Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|By Shawn Childs, Tuesday, June 27, 2023
2023 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook
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 their head coach in 2022. He's been a coach in the NFL since 2000. His defense won a Super Bowl title for the Bucs in 2020 while also taking home the league championship as a player in 1987 with the Washington Redskins. Tampa didn't bring in another defensive coordinator, leaving the defensive calls to Bowles.
The Bucs slipped to 25th in scoring (313 points), 198 fewer than in 2021 (511). Their offense ranked 15th in yards gained.
Dave Canales takes over as Tampa's offensive coordinator. He worked in Seattle's Seahawks system since 2010, with most of his experience coming as their quarterback's coach and pass game coordinator.
Tampa fell to 13th in the league in points allowed (358 – only five more points given from 2021). They finished 9th in yards allowed.
The Buccaneers brought Baker Mayfield to take over at quarterback after losing Tom Brady to retirement. WR Julio Jones remains in the free agent pool.
Their defense moved on from CB Sean Murphy (TEN), DT Akiem Hicks (FA), S Mike Edwards (KC), and DE Carl Nassib (FA). Their only signing was DT Greg Gaines.
Five of the eight draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft for Tampa came on the defensive side of the ball – DT Calijah Kancey (1st), DE Yaya Diaby (3rd), LB SirVocea Dennis (5th), S Hosh Hayes (6th), and DE Jose Ramirez (6th).
Kancey gets off the ball quickly, creating havoc in the backfield and rushing the quarterback. His knock comes from his questions stopping the run due to his below-par build (6'1" and 280 lbs.) for his position. If he adds some bulk and strength and maintains his quickness, Kancey will reach impact status.
Diaby is a late-developing prospect who started to find his rhythm rushing the quarterback last season. He brings quickness and the hands to create early wins in the pass rush. His secondary moves need work, along with more strength.
Dennis sees the action while having a first-mover approach in run support. His early attack can leave him out of position at times. He doesn't have the speed for missed steps against the run or in coverage. Dennis also lacks the size (6'0" and 225 lbs.) to win vs. the bigger bodies of the interior of the offensive line. To earn snaps in the NFL, he must become more disciplined in his movements to ball carriers.
Hayes has experience playing cornerback, but his future in the NFL looks to be at safety. He has questionable tackling ability, hurting his value in run support. Hayes shows value in man coverage with the speed to handle some slot receivers.
Ramirez won't see many snaps on early downs to start his career due to his questionable value in run support. He has an intriguing blend of speed, quickness, and strength that helps his pass rush. His challenge comes from handling power blockers and developing secondary pass-rushing moves. Ramirez plays hard while being undersized (6'2" and 240 lbs.) for a pass rusher.
In the second round, the Buccaneers added T Cody Mauch. He should hit the ground running as a run blocker. His early attack comes with fight and power while having the vision to see beyond his man. Mauch must improve his technique and football to increase his blocking area in pass protection.
The final two pieces selected by the Buccaneers were TE Payne Durham (5th) and WR Trey Palmer (WR).
Durham is a slow-footed tight end with a high foundation in blocking. His hands grade well while expecting him to work the short areas of the field on late releases.
Palmer brings elite speed (4.33) to the NFL, but his route running is trailing. He needs more experience running the ball to help his value after the catch. Palmer will take the top off a defense, but there are signs of a higher ceiling in his all all-around game with more experience.
Tampa had the worst rushing offense in the NFL in 2022. They gained (1,308) with five touchdowns and three runs over 20 yards. They averaged 3.4 yards per carry with 22.7 attempts per game.
The Bucs slipped to fifth in passing yards (4,746 yards) with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 22 sacks. Tampa gained 6.3 yards per pass attempt while throwing a league-high 751 passes.
LT Tristan Wirfs has been a beast over three seasons at right tackle. He makes the switch to left tackle this year. He continues to improve in pass protection, but his run blocking slipped to the league average last year. Tampa drafted Wirfs 13th overall in 2020.
