2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Outlook: More Than Just Tom Brady

You can't talk about Tampa Bay without talking about Tom Brady. This team will have to make a big push on defense to get over the hump and into the postseason. SI Fantasy expert Shawn Childs runs through the franchise with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

In his first season in Tampa Bay, Bruce Arians went 7-9 with two of their losses coming in overtime and three others by four points or fewer. Over six seasons as a head coach, he has a 65-42-1 record with two playoff appearances. Arians helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls (2005 and 2008) as their wide receiver coach and offensive coordinator. He has 26 years of experience in the NFL. Tampa hasn’t made the playoff since 2007.

The Bucs improved offensively in back-to-back seasons, leading to a third-place finish in points scored (458) and offensive yards. They scored 62 more points than 2018 (396) despite tossing 30 interceptions.

Byron Leftwich returns as the offensive coordinator after working under Bruce Arians in Arizona. He held the quarterback's coach job for the Cardinals in 2017 and the offensive coordinator position in 2018.

After failing as the Jets’ head coach (24-40 with no playoff appearances), Todd Bowles landed the defensive coordinator job for the Buccaneers in 2019. He worked under Arians in 2013 and 2014 in Arizona while running their defense. Bowles has been a coach in the NFL since 2000.

Last year Tampa ranked poorly again in points allowed (449 – 29th), but they did move to 15th in yards allowed (27th in 2018).

Free Agency

The big score in the offseason for the Bucs was QB Tom Brady. His lengthy resume of success puts Tampa in the playoff hunt in 2020. He’ll replace Jameis Winston, who signed a backup job for the Saints.

The Bucs’ offense lost WR Breshad Perriman and RB Peyton Barber.

After a couple of injuries to Tampa's wide receivers, Perriman played the best ball. He caught 25 passes for 506 yards and five TDs on 37 targets in five games, which delivered WR1 stats in PPR leagues. His excellent finish to the year (5/113/3, 7/102, and 5/134/1) earned him a one-year deal for $8 million for the Jets.

They added T Joe Haeg to the offensive line while parting ways with T Demar Dotson, G Earl Watford, T Jerald Hawkins, and T Josh Wells.

Dotson plenty well over a long career in the NFL, but Tampa decided not to resign him at age 34.

Tampa didn’t resign DE Carl Nassib, DE Sam Acho, DT Beau Allen, and S Darian Stewart.

Draft

With the 13th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers invested in T Tristan Wirfs. He comes to Tampa with a foundation of technique and power. Wirfs grades well in strength and speed while needing to improve his movements in decision making to improve in pass protection.

S Antonio Winfield was the choice in the second round. He’ll offer upside in coverage while grading well in run support. Winfield plays with vision and instincts, which offsets some of his risk in height (5’9”). His tackling skills need work with some risk if matched up in single coverage vs. elite wide receivers.

Tampa picked up RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and WR Tyler Johnson in the third and fifth rounds.

Vaughn will break tackles with enough vision and quickness to make plays on the outside. His leg drive is an asset, which also helps him in pass protection. He’ll run with patience while struggling to climb out of tight quarters unless his win comes from strength. Vaughn should work best over the short areas of the field while being helped by better blocking options. His game does have some upside as a receiver.

His game is built on power while offering league average running back speed (4.51). Vaughn does have sneaky acceleration if given an open field on long runs. He comes to the NFL at 5’10” and 215 lbs.

Johnson grades at an elite level with the hand’s tool while having the prowess to win in tight coverage. Unfortunately, his route running, speed, and quickness won’t create a big passing window in the pros. Johnson is more of a zone buster with the feel of a clutch player.

The Bucs took a swing on DT Khalil Davis and LB Chapelle Russell with the next two picks.

Davis projects to have success against the run with a chance to offer sneaky value in the pass rush. He plays with quickness and strength while showing the ability to be a disrupter after the snap. His range is limited, and his success takes a hit when he matches another bully time player.

Russell is an undersized (6’2” and 235 lbs.) attacking linebacker who has a winning combination of power and speed. A couple of torn ACLs does hurt his explosiveness and change of direction value. His best success should come moving forward, but Russell lacks vision with questionable upside a run defender. He does have a chance to work in pass coverage.

