2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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 smooth due to injuries and regression in Brady's production.
In the history of the NFL, only Matthew Stafford in 2012 finished with more pass attempts (727) than Tom Brady (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 the late in games when playing from the lead.
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).
The wide receiver position remains a highlighted part of the Buccaneers' pass attempt. Last year they finished with three-year highs in catches (282) and targets (409). Their wideout scored 81 times over the past three seasons while gaining a minimum of 65% of their passing yards each year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tampa inched 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 the NFL 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.
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 with the goal of improving when the ball moves into the red zone.
LB Shaquill Barrett continues to be their top passes 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 average 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.
QB Tom Brady, TB - Stud (low risk)
Brady leads the NFL in career passing yards (84,520) and touchdowns (624). He has a 243-73 record with seven Super Bowl titles while winning 10 games or more in 19 of his 20 full seasons, including the last 17 years (Brady only played one game in 2008). He has never had a losing season in his pro career.
Last season Brady led the NFL in completions (485), pass attempts (719), passing yards (5,316), and passing touchdowns (43). In his two seasons in Tampa, he averaged 301 passing yards with 88 combined scores. Brady gained over 300 yards in 10 of his 19 plays while completing 75 passes of 20 yards or more.
Fantasy outlook: Better against Brady in his career has been a losing proposition. The loss of Rob Gronkowski and a slow start expected by Chris Godwin points to regression in his passing yards and touchdowns. In the National Fantasy Football Championship, he is the 12th-ranked quarterback, pricing in his potential step back in production. Besides a four-game suspension in 2016, Brady hasn't missed a start due to an injury since 2008. I'm setting his bar at about 4,700 yards with 34 touchdowns.
QB Kyle Trask, TB - Not Draft Worthy
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
RB Leonard Fournette, TB - Solid/Safe Pick
Tampa didn't give Fournette the Lions' share of touches until Week 4 after a slow start to the season (169 combined yards with 12 catches on 36 touches). Over the next 10 weeks, he gained over 100 combined yards in five matchups while averaging 19.7 touches. He finished sixth in running back scoring (255.60) in PPR leagues with two impact games (30.70 and 44.10 fantasy points).
In Week 15, Fournette suffered a hamstring injury, leading to an early exit and three more missed games in the regular season. When he returned in the second week of the postseason, Fournette gained 107 combined yards with two scores and nine catches.
Despite his success in the passing game (69/454/2), he gained short yards per catch (6.6) for the third straight season (6.9 in 2019 and 6.5 in 2020). Fournette had a floor of five catches in nine of his 15 games played (including the playoffs).
Fantasy outlook: Over his five years in the NFL, Fournette played well in odd seasons while averaging 21.2 touches. He has never played an entire year (18 missed games). The latest offseason report suggests Fournette is coming into camp at 240 lbs. with a goal to lose between 10 to 15 lbs. over the summer. His ADP (26) in the NFFC in late June ranks him as the 14th running back. Fournette plays in an offense that should create double-digit scores and plenty of action in the passing game. In addition, Brady trusts him in pass protection. At a minimum, he should receive 300 touches with 1,400 yards with 8-10 touchdowns and 60 catches if Fournette can play at least 16 games.
RB Rachaad White, TB - Sleeper (undervalued)
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.
Other than some concern with his pass protection, White brings an exciting three-down skill set. 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 has to 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.
RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, TB - Low Potential
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 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 in front of him. His game does have some upside as a receiver.
Fantasy outlook: Vaughn is positioned to be 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
WR Mike Evans, TB - Stud (low risk)
Tampa gave Evans 223 targets over the past two seasons with Tom Brady behind center. He extended his streak with 1,000 yards receiving to eight seasons while setting a career-high in touchdowns (14) last year. Despite his success, Evans averaged more targets (9.6) from 2015 to 2018 over 62 games compared to seven per week over his previous 32 starts.
He gained over 100 yards in two matchups (8/106 and 6/113/2) in the regular season while setting up his game in the postseason (9/117/1 and 8/119/2). Additionally, in PPR formats, Evans scored over 20.00 fantasy points in five other contests (24.50, 31.60, 20.30, 21.10, and 26.90). He played through back and hamstring issues late in the season.
With three more productive years, Evans should rank in the top 25 all-time in receiving yards (9,301 – 59th).
Fantasy outlook: Evans can't help but see a bump of about 20% in targets this year. Tampa will continue to rank highly in the league in passing attempts, and their wideout will see the bulk of the action. He has an ADP of 29 in the NFFC in the early draft season as the 10th wide receiver. I'll raise his bar to 90 catches for 1,300 yards and a dozen scores or about 16.50 fantasy points. Evans has six missed games in his career, helping his reliability factor.