What Could Go Wrong? Tom Brady & the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Fantasy Football)
When a big free agent move or trade happens in the NFL, we all tend to put on rose-colored glasses and get starry-eyed at the possibilities for this player and his new team. The issue is, we tend to forget that these games aren’t played on paper and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The most recent example of this phenomenon was the 2019 Cleveland Browns.
After Cleveland acquired Jarvis Landry, Baker Mayfield, and Nick Chubb in 2018, they finished the season quite strong and hopes were high heading into 2019. Those hopes reached the stratosphere when the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr. After also adding Kareem Hunt to the backfield, most pundits thought this offense was going to be unstoppable. Instead, the Browns went 6-10, Landry outperformed Beckham, and everyone outside of Landry and Chubb finished far below their fantasy ADP.
Similar to the Cleveland situation, Tampa Bay is the darling of 2020. The addition of Tom Brady to replace Jameis Winston has everyone salivating at the possible seasons that Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and even a rookie RB might be able to put together. But what if they don’t?
I want to start this article by saying that I do, in fact, think that Tampa Bay will have one of the best passing offenses in the league in 2020. But sometimes we need to look at the other side of the coin, if only so that we aren’t surprised when history repeats itself. What kind of rocks could derail this train much like what happened to Cleveland in 2019? I’m glad you asked…
What Could Go Wrong
First Year Turnovers
The relationship between the QB and the head coach can be one of the most important things leading to a team’s success. Over the last 13 years, Bruce Arians has taken the reigns as a head coach or offensive coordinator for four NFL teams. Here is a quick snapshot of his QBs numbers during season one.
|Tampa Bay / Jameis Winston||2019||QB5||5109||33||30|
|Arizona / Carson Palmer||2013||QB17||4234||24||22|
|Indianapolis / Andrew Luck||2012||QB9||4374||23||18|
|Pittsburgh / Ben Roethlisberger||2007||QB4||3154||32||11|
An average fantasy finish of QB9 is not bad and 20+ TDs seem all but guaranteed. The other glaring stat is double-digit interceptions. All four of these QBs are very talented and all but Roethlisberger threw the most INTs of their careers under Arians in season one. Roethlisberger also had the fewest yards by far, so there may be a give and take there, but whether you’re throwing for fewer yards or throwing a ton of INTs, it’s not going to bode well for your offense. While it is unlikely that Brady even approaches the 30 INTs thrown by Jameis, a 15+ career-worst INT season would certainly cause some friction.
The Offensive Line Fails
Tampa Bay gave up the 11th most sacks in 2019, allowing Jameis Winston to go down 47 times over the season. Brady was only sacked 28 times last year and hasn’t been sacked 40+ in his career. Now, some of those sacks can be put on Winston’s decision making, and Brady’s low sack total wasn’t all his offensive line, but where there is smoke, there is usually some fire.
The Buccaneers did draft an OT with their 1st round pick in the NFL draft, adding Tristan Wirfs from Iowa, but there is no guarantee of his immediate success in the NFL, and 80% of the starters remain the same. If Brady is forced to revert to the quick reads he used to avoid sacks in New England, it is unlikely that he puts up the yards or TDs we saw from Winston last year. Winston threw for almost 1100 more yards and nine more TDs than Brady in 2019. While Jameis isn’t the most mobile of QBs, he is certainly more athletic than a 42-year-old Tom Brady, so he likely avoided a few more sacks during his 59 rushing attempts in 2019. If Brady can’t avoid them, he may hit the ground more than he has in his career.
A ton of sacks may not spell fantasy disaster, as proved by Winston last season, but, combined with double-digit INTs, it could prevent Tampa Bay from having the uptick in the win column that so many see happening in 2020. To make matters worse, if Tampa Bay can’t keep TB12 upright, it could lead to something far more devastating…
Brady Gets Hurt
This is the worst case of all scenarios. Tampa has built this super team but there is absolutely no contingency plan if Brady goes down. Do you know who their backup is? I didn’t before writing this…it’s Blaine Gabbert. How appetizing is drafting Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Rob Gronkowski if it’s Blaine Gabbert throwing them the ball?
Gabbert did not throw a pass in 2019 and has 15 TDs to 16 INTs over his last 430 pass attempts. In other words, the fantasy value of those pass-catchers would nose-dive and there would no room in the box for any running back to do anything. As mentioned, Brady is not as nimble as Jameis and if he takes the wrong hit, it would destroy the drafts of many fantasy owners.
For the most part, the 2019 version of Tampa Bay’s defense was positively reviewed. They were top-10 in sacks and rushing TDs allowed, and the #1 rush yardage defense in the league. They were also the 3rd worst passing yardage defense and bottom-10 in both passing TDs allowed and INTs, on top of giving up the 4th most points in the league. Jameis Winston certainly put them in some tough spots with his 30 INTs, but some of the onus falls on the defense too.
To protect their investment in Brady, Tampa Bay used three of their first four picks on offense, only adding safety Antoine Winfield to their defense on the draft’s first two days. Essentially, this will be the same defense we saw in 2019. While a year of growth for young guys like Vita Vea and Devin White should be productive, it’s also another ring around the tree of guys like Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and Lavonte David. Father Time remains undefeated in the NFL and if any of those guys lost a step, it could mean this offense, and the team overall, finds itself in more and more bad situations.
This is not an article to caution you against drafting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in fantasy this season, it’s just a reality check. Things can and will go wrong in 2020. Let’s not forget, Evans and Godwin missed the last few games of the 2019 season. All in all, on their own, just about every piece of this offense should perform at or better than their fantasy ADP in 2020, but maybe don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. If the opportunity presents itself, if you took Godwin or Evans early, maybe avoid Gronkowski, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, or Ronald Jones later in the draft. That way, if the wheels fall off, you’re only fixing one piece of your roster and not the majority of your team.