With their final selection in the seventh, Tampa drafted RB Raymond Calais. Despite coming into the NFL at 5’8” and 188 lbs., Calais flashes elite speed (4.42 forth) and more strength (20 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine) than expected. The Bucs will look to use him as a change of pace running back and in the return game. He has limited experience as a receiver with questions about his ability to pick up the blitz.

Offensive Line

Tampa bumped to 24th in rushing yards (1,521) in 2019 with 15 TDs and ten runs over 20 yards. They averaged 3.7 yards per carry with 25.6 attempts per game.

The Bucs led the NFL in passing yards (5,127) for the second straight year with 33 TDs and 30 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 47 sacks and 106 QB hits. Tampa gained 8.1 yards per pass attempt with 75 catches over 20 yards (1st) and 13 completion over 40 yards (4th).

LT Donovan Smith

Smith showed growth in pass protection in 2019 while remaining a liability as a run blocker. In his five years in the NFL, he improved each season slightly while owning a second-round draft pedigree in 2015. The switch to Tom Brady at quarterback and his quick release should lead to better success in pass blocking this year.

LG Ali Marpet

Marpet is another five-year vet with a winning resume in both run and pass blocking. Coming into the NFL, his play ranked better in the game. Over the past two seasons, Marpet became a better player in pass protection. Tampa drafted him in the second round in 2015.

C Ryan Jensen

Over the last three seasons, Jensen made 48 starts for the Ravens and the Bucs. Last year he pushed to an elite level in pass protection while also showing growth a run blocker. Improving player, but Jensen needs to add consistency to his game from season to season.

RG Alex Cappa

In his second year in the NFL, Cappa made 13 starts while missing three contests with a forearm and elbow injuries. His play ranked below the league-average in all areas.

Cappa is an athletic power blocker who will have the most value in the run game. His range will be limited, but he makes up for his lack of speed with quickness and plus hands. He went to a small school (Humboldt St.), which means he’ll face much tougher talent at the next level. His pass protection will take the longest time to develop.

RT Tristan Wirfs

The Bucs expect Wirfs to slide into the starting lineup in his rookie season. His ceiling is high with his best value expected to come in and run blocking early in his career. He’ll have a learning curve in pass protection.

Offensive Line Outlook

This offensive line has upside and strength in four spots in the starting lineup. The run game has a chance to much improved. There should be a natural regression in sacks allowed by quick-hitting pass plays and Tom Brady's ability to find open receivers quickly. Possible top-ten upside.

Offensive Schedule

The data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).

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This information is based on 2019, which will work as our starting point for 2020. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2019 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2019.

2019 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.

2019 Adjustment is based on the 2019 league average and the 2019 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.

Tampa has almost a neutral schedule for both their run and pass games. Their best success on the ground should come in two games against the Panthers, followed by a mid-tier matchup against the Chiefs. The Bucs have two challenging games versus New Orleans and two other below-par contests (CHI and LV).

On the passing side, their best chance for upside should come vs. the Lions, Giants, and Raiders. Tampa will be tested by the Chargers’ pass defense with limited upside in two other matchups (DEN and CHI).

Offense

Last year Tampa ran the ball 39.4 percent of the time while ranking as the top team in the league in passing yards. The change at quarterback should lead to plenty of success throwing the ball with fewer mistakes. More wins and playing from the lead will also help the success and production of the run game.

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Here’s a look at the early projections for Tampa, which will be fluid all summer after taking in all injury updates and training camp news:

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Quarterbacks

Tom Brady

Brady wasn’t that far off from a tenth trip to the Super Bowl in 2020. The Patriots’ offense resembled a BB gun with a significant hole at TE and trust issues at WR behind Julian Edelman. Despite a down year offensively, Brady finished 13th in QB fantasy scoring (314.25 fantasy points in four-point TD leagues).

He replaces Jameis Winston, who ranked third in fantasy points (391.55) at the quarterback position.

Tampa has two elite wide receivers (Chris Godwin and Mike Evans) while adding TE Rob Gronkowski to his arsenal just before the draft.

Brady made a career in New England by getting out of trouble with his passing options at running back. The Bucs lack that key player out of the backfield on paper heading into 2020.

There is no doubt Brady improves this offense, and he should make a push for 5,000 yards passing with a floor of 32 TDs. In the early draft season, Brady is the 10th QB off the board, with an ADP of 87.

