregon following his unfortunate incident when he punched a player at Boise State and was cut by Tennessee in training camp, finished the season with 1,007 rushing yards and six touchdowns. But Blount did not start until Week 11 against San Francisco, which shows his potential.
Winslow said when he first saw Blount on film he said "where did this guy come from? He just ran with it."
Winslow was also impressed with Williams, another rookie who finished with 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams is worth drafting as a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver, and like Winslow, he benefits from playing with Freeman.
"Mike really came out and showed who he was," Winslow said. "He showed he can play in the NFL."
Winslow, 27 and entering his eighth year, is the elder statesman of this group, but he's OK with that. He will continue to stay in shape during the offseason, and he splits his workouts between San Diego, Miami and Tampa Bay.
This could be a big year for the Bucs, and Winslow is excited. He is ready for the season to begin.
For more on Winslow, visit his website at kellenwinslow.com.