2021 Buccaneers Fantasy Football Preview: A high-octane offense that may not actually be great for Fantasy
When you sign Tom Brady, your expectation is to win a Super Bowl, and the Buccaneers managed to live up to expectations in 2020. Brady fit in perfectly in Bruce Arians’ offense (after a bit of an adjustment period), and the plethora of playmakers around him made this a nearly impossible offense to slow down. With basically every single relevant name returning, why should this year be any different?
Record: 11 – 5 (7)
PPG: 30.8 (3)
YPG: 384.1 (7)
Pass YPG: 289.1 (2)
Rush YPG: 94.9 (28)
PAPG: 39.1 (6)
RAPG: 23.1 (29)
2020 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 15.4%
That’s Tom Brady’s league-leading deep-attempt rate (a “deep attempt” being classified as a throw beyond 20 yards down the field). There were some questions about how Brady would fit in with Arians’ aggressive offense, and early on he was having a bit of trouble hitting on those deep attempts — he completed 17 of 43 with just three touchdowns in his first eight games. They figured that part out in the second half, however, as Brady threw eight touchdowns on 48 attempts from Week 9 on, which helps explain why Mike Evans was so much better in the second half of the season. The Buccaneers found a way to blend Brady’s get-rid-of-it-quick instincts (he had the fifth-quickest time to pass in the NFL) with Arians and the receivers’ more downfield-oriented approach, and the result was one of the best seasons of Brady’s career. It’s clear that this is going to be one of the best passing games in the NFL again this season; the question is whether they’ll spread the ball around too much for Fantasy players to really take advantage of it.
10 carries, 19 RB targets, 10 WR targets, 7 TE targets
Chris Towers’ projections
QBTom BradyPA: 606, YD: 4603, TD: 34, INT: 11; RUSH — ATT: 21, YD: 27, TD: 2RBLeonard FournetteCAR: 177, YD: 744, TD: 5; TAR: 36, REC: 27, YD: 177, TD: 1RBRonald JonesCAR: 165, YD: 708, TD: 7; TAR: 18, REC: 14, YD: 91, TD: 1RBGiovani BernardCAR: 60, YD: 242, TD: 2; TAR: 64, REC: 45, YD: 293, TD: 2WRMike EvansTAR: 111, REC: 70, YD: 1015, TD: 7WRChris GodwinTAR: 114, REC: 78, YD: 969, TD: 8WRAntonio BrownTAR: 97, REC: 66, YD: 725, TD: 5TERob GronkowskiTAR: 72, REC: 44, YD: 584, TD: 6TEO.J. HowardTAR: 36, REC: 24, YD: 319, TD: 2
Are there too many mouths to feed?
Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Giovani Bernard in the backfield, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game … it sure feels like too many mouths to feed! I want no part of Tampa’s backfield, and I’ll only take Evans or Godwin as lower end No. 2 WRs on my squad. Maybe Tom Brady will throw 40 touchdowns again, but there’s more room for disappointment in this offense than their prices will likely indicate.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
The Buccaneers are going to throw to their running backs a lot. Brady targeted running backs 119 times in 2020, and that was with Fournette and Jones — two mediocre-at-best pass catchers — as their top options. Now they’ve got Bernard in the fold, and he’s a legitimate third-down back. It’s a little too neat to just call him the James White of this offense, but he’s clearly the best option as a target out of the backfield, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get 60-plus targets and maybe around the same number of carries. Bernard isn’t likely to be a must-start Fantasy option, but we’ve seen how valuable playing next to Brady can be for White in the past. Bernard could see plenty of the field this season.
I’ve got my concerns about whether this receiving corps can collectively live up to their Draft Day prices, but that’s more about Godwin and Evans, who are being drafted as top-20 WR right now. Brown? He’s WR45 in ADP, and that’s a price I can work with. In the 11 games Godwin, Evans, and Brown played together, Brown was third in targets among the three, but just four behind Godwin and three behind Evans. He showed he still has a lot left in the tank and Tom Brady looked his way often. If that continues, he’s going to be the best value in this offense — and potentially one of the best in the league.
The Buccaneers played 11 games with Evans, Godwin, and Brown healthy, and their collective impact on Brady was obvious; he had at least two touchdowns in 10 of those 11 games and 300-plus yards in six of 11. What wasn’t quite as obvious was that the three receivers could all coexist as must-start Fantasy receivers next to each other. Here are their 16-game paces from those 11:
That’s solid across the board, and Evans would have ranked 20th in points per game with those numbers. But that’s with that trio combining for a 28-touchdown pace between the three of them — a collective 8.3% touchdown rate. For his career, Evans has a 6.5% touchdown rate; Godwin is at 6.8%; Brown is at 5.9%. Maybe they can keep those touchdown paces up playing alongside each other with Brady at QB, but it’s asking an awful lot — and that was just so Evans could be 20th in points per game. All three could be solid starting Fantasy options, but Evans being drafted as WR18 is simply too rich for my blood.
We watched this team win a Super Bowl last season, and yet we don’t really know much about what the passing game looks like at full strength.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and find out.
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