Other options: Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Reid Sinnett

Running Backs

The Bucs’ running back gained fewer than 3.7 yards rushing in each of their previous three seasons. Last year their backs saw a jump in rushing TDs (13) and growth in their pass-catching production (84/723/1 on 115 targets).

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Tampa doesn’t have the ideal structure at running back in the passing game, but Brady will surely improve the value of their running backs in the passing game. The Bucs have talent on their offensive line, leading to a spike in touchdowns from the position in 2020.

Ronald Jones

Jones had a battle of inconsistency in his second year in the NFL. He scored under 10.0 fantasy points in eight games with his best showing came in Week 10 (106 combined yards with one TD and eight catches) and Week 16 (109 combined yards with a TD and three catches).

Tampa gave him over 15 touches in four contests in 2019. Jones showed growth in the passing game (31/309 – 10.0 yards per catch), which may be a sign of a much higher upside going forward.

The Bucs added RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round of this year’s draft, which adds more competition for touches.

His starting point for me is 1,59 combined yards with eight TDs and 33 catches. In late June, Jones is the 34th running back drafted in PPR leagues with an ADP of 86.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Vaughn worked his way into plenty of touches (842 combined yards with six TDs and 16 catches on 173 touches) in his freshman season at Illinois, but he fell out of favor the following year (390 combined yards with three touchdowns and nine catches).

After a transfer Vanderbilt and sitting out a season, Vaughn had two productive seasons on the ground (157/1244/12 and 198/1028/9) while adding value in the passing game (41 combined catches for 440 yards and three TDs). He gained 7.9 yards per rush in 2018 but slipped to 5.2 yards per carry last year while playing in a weaker offense.

Vaughn has a chance at 850 combined yards with seven TDs and 25 catches while earning RB4 status with an ADP of 110.

Raymond Calais

Over the past two seasons, Calais gained 1,776 yards with 14 TDs and 16 catches while averaging 8.3 yards per rush. In 2019, he finished with 953 combined yards with seven TDs and ten catches.

In his four seasons at Louisiana, Calais returned 99 kickoffs for 2,493 yards and two TDs.

Other options: Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan, Aca’Cedric Ware

Wide Receivers

Over the past two seasons, the Bucs have delivered elite stats from the wide receiver position. They scored 50 TDs over this span while averaging 15.2 catches for 237 yards on 24 targets per game. Their wide receivers gained over 15 yards per catch in each of the past two seasons.

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Chris Godwin

Godwin proved to be a big win for the wise guys in the high-stakes market in 2019, but he left them at the doorstep of victory after a Week 15 hamstring injury.

His season started with an electric run over six games (43/662/6 on 55 targets) while being a stud in Week 12 (7/184/2). Godwin gained over 100 yards in five other games (8/121/1, 12/172/2, 7/125/2, 10/151, and 5/121). He had an elite catch rate (71.1) with three games double-digit targets (14, 12, and 12).

Godwin finished second in WR scoring (276.1) in PPR leagues. With the Tom Brady train pulling into the station, he looks poised for follow-through. His floor for me is 88 catches for 1,303 yards and eight TDs while earning an ADP of 20 as the sixth wide receiver drafted.

Mike Evans

Evans was well on his way to a top-five season at WR, but he missed the final three games of the year with a hamstring injury.

He extended his streak with over 1,000 yards receiving to six seasons while scoring 48 TDs over 90 career games.

His production last year was up and down was his best value coming in three contests (9/190/3, 11/198/2, and 12/180/1), which accounted for 53.2 percent of his fantasy points (232.7) in PPR leagues.

The addition of QB Tom Brady raises his floor and scoring chances, but it also invites more targets to the RB and TE position. I’ll set his initial bar at 80 catches for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns while having an ADP (28) in the second round in the high-stakes market.

Justin Watson

Watson had an impressive career at Penn with improvement every season.

He brings size (6’3” and 225 lbs.) to the wide receiver position while flashing better than expected speed (4.40) on his pro day. His game played well in college due to his TE type frame, but his initial quickness may lead to a tighter passing window in the pros. His route running and hands project well, but Watson needs to add more to his base foundation skill set. He works hard with the smarts to address his weakness.

His next step is proving he can beat better players in the NFL. Over his first two seasons in the league, Watson has 16 catches for 164 yards and two TDs on 29 targets with two serviceable games (5/59/1 and 5/43/1) in 2019.

