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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2022 Fantasy Outlook: Handcuff Russell Gage to Chris Godwin

Tampa Bay's pass offense is unreal and fantasy managers should draft a piece of it.

The undefined have been a fun ride over the past two seasons, with QB Tom Brady leading the show. They went 24-9 with two playoff berths and a Super Bowl title in 2020. At some point, the Brady meal ticket will run out of treats. The Bucs start the year with a downgrade at tight end with Rob Gronkowski retiring. Tampa has two star wideouts (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin), and they added WR Russell Gage for depth. Even with a slow start to the year expected by Godwin after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee last December, the Buccaneers gave him a three-year extension for $60 million. 

RB Leonard Fournette has a history of struggling every other season while missing 15 games over the previous four years. SI Sportsbook has Tampa lost as a -752 favorite to make the playoffs (highest odds in the NFL) and +300 to make it to the Super Bowl. I sense 2022 won’t go as smoothly due to injuries and regression in Brady’s production.

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OFFENSE

Only Matthew Stafford in 2012 finished with more pass attempts (727) than Tom Brady had in 2021 (719). Tampa threw the ball 65.5% while averaging only 22.6 rushes. The Bucs will win or lose with the passing game again this season, but they still want to run the ball well in the red zone and late in games when playing from the lead.

QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady click here for fantasy projections

Kyle Trask
The Bucs added their possible future quarterback in the second round in 2021. He brings an NFL arm with an excellent rhythm in his passes. His weakness comes in his pocket presence and reads at the line of scrimmage and in the secondary. Trask lacks the intangibles needed to start in the NFL at this point of his career. A couple of years holding a clipboard behind Tom Brady should treat him well and possibly fill in the missing links to his game.

In his final year at Florida, Trask passed for 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns with minimal value on the ground (64/50/3). He finished his college career with strength in his completion rate (67.9) and yards per pass attempt (9.1).

Other options: Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin

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RUNNING BACKS

The Bucs’ running backs gained 2,295 combined yards with 22 touchdowns and 110 catches last year, resulting in 27.74 fantasy points per game in PPR formats. However, over the past two seasons, their backs gained over 5.5 yards per carry while showing weakness in their yards per catch (6.36 and 6.35).

Leonard Fournette click here for fantasy projections

Rachaad White
After a limited role in 2020 in college (571 combined yards with six catches and eight catches on 50 touches), White flashed three-down ability (182/1,006/15 with 43 catches for 456 yards and one touchdown). He gained 5.5 yards per rush and 10.6 yards per catch.

White brings an exciting three-down skill set besides some concern with his pass protection. He runs with eyes up with a combination of patience and shimmy, helping him create space at the first level of defenses. When given daylight, White has enough speed to make big plays. He sells his routes well, and his hands grade well.

Fantasy outlook: Based on the injury path by Leonard Fournette, I view White as a must investment as a handcuff back. He must prove himself to Tom Brady in pass protection to earn pass-catching chances. White has an ADP of 140 in the NFFC as the 45th running back drafted. White has breakout upside if given a jump in snaps after an injury.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Vaughn gained only 143 combined yards in his rookie season with a touchdown and five catches on 31 touches. His opportunity rose by only nine touches in 2021 (206 combined yards with two touchdowns and four catches).

He breaks 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 patiently 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 in front of him. His game does have some upside as a receiver.

Fantasy outlook: Vaughn is positioned as Tampa's top backup running back in 2022. In his limited chances early in his career, his rhythm in the passing game appeared to be off, highlighted by his low catch rate (50). As a result, fantasy drafters will find him in the free-agent pool in most formats.

Other options: Giovani Bernard, Kenjon Barner

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WIDE RECEIVERS

The wide receiver position remains a highlight of the Buccaneers’ pass offense. Last year they finished with three-year highs in catches (282) and targets (409). Their wideouts scored 81 times over that span while gaining a minimum of 65% of their passing yards each year.

Mike Evans click here for fantasy projections

Chris Godwin
After his breakout season in 2019 (86/1,333/9), Godwin has yet to produce the same success in final stats. Last year he was on a similar path (98/1,103/5), but he missed three games with a torn ACL in his right knee. Godwin finished with a career-high in targets (127 – 9.1 per game) but a career-low in yards per catch (11.3). His value in scoring (12 touchdowns over 26 games) has been lower than expected under the guidance of Tom Brady.

