What if I told you there was a team in the NFL that is elite but a nightmare for fantasy purposes– would you believe me? Well, you should. They are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Super Bowl champs are not at a loss for talent. They are stacked. The defense, the offensive line, the skill players, all talented. And, of course, their quarterback is pretty decent. Tom Brady wins things every now and then. You know, that thing in February? Seven times?!?!? That impresses me and also makes me want to punch my own face.
Well, they probably lost some important pieces over the off-season, right? So everyone left and got that bread? Nope. Everyone stayed and got moderately paid—Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, etc. Brady is in the same situation he was in last year except for a few positive changes. So today, we will look at this nightmare of a situation and try (and succeed) to find a value that will help us win a ‘ship and make fun of our friends. That’s what fantasy football is all about.
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Let’s not beat around the bush with this guy. If you’re here to read about fantasy football, then you know who Tom Brady is. Seven Super Bowls, old as time, the greatest to ever do it, blah, blah. We aren’t here to kiss this man’s rear end. However, we will not ignore him. He is perfect for fantasy. Missed out on your “Konami” code QBs? No big deal, Tom Brady is perfect for redraft purposes. His current ADP in Sleeper and ESPN is in the 9th round, and that’s just criminal.
Finishing last year as the QB7, Tom Brady gets everything important back this year. His run game, WRs, reliable TE, and coaching staff all return to try to repeat last year’s success. He has three Pro-Bowl WRs in Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown. He has his best friend and manchild, Rob Gronkowski. He has a troll plodder, a decent runner who gets better at running but worse at catching throughout the season, and a brand new vet that loves to ruin people’s value at RB. He also gets his arguably top-5 offensive line back.
The offense under Bruce Arians and Bryon Leftwich has always been pass-heavy as well, finishing with the 6th most attempts and 2nd most yards in 2020. In 2019, they were 4th in attempts and 1st in yards. This offense loves to throw, and they have a guy that wants to go out on a good note. Expect this to be what they lean on, and, at a 9th round cost, Brady is a no-brainer.
Now, we get to the frustrating part. Before we get into the actual running backs, let’s look at the offensive history of the Buccaneers. First off, one uncomfortable fact is that no RB has had more than 47 targets since 2015. Weird number, but it’s true. “Hey man, they haven’t had the same coach that whole time.” You’re right. However, Arians hasn’t had a great history with it either. The most he ever gave an RB during a season was 114 targets to David Johnson. I can promise you that Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, and Gio Bernard are not 2016 David Johnson. They aren’t even close.
On average (minus 2016), Arians’ teams passed to their best RB 60.7 targets per season with Arizona. We have some good news, though, kind of. They still targeted the position 119 times, so we can find our value at the position if they can find a decent pass catcher. I am going off how they were used towards the end of the season, plus offseason additions. Usage-wise, Rojo dominated touches and didn’t look bad doing it. He was 12th in big runs and 8th in yards created per touch, but that’s where it ends.
He was so inefficient at catching passes with his drops and limited yards gained after the catch. He was only targeted twice (with zero catches) from Week 15 all the way through the Super Bowl. Fournette was the pass-catching back from that point on, out-targeting Rojo 31 to 2. He wasn’t bad, but it makes me think they brought in Gio for that very reason.
He is older and hasn’t played that much the past few years, but he is good at what he does. I think he and Fournette split the passing work, and Rojo and Fournette split the work on the ground, just like they did in the playoffs. That makes this one of the more complicated backfields for fantasy. However, that’s not a bad thing. Both Jones and Fournette are going in the 7th/8th round, most of the time back to back. They are floor RBs with injury ceilings baked in. If one gets hurt, the other one might have some value. I’d personally take Rojo due to him being a better runner, but I wouldn’t be confident with him being anything other than my RB4 or worse.
You thought we were done with the frustrating parts? WRONG. Welcome to the real hell. Actually, it’s not as complicated as we may think. Sure, all three are going to command a certain target share. However, there is a gem hidden right in front of us, and his name is Antonio Brown. Weird sentence to type, but here we are. Right now, Brown is the biggest value. When he came onto the team, he was 2nd in targets from Week 9 on. Brown could be a steal now past his legal problems and just focusing on playing out the full season. Is he older? Sure. He is still Antonio Brown, he is still just as involved as the other two, and he’s going six rounds later. A WR that could get 100 targets in the 10th round with the talent of Brown is easy money.
As for the others, I’m looking for consistency here. I love Godwin, but he has been up and down. He went from the top to the bottom to the middle. That’s where he stays in the offense to me. He rocks the slot, and you can put him down for 100 targets, no more, no less. Mike Evans, I would feel more comfortable drafting in the 4th between him and Godwin. He has never had fewer than 100 targets since joining the team, and he had his lowest target count last year, still at 109.
Knowing this, they all will flirt with 100 targets. Brown is the easy pick here. Mike Evans does carry the chance to get around 120-140 targets, but I think an injury would have to come up. I do not wish for an injury, but he’s not playing with the most durable people around him. The healthiest guy next to him is none other than Antonio Brown. I am going to have him on all of my teams, and you should too. I can’t stress it enough.
Finally, we come to an easy part. We know who the top dog here is, and he is also a value. Right now, he is priced as the TE12, going around the 10th round. If I had to wait to get a TE, which I love to do, I’d love to pair Gronks floor as a TE with someone I think could break out later. Tight End is a nightmare, and Gronk provides a decent floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished as a top-10 tight end again. I could go into the stats of it all, but I will leave you with two things to think about.
First, Gronk and Brady will be leaving us soon. Nobody plays forever, and these guys have been doing this for a very long time. The wheels will fall off, and they know it. They are going to try to get the best out of it. So when I say he is a floor play, I mean Brady will make sure he is involved with these final games. Second, I would pay attention to OJ Howard. He’s still young, and he still has some talent in him. If something happens to Gronk, performance or health-wise, OJ will have a chance to show what he has. This is more dynasty advice, but it could have consequences this season.