The Tampa Bay Buccaneers underwent seismic changes this offseason, which has both fans of the team and fantasy football enthusiasts abuzz as the start of training camp nears.
The arrival of veteran quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski sent expectations soaring for the Bucs in 2020. But those expectations were already high in fantasy football—especially for Tampa Bay's passing game.
Jameis Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019 while becoming the first player in league history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. Winston finished the season fifth in fantasy points in NFL.com default fantasy scoring, while wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both topped 1,000 receiving yards and finished as top-20 fantasy options in PPR scoring systems.
Evans and Godwin remain the fantasy centerpieces of the new-look Buccaneers offense, but they aren't the only players of note. Whether it's Brady under center, the loaded passing attack or a muddied ground game, the talent in Tampa could play a substantial role in determining which fantasy squads claim championships in 2020.
Given that, it's worth projecting what Tampa's key offensive contributors will do in 2020.
Brady (ADP: 89.3, QB9) is likely the biggest free-agent acquisition in Buccaneers history. But lost among all the hype is a potentially sobering fact: He wasn't very good in 2019, at least by his standards.
Brady's 4,057 yards were the fewest he's posted in a 16-game season since 2010. His completion percentage of 60.8 was his lowest since 2013. He threw his fewest touchdown passes (24) since a torn ACL wiped out his 2008 season. And most importantly to fantasy managers, Brady tallied his fewest fantasy points in a full 16-game season since 2013. It also marked the second straight season in which the soon-to-be 43-year-old finished the season outside of the top 10 at his position.
There's no question that Brady will enjoy better receiving weapons in Tampa than last year's cadre of New England Patriots pass-catchers that included Julian Edelman and a bucket of blah. The Buccaneers took steps to upgrade an offensive line that ranked 22nd in pass protection last year, according to Football Outsiders, including the addition of first-round tackle Tristan Wirfs. And head coach Bruce Arians runs an aggressive and quarterback-friendly scheme.
Expecting a rebound year from Brady isn't all that unreasonable. However, expecting a signal-caller well past 40 to turn back the clock and crack the top five in a new offense is.
Brady has a solid chance to wrangle his way into the latter portion of the top 10 in fantasy points. With that already baked into his ADP, though, fantasy managers who target Brady are drafting the six-time Super Bowl winner much closer to his ceiling than his floor.
Projection (Brady): 589 attempts, 367 completions, 4,445 yards, 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
The hype train in Tampa hits a major snag once we get to the running back position.
In 2019, Ronald Jones II (ADP: 68.8, RB31) paced the team with 724 yards on the ground. He averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the season, but he was inconsistent and got pulled from the field after lapses in pass protection.
According to Greg Auman of The Athletic, Jones has been working out with Brady this summer in an effort both to improve his game and develop a rapport with Tampa's new quarterback.
"I just tried to soak in everything he was telling me, his attention to detail," Jones said. "We were running against air, but just still, being out there with him, getting that chemistry down, I felt that was important and it's going to help us when camp starts soon."
With veteran Peyton Barber gone, the Buccaneers added depth in the backfield on Day 2 of the draft with Vanderbilt's Ke'Shawn Vaughn (ADP: 85.8, RB37). Vaughn topped 1,000 yards, averaged over five yards per carry and scored 10 total touchdowns for the Commodores last year, but the truncated offseason makes it unlikely that he'll unseat Jones as lead back in the early going.
As their similar ADPs indicate, fantasy managers are far from sold on Jones holding onto the lead role, especially if his pass-blocking continues to be an issue. If one of these two ball-carriers emerges and seizes control of the backfield, there could be league-winning potential here.
However, this has the look of a committee attack that will drain the fantasy value of both backs.
Projection (Jones): 179 carries, 798 yards, 4 touchdowns, 38 catches, 266 yards, 1 touchdown
Projection (Vaughn): 148 carries, 620 yards, 3 touchdowns, 27 catches, 204 yards, 2 touchdowns
If the running back position is a muddied mess in Tampa, the wide receivers are a deep, clear pool of fantasy goodness.
The 2019 season was a coming-out party for Chris Godwin (ADP: 20.5, WR6). In his third year in the pros, Godwin caught 86 passes for 1,333 yards, scored nine times and trailed only New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas in PPR points. Batterymate Mike Evans (ADP: 26.3, WR8), on the other hand, did what he always does—eclipse 1,000 yards. He and Randy Moss are the only two receivers in league history to achieve that feat in each of their first six seasons.
Evans has also found the end zone at least eight times in four of his six seasons, including eight in 2019. But it's there (and in Godwin's emergence) where trouble could be brewing.
Godwin's ability to play the slot and get open over the middle would appeal to mesh well with his new quarterback—think Julian Edelman after being bitten by a radioactive spider. But as Godwin exploded last year, Evans' target share dropped to a career-low 118.
Evans' fantasy value also depends on finding paydirt, as he's hit the 80-catch mark only twice in six years. However, Brady has years of red-zone rapport with Gronkowski, who is now joining him in Tampa.
Evans was a top-five fantasy wideout in terms of fantasy points per game last year (he missed three contests), but he fell outside the top 15 for the year in total points.
Could Evans have another huge year? Absolutely. But if Godwin remains the team's target leader and Evans loses some red-zone looks to Gronk, then it could be difficult for the 26-year-old to meet his draft-day asking price.
If you're going to pay retail for a Buccaneers wideout, Godwin should be the target.
Projection (Godwin): 88 receptions, 1,261 yards, 8 touchdowns
Projection (Evans): 77 receptions, 1,105 yards, 8 touchdowns
Usually, players retire and then move to Florida. Gronk did the opposite.
The question now is which Gronkowski (ADP: 69.4, TE6) fantasy managers can expect to see in 2020.
Gronkowski's last season in the pros was largely forgettable. Back in 2018, he missed three games, hauled in only 47 passes for 682 yards and scored three touchdowns, which put him just outside the top 10 at his position in PPR points.
But in 2017, we saw the Gronkowski who was once fantasy's most dominant tight end and a legitimate first-round pick. That year, he blew up for 69 receptions, 1,084 yards, eight scores and the second-most PPR points among tight ends.
That fantasy ceiling is tempting. But it's also going to be awfully hard for Gronk to reach.
Gronkowski is the wrong side of 30. He hasn't played all 16 games in a season since his monstrous 2011 campaign. The last time he played in an NFL game that counted was his six-grab, 87-yard effort against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
A big year is at least possible if he stays healthy—Gronkowski's 2017 numbers came on 105 targets, and Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard combined for 108 last year.
But a number of dominoes will have to fall in the right order for Gronkowski to recapture past glory, making him a risky call in the sixth round.
Projection (Gronkowski): 51 receptions, 662 yards, 5 touchdowns
Average Draft Position Data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.