A good portion of Godwin’s stats came over five matchups (9/105/1, 8/111/1, 8/140/1, 15/143, and 10/105) while having a floor of six catches in 10 of his 14 starts.

Tampa thought enough of his game to sign him for three seasons for $60 million in March. Godwin may be limited over the first few contests, but he has enough time to be ready for Week 1 if his injury responds well to rehab.

Fantasy outlook: When on the field and at 100%, Godwin should be a six-catch-a-week guy at a minimum, highlighted by his phenomenal catch rate (75) over the previous three seasons. In late June, he ranked 20th at wide receiver in the NFFC with an ADP of 55. Even with a slow start, Godwin should finish as a top 18 wideout with a chance to catch 90 balls for 1,200 yards and some growth in scoring. His price point will surely rise in August if given the full-go tag in Week 1.

Russell Gage
The Falcons used Gage over the short areas of the field over the previous seasons. His yards per catch improved yearly (9.1, 10.9, and 11.7). He has 138 catches for 1,556 yards and eight touchdowns on 203 targets while working in many games as a WR2. Gage flashed in three matchups (11/130, 8/91/1, and 9/126/1) in 2021 while missing three games early in the season with an ankle issue.

Fantasy outlook: With Tampa Bay having a drop-off in talent at tight end, some chances should shift over their third wide receiver. Dilemma fantasy player with drafters needing to decide if Gage is worthy of a WR4 opportunity or better in this offense. His ADP (107) in the NFFC in the early draft season ranks him as the 44th wideout. More steady than impactful with bye week or short injury cover value. Think 5/50 player with any scoring being a bonus.

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

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. Instead, he is more of a zone buster with the feel of a clutch player.

In his rookie season, Johnson caught 12 balls for 169 yards and two scores on 17 targets. Last year, Tampa used him as a chain mover (10.0 yards per catch), leading to 36 catches for 360 yards on 55 targets. He scored over 10.00 fantasy points in PPR formats in only one matchup (5/65).

Fantasy outlook: Godwin should start the year as Tampa’s WR4. His game should continue to improve, but his opportunity is below starting fantasy value. At the very least, fantasy drafters should keep an eye on his progress as a possible handcuff option for one of the Bucs’ top three wideouts.

Other options: Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Cyril Grayson

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TIGHT ENDS

The arrival of Tom Brady in Tampa led to their tight end usage improving in back-to-back seasons. They set three-year highs in catches (100), receiving yards (1,182), and targets (169), thanks to a rebound season by Rob Gronkowski (55/802/6). However, in 2022, the Bucs have a downgrade in their tight end structure, pointing to regression production.

Cameron Brate
After posting his best season in 2016 (57/660/8), Brate never repeated his success while trickling to TE2 status in the Bucs’ offense over the past four years. Tampa used him close to the line of scrimmage since 2018 (9.1 yards per catch) while averaging under two catches for 17 yards per game.

Fantasy outlook: Brate projects to be the Buccaneers’ TE1 on the early depth chart. His ceiling is low even with Tampa expected to get plenty of balls to their tight ends again this year. Unfortunately, the Bucs will divide their targets at this position between multiple players. Brate has a waiver wire ADP (245) in the high-stakes market in late June. At best, he is a short-term fill-in while being challenging to time.

Cade Otton
Over four seasons in college, Otton caught 91 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns on 124 targets. His best output came in his sophomore year (32/344/2). He has a lot to prove in his rookie season.

Ko Kieft
Tampa added Kieft in the 2022 NFL Draft (sixth round). He finished his college career with only 12 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns, suggesting his best value will come in blocking.

Other options: Codey McElroy, Ben Beise, J.J. Howland

KICKER

Ryan Succop
Succop made 86.9% of his 61 field goal chances for Tampa over the last two years. His leg has had limited range (1-for-4 from 50 yards or more and 14 for 23 from 40 to 49 yards) since 2019. The Bucs brought in Jose Borregales to compete for the starting job. They will also have an open eye on any other potential kickers cut by other franchises over the summer.

