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Player Outlooks (2021)
QB Tom Brady: Brady probably had the quietest 40-touchdown campaign in NFL history last year, and you could make a case that it was the most impressive considering his age (43) in a new city while learning a new offense (during a COVID-impacted season). Things really started to click for Tampa Bay’s offense down the stretch in 2020, and another year with the championship supporting cast—plus O.J. Howard, Giovani Bernard, and rookie Jaelon Darden—should only make Brady even better. Don’t be surprised to see TB12 put up 2007-level numbers.
RB Ronald Jones II: Getting banged-up caused Jones to take a backseat in January/February, but he again brings the speed element to the Buccaneers after averaging 5.1 yards per carry and nearing 1,000 rushing yards last year. The downside is competition from Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard, but Jones—just a few months older than Steelers rookie Najee Harris—still has the most potential in the backfield. He should be drafted as an upside RB3.
RB Leonard Fournette: “Playoff Lenny” (and then the evolution into “Lombardi Lenny”) was a big part of powering Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl, and he could very well open the year averaging the 16.0 carries per game that he saw in the postseason. However, the receiving numbers project to take a significant hit with Giovani Bernard around, and Fournette averaged just 3.0 yards per carry in the second half of the 2020 regular season. The former No. 4 overall pick may settle in as a touchdown-dependent FLEX.
RB Giovani Bernard: Head coach Bruce Arians has said that Bernard will handle passing situation and the two-minute offense—which should lead to definite value in a Tom Brady-led offense. We have Bernard slated for 50 receptions, so full PPR leagues in particular should have him ranked as a mid-to-late selection; the current ADP of No. 173 overall is much too low.
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Vaughn was hyped up last summer, but the second-year back will almost certainly need an injury to carry roster-worthy fantasy value in redraft leagues. As a rookie, Vaughn—who is older than Ronald Jones—handled 31 touches in ten games.
WR Chris Godwin: Statistically, the first season for Godwin in an offense led by the G.O.A.T. didn’t quite go as planned due to various injuries, but he still had a 16-game pace of 87 receptions, 1,120 yards, and nine touchdowns. Another offseason to build chemistry will only help, and it’s worth noting that Brady recently posted on Instagram that a “huge year” is coming for the Penn State product. Godwin can easily return to WR1 territory, and there are potential shootouts early to set the tone (v DAL, v TB, @ LAR).
WR Mike Evans: Evans was a quick favorite of TB12 because of his size and downfield prowess, so the ceiling will be exciting again in 2021. That said, week-to-week inconsistency is reason to push Evans—who had 64 or fewer receiving yards in 75% of his games last season—more towards WR2 territory, and movement up or down could be determined by your roster construction. Another 1,000-yard season would give Evans an unprecedented eight-straight years of the milestone to start his career.
WR Antonio Brown: Being a workout warrior helped, but Brown came off what was basically a year-and-a-half away from the game to catch 45 passes, 483 yards, and four scores in eight games last season—and his connection with Tom Brady should lead to big numbers for what we expect will be a record-breaking offense. Even with others chipping in, all three of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and AB can prosper.
WR Scotty Miller: The drafting of Jaelon Darden would seem to impact Miller the most, but all the 23-year-old did was make plays when called upon last season, and he will again have a role this year. The tricky part will be guessing when Miller will put up numbers on a loaded attack, so he’ll be a desperation FLEX with everyone healthy.
WR Jaelon Darden: He’s been mentioned a couple of times, and Darden should immediately be on the radar in all formats because of the offense he’s playing in. Still, the Bucs’ fourth-round pick could have more real-life value as a primary returner with limited offensive production on a loaded attack. Consider Darden more of a dynasty prospect.
WR Tyler Johnson: He surprisingly caught just 14 passes last season (including playoffs), but Johnson’s impact was bigger than that because of how clutch he was. Chris Godwin returning on the franchise tag leaves limited opportunity for Johnson to take a statistical leap from his rookie numbers, though the team could certainly view him as someone that can step into a larger role if they don’t eventually extend Godwin. We believe in the talent, so have patience.
TE Rob Gronkowski: Overall, Gronkowski caught nine touchdowns after coming out of retirement to play with Tom Brady—and that included two big ones in the Super Bowl. Now much more into football shape than he was to start the 2020 season, Gronk still brings massive touchdown upside and will be a threat for multiple scores in any given week. Tampa Bay trying to kill records/milestones could put 10,000 career receiving yards (currently 8,484) and 100 career touchdowns (currently 86) on the table if Gronk is up to playing beyond 2021.
TE O.J. Howard: A perfectly healthy Howard would likely be ranked as a top-15 option, but an Achilles injury is very difficult to return from—particularly in the first year back. We still have optimism that Howard can have a quality season, though, and a loaded offense will take the pressure off. We’ll have a close eye on his status throughout August.
TE Cameron Brate: Brate caught a career-high 82.4% of his targets last season with a pinpoint-accurate quarterback orchestrating the offense, but he will now have even more of a split with O.J. Howard back. In four games with Gronk and Howard also active, Brate saw just two targets (one of which was caught for a three-yard touchdown).
Best 2021 value: WR Antonio Brown (FantasyPros ECR: WR43)
The ranking for Brown has already heated up a bit since releasing our draft guide (he was the WR48 at that point), but being the WR43 is still egregious considering the talent and offense that he’s playing in. While there might be a bit of frustration at times with Godwin and Evans as the top weapons, AB is going to get his targets from TB12, and he’d be a potential monster if an injury strikes.
Best dynasty investment: QB Tom Brady
In general, Tampa Bay has the league’s most undervalued offense (from both a real-life and fantasy perspective), so multiple players could have been chosen for the best redraft and dynasty investment. Although Brady might seem like an odd choice for dynasty leagues, he’s currently going as the QB25, and that’s far too low for a player that’s shown no signs of slowing down. You won’t find a cheaper shot at high-end QB1 numbers for at least the next two seasons.
Exclusively in 2021 draft guide.
Stat to know
Exclusively in 2021 draft guide.