The Bucs won the single greatest upgrade at quarterback across the NFL, jettisoning vision-impaired interception machine Jameis Winston for Tom Brady. Brady will fearlessly carry the load as the team faces an onslaught of stellar passing attacks — whose own defenses struggle in pass defense. It’ll be shootouts galore with box scores to prove it. The Bucs defense might be the best in the league though. They will give up points, but they will also give Tampa Bay consistently great field position. A characterization one might have for the Bucs offense in 2020 is one of moderate yardage yet high-scoring. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should retain rights to fantasy WR1 results. Unretired Rob Gronkowski may realistically post the receiving game version of former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs’ 2006 season: 423 yards and 9 touchdowns — production that would keep Gronk firmly in the Top 12 at the position. Ronald Jones has the slight edge to take on lead running back duties. It’s an uncertain outcome though.
- 11th softest overall schedule
- 9th softest in terms of the opponent’s overall defensive efficiency
- Mid-tier blend of pass defenses
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent pass defense efficiency
- 9th toughest blend of rush defenses
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s rush defense efficiency
- 5th toughest in terms of the opponent’s overall offensive efficiency
- 4th toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive passing efficiency
- 12th softest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rushing efficiency
This will be the best pass-catching corps that Tom Brady has played with in years. The biggest media-based critique of Brady is his ability to throw deep. Concerns over his deep passing ability are far overblown though. With a talented pass-catching duo Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, he only needs to be proficient. As noted in Sharp Football’s 2020 Football Preview, Bruce Arians’ run/pass ratio was brilliant. The Bucs ran the ball just 52% of the time when they faced eight or more men in the box. Only the Chiefs ran the ball less frequently against eight or more than the Bucs. Early in games, Arians would frequently deploy the 12-personnel grouping (2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers, 1 running back) in order to get the defense to stack the box. But instead of running it non-stop like it’s 2002, Arians would often opt to chuck it deep and they were lethal when doing so (p. 332). It’s not inconceivable that Brady comes close to Jameis Winston’s 2019 33-touchdown total but with single-digit interceptions rather than Winston’s historic 30.
The key to this backfield will likely be deciphering who has Tom Brady’s trust in the passing game. So far, reports have indicated Brady and incumbent 2-down banger Ronald Jones have been working on Jones’ receiving and route running skills. HC Bruce Arians has also named him the starter — which could just mean a rush-only role. Even if it is just 12-15 carries, those carries are likely to come in the opponent’s end of the field given the frequency with which we expect the Bucs defense to generate turnovers and 3-and-outs. A less flashy version of LeGarrette Blount’s 2016 season, with then Tom Brady’s Patriots team, is a possibility. Jones has always been a liability in pass protection though, which opens a lane for pass blocking/receiving specialist Dare Ogunbowale and rookie pass-catching dynamo Ke’Shawn Vaughn to fill. Vaughn was expected to steal the passing down gig — and potentially more — but he ended up going on the reserve/COVID-19 list for almost 2 weeks during training camp which nerfed his chances for a big time early season role. As of now, Ronald Jones is the pick to make at his .5PPR 8.07, RB33 ADP. Vaughn and Ogunbowale and merely late-round bench stashes/waiver wire options.
Mike Evans has cleared the 1,000-yard mark in every season of his NFL career. While there’s potential for fewer YOLO-bombs than the Jameis Winston era brought to Tampa Bay, Brady’s precision passing mixed with Bruce Arians’ love of the deep ball are enough to keep Evans from breaking that streak. His .5PPR 3.03, WR8 ADP is appropriate. Arians’ love of 2-wide receiver sets helps narrow the passing tree, keeping Evans and his fellow alpha dog receiver Chris Godwin safely in the elite 9-target per game range. Speaking of Godwin, a slot receiving dynamo, few receivers could be a better pairing for Tom Brady. Brady’s go-to for year has been high-volume slot receivers like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. While Evans roams the deep field, Godwin soaks up the short-to-intermediate targets. Godwin is unfortunately being drafted as though his ceiling is secure in .5PPR at 2.06, WR6.
Both Scotty Miller and Justin Watson flashed last season, playing in relief of injured starters. Miller has seemingly separated from the pack as the team’s third WR — and reportedly has access to slot reps. Miller is a wait-and-see bench stash/waiver wire add. He would be immediately startable as a WR2/flex option should one of the two alphas miss time.
O.J. Howard was given every opportunity to succeed last year but just couldn’t get it together. That said, the team opted to exercise his 5th year option. The talent is undeniable, he’s just been unable to execute on the field. One thing mentioned (on p. 332) of Sharp Football’s 2020 Football Preview was that Arians’ always dialed back 12 personnel usage as games went on. This was at odds with his declaration that 12 personnel was his team’s base offense. Could the issue have been that O.J. Howard was too much of a liability? Enter Rob Gronkowski. With Gronk fully healthy for the first time in years, it’s possible we see a renewed version of his old self. Pairing him with proficient blocker and pass-catching TE Cameron Brate, we have the 12 personnel grouping Arians is looking for. If Howard develops behind them, that will be great for real football. Gronk is the one to target for fantasy purposes though. The future Hall of Fame tight end already has an incredibly strong rapport with their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, from their time together in New England. As mentioned early, this Bucs’ defense will routinely give the offense short fields to work on. Brady and Gronk should feast in the red zone, making Gronk’s .5PPR 7.10, TE10 ADP a reasonable value.
As always, good kickers on great offenses are fantastic fantasy options. Draft Matt Gay as such.
In the high-flying NFC South, opportunities for turnovers and sacks will always be present. Combine that with perhaps the best defense in the league, in the Bucs defense, and you’ve got yourself a great fantasy D/ST.