Scotty Miller

Over his last three seasons at Bowling Green, Miller caught 208 passes for 2,838 yards and 23 TDs highlighted by his success in 2018 (71/1148/9).

Last year Miller added big-play ability after working as a possession type WR earlier in his career. In his rookie season, he caught 13 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown while missing six games (hamstring and coach's decision).

He’s an undersized (5’9” and 174 lbs.) slot receiver who offers elite speed and quickness. Miller plays hard with fight in his game while needing to clean up his release, which may be corrected with more bulk and strength. His route running gives him a chance while needing to put his work in the weight room to make it in the NFL.

Tyler Johnson

Johnson played at a high level over his junior (78/1169/12) and senior (86/1318/13) at Minnesota in college. He averaged 15.5 yards per catch in his career with 33 TDs in 43 games.

His hands separate him from the field, but Johnson doesn’t run great routes. Player to follow this summer as someone will emerge as the WR3 for Tampa in 2020.

Other options: John Franklin, Cyril Grayson, Jaydon Mickens, Bryant Mitchell, Spencer Schnell

Tight Ends

The tight end opportunity for Tampa has declined in each of the past two seasons. In 2017 and 2018, the Bucs’ TEs scored 24 touchdowns. Last year they had plenty of targets (119) with a slight regression in their catch rate (62.2).

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Rob Gronkowski

After a one year retirement, Gronkowski decided to be part of Tom Brady's sunset ride in Tampa. The question in 2020 comes from the number of balls to go around to satisfy three top options in the passing game for the Bucs.

In his last season in New England, he averaged only 5.5 targets per game, suggesting a complementary player.

The bottom line here is: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin help Gronkowski get single coverage, something that didn’t happen that often over his final years with Patriots. At the same time, defenses have to respect his talent, setting up mismatches outside of the Bucs' wide receivers.

For now, I have Gronkowski catching 58 passes for 774 yards and six TDs. Fantasy owners have him priced as the 15th tight end in late June with an ADP of 132.

O.J. Howard

Howard went down as a draft-day bust for fantasy owners last year. His career was trending forward despite missing six games in 2018 (34/565/5).

The change in coaching staff in Tampa and the coach-speak added up to a goose egg as far as impact value for fantasy teams in every game in 2019. His only TD came against the Cardinals that ranked last in the league vs. the position. Howard never caught over five passes in a contest or gained over 75 yards.

The change to Tom Brady should have been a big win just based on the volume of times Brady looked for the TE with Rob Gronkowski (521/7861/79) in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, Tampa made a deal with NE to acquire Gronkowski.

Howard slips to a TE2, with a questionable opportunity in 2020.

Other options: Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, Codey McElroy

Kicker

Matt Gay

Tampa picked up Gay in the fifth round in the 2019 NFL Draft. He rewarded their investment in him with the fourth-highest scoring year (152.1 fantasy points) from the kicker position in 2019.

At Utah over two seasons, he made all 85 of his extra-points and 56 of 65 field goals (8-for-11 from 50 yards or more).

Gay had 83 scoring chances for the Bucs (48 extra-points and 35 field goal attempts), but he did show risk in his accuracy (77.1 percent on FGs and 89.6 on extra-points).

The addition of Tom Brady should help his floor in 2020 while expecting an improvement in his success.

Defensive Schedule

Tampa played great defending the run in 2019, and they have a favorable schedule for their run defense this season. The Bucs face only one opponent (MIN) that ranked above the league average in rushing yards. They have six games (LAC, CHI, LAR, KC, and ATL X 2) vs. teams that struggled to run the ball.

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Their pass defense will be on their heels in seven contests (LAC, LAR, KC, NO X 2, and ATL X 2) with only the Chargers looking like a weaker passing offense in 2020. Tampa has three games (DEN, CHI, and MIN) versus offense that struggled to throw the ball in 2019, but all three teams should be improved passing the ball this season.

Defense

The Buccaneers climbed back to first in the NFL defending the run (1,181 yards) while allowing 11 TDs and four runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained 3.3 yards per rush, with 22.6 attempts per game.

Tampa drifted back to 30th in passing yards allowed (4,322) yards with only 30 TDs and 12 Ints. QBs gained 7.0 yards per pass attempt with 57 catches over 20 yards. Their defense had 47 sacks.