Fantasy outlook: I have no interest in rostering or playing Succop in 2022 despite Tampa projecting to have a high-scoring offense. At the same time, a fantasy drafter should pay attention to the winner of their kicking job.

COACHING

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 while earning a promotion to head coach over the winter. Bowles has been a coach in the NFL since 2000, and his defense owns a Super Bowl title. Tampa didn’t bring in another defensive coordinator, leaving the defensive calls to Bowles.

The Bucs finished second in scoring (511 points) and offensive yards last season, extending their grip on a top offense to three seasons.

Byron Leftwich returns for his fourth season as the offensive coordinator. He held the quarterback's coach job for the Cardinals in 2017 and the offensive coordinator position in 2018. His next step is earning a head coaching job.

Tampa jumped to fifth in the league in points allowed (353), but they slipped to 13th yards allowed.

FREE AGENCY

Their top loss in the offseason was G Alex Cappa, who signed with the Bengals. S Jordan Whitehead moved on to the Jets. Tampa added WR Russell Gage and DE Akiem Hicks. The Bucs didn’t bring back TE O.J. Howard or RB Ronald Jones.

DRAFT

Tampa didn’t have a first-round selection in this year’s draft. They invested in DE Logan Hall and G Luke Goedeke in the second round. The Buccaneers focused on offense with three of their next four picks (RB Rachaad White, TE Cade Otton, and TE Ko Kieft) while buying P Jake Camarda in the fourth round. Their final two choices (CB Zyon McCollum – 5.14 and LB Andre Anthony – 7.27) were dictated to improve their defense.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Tampa inched up to 26th in rushing yards (1,672) with 18 touchdowns and nine runs over 20 yards. They averaged 4.3 yards per carry with 22.6 attempts per game.

The Bucs led in passing yards (5,383) with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 23 sacks (22 in 2020), compared to 47 in 2019. Tampa gained 7.4 yards per pass attempt with 76 catches over 20 yards (1st).

LT Donovan Smith comes off his best all-around and pass-blocking season. RT Tristan Wirfs has been a beast in back-to-back seasons after getting drafted in the first round in 2020. Unfortunately, the Bucs lost the talented Ali Marpet to early retirement in the offseason, leaving a significant void at guard. They hope incoming rookie Luke Goedeke is ready to hit the ground running. C Ryan Jensen struggled in pass protection over the past two seasons while remaining an asset in run blocking. The Bucs acquired Shaq Mason to start at right guard.

This offensive line will have some regression in play this year while continuing to rank high. Their five starters only missed two games in 2021, helping the chemistry. Tom Brady gets the out quickly to avoid sacks, thus making their offensive line look better than it truly is.

DEFENSE

The Buccaneers dipped to third defending the run (1,573 yards) while allowing 11 touchdowns and 11 runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained 4.3 yards per rush, with offenses only attempting 21.5 runs per game.

Tampa repeated their 21st ranking in passing yards allowed (4,062) yards with only 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 6.4 yards per pass attempt with 55 catches over 20 yards. Their defense had 47 sacks.

Their secondary has a question mark at one safety position while Antonio Winfield developed into a top player over his two seasons in the NFL. He excels in run support and pass coverage. Their starting cornerbacks want to allow short yards per catch to improve when the ball moves into the red zone.

LB Shaquill Barrett continues to be their top pass rusher (37.5 sacks over his last 46 starts) while also adding value against the run. The Bucs have top talent at linebacker, but Lavonte David is on the back nine of his career. Devon White and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka have high ceilings after getting drafted in the first round in 2019 and 2021.

DT Vita Vea had a step back in play against the run. His job is to clog up the middle of the line while showing growth in attacking the quarterback. The defensive end position falls on the development of Logan Hall and a bridge season by Akiem Hicks.

The Buccaneers’ defense has seven competitive pieces with a recent history of slowing down the run and getting after the quarterback. In the NFFC, they rank second behind the Bills in the early draft season. I’m concerned with their direction against the run, which more rushing attempts may expose. 

2022 FANTASY OUTLOOKS

AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
AFC North: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
AFC South: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
AFC West: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers

NFC East: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
NFC North: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
NFC West: Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks