Hey nerds! It has been an extremely long time, but your boy is back to cover the SuperBowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Dynasty Nerds 32 Teams in 32 Days series. Usually, this portion of the article would reflect on the 2020 season involving key additions and losses. The Bucs are returning all 22 starters on offense and defense, so without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Let’s start at the quarterback position where Tom Brady had a fantasy reemergence. He finished as QB8 on the season in his first season with Tampa Bay. Brady’s season numbers are as follows: 4,633 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Not too shabby for a 43, soon-to-be 44-year-old quarterback.
Brady’s 40 touchdowns passing last season ranked second in his illustrious career, and there appears to be no sign of Brady slowing down. He started 16 games for the 17th time in his 21 year career. His completion percentage of 65.7% was the fifth-highest of his career as well. Brady’s lack of mobility will keep him out of the top 5 quarterback territory, but I see a very similar QB1 finish for TB12 in 2021.
For your fantasy drafts, a name to keep in mind is rookie Kyle Trask, who Tampa used a second-round draft pick on in the 2021 draft. Trask had a highly productive 2020 with the Florida Gators and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Whenever Tom decides to hang up the cleats, it appears Trask will be the heir apparent.
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette
The 2020 Buccaneer rushing attack finished tied for 28th in league with 1,519 yards. The offense was led by Jones, who nearly topped the 1,000 rushing yard mark with 978. Jones led the team with 197 carries in the regular season, including him missing two games. He also led the running backs in big plays, rushing touchdowns, and firsts downs.
However, once the playoffs hit, the backfield appeared to shift to Fournette, a.k.a. “Lombardi Lenny,” as he racked up 300 yards and three scores on the ground. Fournette nearly doubled Jones’ carries in the postseason with 64, compared to Jones’ 35. During that time, Fournette scored four touchdowns (three rushing and one receiving). Tampa re-signed Fournette in the offseason to a one-year deal.
So, the question is, who is the running back to own in 2021? Good question! Even Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians left the door open for competition as he stated, “That will all be defined through practice and OTAs and training camp and preseason.” However, Arian left out an essential part. The running back will be whoever Brady trusts. I believe this backfield is setting up for another season of splitting time with a 60/40 split going to Fournette.
Let us also not rule out the free-agent signing of Bernard. He will take some of the passing work in the offense, similar to the James White role in New England. On the running backs to buy episodes of the Dynasty Nerds Podcast, he was a buy considering the cost it would take to obtain him. Bernard has nearly a 75% career catch percentage, and with Brady targeting his running backs 118 times in 2020, Bernard has sneaky PPR appeal. Overall, I believe this backfield will be a mess to predict every week, and both Jones and Fournette should be viewed as low-end RB2s, high-end RB3s.
The Big Three – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown
The entire pass-catching core of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be returning in 2021, led by Mike Evans. Evans finished his 2020 season as WR11 with 1,006 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. His 1,000 receiving yards marks the seventh straight year in his career to reach the 1K mark, breaking Randy Moss’ previous record of six. Evans appears in line for another 1000 yard season, but I fear that his touchdown total might decrease. I view Evans as a borderline WR1 with a slight increase in receiving yards.
Chris Godwin returns to the Buccaneers after being franchise-tagged for the 2021 season. Godwin’s 2020 season was injury-plagued, as he finished the season playing only 12 games while racking up 65 receptions for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. This season is going to be crucial as he is playing for that long-term contract. I suspect Godwin’s season will be closer to a low-end WR1 finish with an uptick in receptions and hitting 1K receiving yards while keeping a similar touchdown total.
Also returning to the Bucs is Antonio Brown. Brown’s 2020 season included 45 receptions for 483 receiving yards and four scores in eight games. This season will undoubtedly have better numbers barring any setbacks in Brown’s off-field legal issues. I see him producing high-end WR3 numbers in PPR leagues and flirting with 900 receiving yards. If you are playing standard leagues, I will lower your expectations slightly, and Brown drops to a low-end WR3.
The Supporting Cast
We will wrap up the wide receivers with Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and rookie Jaelon Darden. Unfortunately, barring an injury, I don’t see much chance for an immediate impact in any of these players at this current time. I would throw a late-round offer at the Johnson owner and see if they bite. He looks to be a starter for the Buccaneers next year if one of the big three decides to leave. One Buccaneer receiver that is safe to drop would be Justin Watson, as he has appears to be the odd man out of the receiving core.
Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard
It is hard to say there is a more talented TE group in the league than the Bucs group. In the offseason, Rob Gronkowski re-signed a one-year deal with Tampa. Gronkowski’s 2020 numbers were 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers produced a TE8 season. I anticipate those numbers dropping and view Gronk as a high-end TE2 due to the numerous receiving options at Brady’s disposal.
Per SI.com, Tampa utilized 11 personnel on 63% of their plays in 2020, which does not bode well for O.J. Howard, returning from an Achilles injury. Howard’s 2020 season saw him rack up 11 receptions, 146 receiving yards, and two touchdowns in just 4 games. If Howard can stay healthy, he could surpass Gronk for snaps and playing time. I would send some offers out there for Howard as owners may be ready to cut bait with him.
Returning all the starters on an offense that ranked third in league with 30.8 points a game almost seems a bit unfair. But Brady, Evans, Godwin, and Gronk will all be every game starters and players to anchor your fantasy squads. A running back could emerge and stake a claim to RB1 status if an injury were to happen as well. There is plenty of fantasy gold from the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Thank you, guys and girls, for the read, and I appreciate the support you show to me. Good luck in your 2021 fantasy seasons, and please remember to follow me @dynastydadmike on Twitter and make sure you have subscribed to the #NerdHerd. God Bless! I also do Superflex/TE premium ranks and standard ranks for Dynasty Nerds.