Heading into the 2021 season, the defending Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will return all twenty-two starting players from offense and defense. That means a lot of weapons, but a lot of questions for fantasy managers. The starting wide receivers will be Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. That is a lot of WR talent on the field at one time, but what should we do with each of them in fantasy football? Let’s break it down!
Recapping the 2020 Season
Start with the QB: Tom Brady
The 2020 season was the first time we watched Tom Brady play in the NFL for a team not named the Patriots. He finished as the QB8 in total points and was the QB12 in points-per-game, with 21.9 ppg in 2020. However, Brady had a unique offseason due to COVID protocols and the fact that he had to learn a brand new scheme.
Many say that Bruce Arian’s scheme is complex and that most QBs play better their second season with Arians. I broke down the season from Weeks 1-9 and Weeks 10-17 (bye Week 13) and highlighted Weeks 14-17. Disclaimer: the Bucs had an easier schedule those last four weeks playing MIN, @ATL, @DET, and ATL. However, Tom Brady was being more efficient as the season went on.
In 2021, Tom Brady will have a full offseason to practice with the team. He will also continue to better understand the offensive scheme. If Brady maintains the same TD rate from 2020, with 17 games, then he will throw 42.5 TDs. This almost seems too low and there will be plenty of TDs for the WRs.
The Wide Receivers
For the first seven seasons of Mike Evans’ career, he has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards. This is the record for most consecutive seasons to start a career. In 2021 with 17 games, we should expect at least 1,063 yards from Mike Evans to keep the streak going. Evans finished as the WR11 in PPR last season, with 70 receptions. That was fewer catches than any of the other top-10 wide receivers. However, he scored 13 TDs, which was the fourth-most amongst WRs. In his first season with Tom Brady, Evans seemed more efficient, with a career-high catch percentage of 64.2%, the lowest drop percentage the last three seasons with 3.7%, and his lowest average depth-of-target the last three seasons with 12.1 yards. Mike Evans was not “just going deep” and he was a red-zone favorite of Tom Brady. Evans had nine out of Tom Brady’s twenty-eight red-zone TDs (32.1%), which were 69.2% of Evans’s TDs.
Chris Godwin missed four games in 2020 due to injury. However, when he played he did well and finished as WR15 in points-per-game with 15.9. Godwin averaged seven targets-per-game, which was just more than Mike Evans, who averaged 6.8 targets-per-game. Godwin also did not see a noticeable drop-off in targets when Antonio Brown joined the team in Week 9. During that span, he was still seeing 6.9 targets from Week 9 to Week 17. He scored seven TDs, which was 0.6 TDs per game, and had 65 receptions. He scored every 9.28 receptions. Godwin’s rookie contract ended after 2020 and he was given the franchise tag while the team negotiates his next contract. He has already said he will play on the franchise tag if a deal is not signed by this summer.
Antonio Brown was THE WR1 for several seasons and was perennially one of the best wide receivers from 2013 to 2018. The last couple of years have been full of off-the-field issues that I will not get into here, but be aware there is always a chance for Brown to be suspended again. In 2020, Brown was suspended for the first eight games of the season and joined the Bucs in Week 9. Brown finished as the WR24 in points-per-game with 14.6. You could tell Brown needed to get back into football shape, find his place on the team, and build his chemistry with Brady. In the last three games, Brown scored all four of his TDs and had 20.1 ppg, which was WR4 during that span. He did not face good defensive teams (Atlanta and Detroit), but it shows what is he is still capable of with Brady.
The sample size for 2020 is small, with only eight games, but Antonio Brown was not too far off from his career numbers in a few efficiency statistics. It is reasonable to expect Brown to be a productive and dynamic wide receiver in 2021 with the Bucs, assuming Brown can avoid more offseason issues and stay on the field.
What should you do with these WRs in Dynasty?
Mike Evans – Evan’s current startup draft ADP, of 57 overall and WR19, is reasonable. Even at 28 years old when the 2021 season starts, Evans is in his prime and his “injury-prone” tag is just not true. In all seven seasons of his career, he has only missed more than one game in a season once. He will continue to be a red-zone monster with his height. At this point, who knows when Tom Brady will stop playing? We do know that can expect big numbers for the Bucs offense while Brady is the quarterback. If Mike Evans is already on your roster, now might be the time to start trying to trade him, if you get enough in return before his value decreases. Wait until at least halfway through the season to try to trade him at the max value. Look for a contending team that is willing to give up young/future assets.
Chris Godwin – In most startup drafts, Godwin’s current ADP of 35.8 (WR12) is too soon for me. He would be a better value around WR18. He just turned 25 years old, but unless he signs a new deal by July, he will be a free agent in 2022. Uncertainty in dynasty always impacts value. Godwin has played well and has shown he is capable of WR1 stats. His availability has been a concern in his career but he is young and talented. If he is on your roster, you do not need to actively try to trade him, but always consider an offer if it blows you away.
Antonio Brown – Brown’s current ADP is a steal to me. He is coming off the board at 124.4 overall (WR53). He’s worth drafting before that to get him on your roster. Brown is the cheapest of the Bucs WR trio, and you want a piece of the offense in 2021. Many analysts think they have a favorable schedule and the passing offense should be near the top of the league. He may only have one or two more good years left, but he’s not costing you much draft capital. He is capable of scoring like a WR2, so take the chance at that draft cost. If he plays well in 2021, you can also try to trade him for future draft picks to a contending team later in the season. Just to try to get some value for him before he “retires” on your roster. If Brown is a stud in 2021 and you are a contending team trying to make a push for the title, then be willing to give up a late-round rookie draft pick to get him at the trade deadline.