Revis, as you may have heard, was traded April 20 to the Buccaneers for Tampa’s 2013 first round draft pick and a conditional fourth rounder in 2014. I’m not going to argue who won or lost this blockbuster trade, but rather show why Revis in Tampa means one of fantasy football’s most generous defenses just got a little less giving.
The Bucs’ defense gave up an unholy 27.6 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last season, just one-tenth of a point behind league leader New Orleans. To put that in some context: Tampa allowed 11 more fantasy points per game than the Seattle Seahawks, who sported the stingiest defense against receivers in 2012.
In Week 2, the Bucs secondary gave up a whopping 53 fantasy points to Giants’ wide receivers, as Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz outmuscled, out-jumped, and out-maneuvered Tampa’s corners and safeties. The Tampa secondary was gouged by Saints’ wide receivers to the tune of 44 fantasy points in Week 7, and gave up 33 points to Eagles’ wideouts in their Week 14 contest.
The Bucs secondary was, in short, beyond awful, and one that was targeted by savvy fantasy owners throughout 2012.
The NFC South’s best pass catchers had field days against Tampa’s sieve-like defense last season, as seen below.
Will Revis’s addition to the Bucs’ secondary change the draft day value of any of these players? The short answer is no. The longer, more thoughtful answer is that owners of the NFC South’s elite pass catchers might need to adjust their expectations when their guys go up against Revis, assuming he’s at full health and deployed as he was in New York, as an unmatched shutdown cornerback who smothered the best, week in and week out.
Perhaps the upgrade can best be expressed in Pro Football Focus’s grading: Revis, over his past three healthy seasons, posted a sparkling PFF grade of +23.6. No Tampa Bay cornerback scored better than +3.8 during the 2012 season.
Quarterbacks who targeted any of Tampa’s three cornerbacks last season posted a tidy passer rating of 90, according to PFF. That’s about 50 points higher than passer ratings against Revis.
Let’s look back at how effective Revis was in his assignments against opponents’ best pass catchers in 2011, his last healthy season. He held Brandon Marshall to a success rate of 31 percent, Wes Welker had a 26.5 percent success rate, and Nicks only managed a 23 percent success rate against Revis, according to number compiled by Cian Fahey on PreSnapReads. Darrius Heyward-Bey, it should be noted, had a success rate of exactly 0 percent against Revis in 2011.
Revis’s presence (again, assuming good health) doesn’t just create tougher match-ups for the elite receivers he may or may not shadow. Allowing Revis to operate on his proverbial “island” essentially assigns him to cover half the field all by his lonesome, meaning the rest of the secondary can focus on shutting down other threats, like Jimmy Graham, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, to name a few NFC South opponents.
The addition of Revis allows Tampa’s secondary to mask its weaknesses, if nothing else.
A former football operations coordinator for an NFL team who now runs the NFL Philosophy blog, wrote that having a healthy Revis on the field is like having an extra defender. Against 11-personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end), the blog points out, most defenses will play cover-2 zone defense. If the defense opts for cover-3 or man coverage, the cornerback with the unenviable task of guarding a receiver on an island will give some cushion to ensure they won’t be beat deep. This, of course, leaves intermediate routes ripe for the picking.
Not with Revis though. The NFL’s best cover man often played press coverage in these situations, even on an island. This provides the luxury of defending both the run and the pass, since the defense is able to put eight defenders near the line of scrimmage, while daring the quarterback to target Revis Island, however dangerous.
This sort of defensive flexibility could transform the Bucs from a pushover fantasy defense begging to be exploited into a unit to avoid in 2013.
The Revis trade by no means submarines the values of NFC South receivers who racked up buckets full of fantasy points against the horrendous Tampa Bay secondary last year. Draft them as you would have before the trade. Just beware of how things might change in their two scheduled trips on Revis Island.