Fantasy Impact: Tom Brady to the Buccaneers
There were not many who thought they’d live to see the day when Tom Brady was in a uniform that wasn’t a Patriots one. The year 2020 has brought a lot of crazy things, and this is among them. Brady will be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
Brady leaves the Patriots with a 249-75 record over the course of his career, with 14 Pro Bowl appearances, three league MVP trophies, six Super Bowl trophies, and 17 division titles. We don’t need to debate if he’s the greatest of all-time, because no matter how you feel about him, he’s top-five at the very least.
DECLINE AND CHANGE OF SCENERY
But here’s the reality of the whole thing: Is Brady on the decline? At 43 years old, can he turn a seven-win team into one that goes to the Super Bowl? We’ve watched his yards per attempt decline in each of the last three years, down to a miniscule 6.6 yards per attempt in 2019 and an early exit in the playoffs.
Going to a new offense at this stage in his career, when he’s been tied to the Patriots for 20 years is not going to be easy. He’s been working in Josh McDaniels’ offense for the last eight years. It’s extremely rare to see a quarterback walk into a new offense and have tremendous success right out of the gate, though that’s what Brady’s expected to do.
IS THE DEEP BALL GONE?
With Brady coming to Bruce Arians’ offense, there’s going to be some changes that have to be made, as Arians has often incorporated a lot of vertical plays, an area of the field that Brady doesn’t really target as much at this stage in his career. To highlight that, he’s completed 23 or less passes that’ve traveled over 20 yards in the air in three of the last four seasons. In 2019 alone, Jameis Winston completed 40 passes that traveled over 20 yards in the air, which led the NFL.
Has Arians’ offense always been that way? What about going back to the Carson Palmer days with the Cardinals? He coached Palmer starting in 2013. That year, Palmer completed just 23 deep balls. Palmer’s career-high under Arians was 34 deep ball completions, which took place in 2015. Maybe Arians was playing to the strengths of his quarterback? Maybe people aren’t giving him enough credit.
When Brady does throw deep, he hasn’t been nearly as bad as some might think. Though he hasn’t thrown the ball down the field very often, here are his totals over the last four years alongside Winston’s totals from 2019. It’s fair to say the Brady hate on the deep ball may be a bit overblown.
|Winston in 2019||40||99||40.4%||1351||9||5|
There are many who said Brady’s struggles with the Patriots last year were a result of the lack of weapons in the offense. While it was just the third time Julian Edelman played all 16 games, the other receivers were not ideal. Should all the blame put on the pass-catchers? Probably not. Brady’s been able to elevate those around him in the past, but he may have declined to the point where he’s just not good enough to elevate them anymore. It doesn’t mean he’s bad, but rather not great anymore.
Going to the Bucs, he will have zero issues with his weaponry. They have what might be the most talented WR/TE trio in the league, as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard give him as much talent as he’s ever had. Evans has put together six straight 1,000-yard seasons, while Godwin broke out in 2019 racking up 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games played. Some will question the Howard love, but since they started tracking targets in 1992, there is just one tight end who’s averaged more than 10.0 yards per target in their career (minimum 100 targets). That player is O.J. Howard (10.4). The closest are Rob Gronkowski (9.9), Mark Andrews (9.5), and George Kittle (9.4). Brady has elite weapons surrounding him.
The biggest question as of right now is at the running back position. While Ronald Jones looked very good down the stretch, he’s not the typical running back that Brady likes in his backfield. He likes a running back who’s quick and can run routes. You have to wonder if the Bucs snag Dion Lewis after the Titans released him, or someone of that style in the draft.
Look, the Bucs aren’t bringing Brady in to throw the ball 630 times like Winston did last year. That’s not his game anymore and Arians knows that. We’ve clearly seen that Brady’s deep ball isn’t as bad as some think, so when you add in Evans/Godwin/Howard, they should only help elevate his level of play, something that hasn’t happened with Brady since Rob Gronkowski and Randy Moss.
Knowing the volume may be a bit limited and that Brady offers no mobility, he’s stuck in the high-end QB2 range for fantasy purposes, though he’s going to have some big games with his new toys. If you’re wondering what this does for the receivers in fantasy, I believe it helps Godwin but hurts Evans. It was Evans who averaged 15.3 air yards per target last year. Meanwhile, Chris Godwin‘s 10.4 air yards per target is much more manageable. With the way Arians used Godwin in the old Larry Fitzgerald role, it should suit Brady’s current skill-set perfectly. Evans is still going to be in WR2 territory, but Godwin has a real chance to repeat his 2019 production.