DE Ndamukong Suh

Heading into 2019, Suh was a top run defender over the previous five straight seasons. Last year he lost some value in run support while still being better than most players in the league. Suh finished with a career-low in sacks (2.5), but he scored the second and third defensive touchdowns of his career. At age 33, his window of being a top player is diminishing.

DE William Gholston

After ranking poorly in most seasons in the NFL, Gholston moved to a league-average run defender despite offering minimal value in sacks (one in 2019 – 12 sacks over his 103 career games). The Bucs tend to use him on early downs in run support.

DT Vita Vea

Vea offered a slight edge vs. the run in his first two seasons in the NFL while delivering only 5.5 sacks over 29 games. He is a mountain of a man (6’4” and 347 lbs.) with insane strength. Vea projects to be a foundation run stopper. His hands will offer an edge while showing the power to drive in the pass rush. His footwork and overall technique need to improve to help his balance. Vita has some quickness, but his range is limited due to his overall speed. Tampa drafted him 12th overall in 2018.

LB Jason Pierre-Paul

Over ten games of action, Pierre-Paul posted 27 tackles and 8.5 sacks while forcing two fumbles. He missed the first six games due to a neck injury in May of 2019. The Bucs signed him to a two-year $27 million contract in mid-March. Pierre-Paul had minor knee surgery in late June that looks to have a month of recovery time. Last year he played well vs. the run, which fell in line with his career path.

LB Devin White

In his rookie season, White finished with 91 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one Int, three defended passes and two TDs. Despite his stats, he didn’t provide an edge in any area on defense.

White brings an electric skill set to the NFL, thanks to his speed (4.42 four yards dash), strength, and quickness. He is an undersized player (6’0’ and 237 lbs.) with a short resume of experience. White has playmaking ability, which plays well when attacking the line of scrimmage. His vision is lacking while still overthinking after the snap. The Bucs drafted him fifth overall in 2019.

LB Lavonte David

David has over 100 tackles in seven of his eight years in the NFL, including the last three seasons. In 2019, he played well vs. the run while offering a sure tackling style. David only has 4.5 sacks over his previous 43 games. He allows a high catch rate with offenses looking his way over five times a game in pass coverage in 2019.

LB Shaquil Barrett

After drifting through four seasons with the Broncos with minimal upside, Barrett turned into a beast in the pass rush (19.5 sacks) last year while also setting a career-high in tackles (58). He’s been a good run defender in each year in the NFL.

CB Carlton Davis

In his second season in the NFL, Davis allowed a low completion rate with growth in his overall play. He allowed too many touchdowns with one Int and 19 defended passes.

Davis is a CB that excels in press coverage, which will be an asset in the red zone. His overall skills in coverage need improvement in his technique. He will get beat for long plays when quickness beats him off the line. His vision in off-coverage is a tick below the needed success to win against top NFL wide receivers. Davis will struggle when asked to cover a full pass route tree.

CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Murphy-Bunting is a second player brought to the NFL by Tampa in 2029 (second round) with a speed skill set. His game projects to have an upside in press coverage with a good feel for route development. He needs to get stronger with some questions with his change of direction value. He’ll improve the run defense while being alert in his reads in coverage.

Last year he posted 44 tackles, one sack, three Ints, eight defended passes, and one touchdown while making ten starts in his rookie season. Murphy-Bunting allowed short yards per catch, but a high completion rate.

S Jordan Whitehead

He lacks the size (5’10” and 198 lbs.) to be a physical press player, but Whitehead makes up for it with his strength and willingness to attack the run game. Whitehead can handle slot WRs and TEs in coverage while needing to improve his vision and cover skills. He is more of a hitter than a playmaker.

Tampa converted him to safety where he struggled vs. run in his first two years in the league. In 2019, his cover skills ranked poorly, when considering his limited number of passes thrown his way.

S Antoine Winfield Jr

Winfield should start in his rookie season with his best value coming in coverage. He’ll have risk in the deep passing game if matchup with elite wide receivers. I expect him to be aggressive as well in run support.

Team Defense Outlook

If Tampa plays at a high-level again vs. the run in 2020, their defense looks poised to be much improved in 2020. Their secondary wants to play physical and up close in coverage, which gains value in the red zone. The Bucs have talent up the middle with two pass-rushing options on the outside.

In the fantasy market in 2019, Tampa scored the fourth-most fantasy points (140.0). Sneaky top ten defense, while being unattractive in many matchups due to the strength of the offenses within their division.