LG Matt Feiler led the Chargers' offensive line in snaps last year, but he allowed too much pressure with regression in his play in run blocking. Over the past four seasons, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles gave him starting snaps, making him a slightly better player than the league average.
C Ryan Jensen missed the regular season in 2022 due to a left knee injury. In his only game in the postseason, he was a disaster in pass protection. Over his previous seven years with the Ravens and Bucs, Jensen has been a more consistent player in run blocking while being a better pass protector early in his career.
RG Cody Mauch slides into the starting lineup in his rookie season. He projects much higher in run blocking than pass blocking out of the gate.
RT Luke Goedeke transitions from left guard to right tackle in his sophomore year in the NFL. He missed seven games last season with a foot injury. His play didn't provide an edge in any area when on the field. The Buccaneers drafted him in the second round in 2022.
Tom Brady threw 2,062 passes over three seasons for Tampa (41.2 per game), but he was sacked only 65 times. In comparison, Baker Mayfield attempted 2,259 passes in his career while landing on his back 170 times. This offensive line is below-par in all areas, suggesting continued weakness running the ball and many more sacks in 2023. The change in offensive coordinator points to runs with an up-and-down passing attack.
Tampa led the NFL in passing attempts (751) and plays (1,137) last year. They threw the ball 66.1% of the time while offering a putrid run game. The Bucs' offense has a whole new vibe this year, pointing to more runs with a ball control offense.
QB Baker Mayfield - Deep-league Only
Health clearly efforted the throwing ability of Mayfield in 2021. Despite his issues, he hasn't been a winning quarterback (29-30) over his four seasons with Cleveland. His completion rate (61.6) came in well below his college career (68.5) while falling to be a difference-maker in touchdowns (92 over 60 games). Mayfield tossed three touchdowns or more in nine of his 59 starts – none over his late 18 games with the Browns). After 2021, Mayfield had surgery on his left shoulder in January to repair a torn labrum.
The switch to Carolina didn't go well for Mayfield. Over his first five starts, he passed for 962 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions with a dismal completion rate (54.9). An ankle injury in mid-October led to two missed games. The Panthers had him on the field for two more matchups (155/2 and 196/0) over the next month before releasing him.
With Matthew Stafford out for the season, the Rams gave Mayfield five starts to end the year. Unfortunately, he made minimal strides (82-for-129 for 850 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions). Mayfield gained a career-low 6.5 yards per pass attempt on the year with 31 rushes for 89 yards and one touchdown. His value in the run game (189/660/6) has been minimal in his career.
Fantasy Outlook: Tampa has two veteran wideouts (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin) with a serviceable WR3 and tight end. Their offensive line has plenty of questions, and Mayfield won't get the ball out as quickly as Tom Brady. The Bucs will let their quarterback battle play out over the summer. Either way, I don't see a winning fantasy play by this below-par NFL quarterback. Tampa should start its rebuilding process by giving Kyle Trask the starting gig.
UPDATE: Mayfield outplayed Trask in August and will open the season as Tampa's starter. He'll likely have a short leash, so this is a situation to avoid unless you're in a Superflex league.
QB Kyle Trask - Deep-league Only
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 lacked the intangibles needed to start in the NFL early in his career. A couple of years of 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).
The Buccaneers have him 10 snaps in 2022 (3-for-9 with 23 yards).
Fantasy Outlook: I don't expect Trask to get drafted in many formats in July and August, but he may offer QB2 value early in the year if Tampa gives him the starting job. His ceiling is unknown, while Baker Mayfield has five years of mediocrity on his resume. I'll have Trask as the winning quarterback in this offense.
RB Rachaad White - Quality Backup
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) the following year. 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 with plus hands.
In his rookie season, Tampa gave White 179 touches over 17 games, but he struggled to make big plays (3.7 yards per rush and 5.8 yards per catch). White finished with 771 combined yards with three touchdowns and 50 catches, ranking him 35th in running back scoring (142.10) in PPR leagues. From Week 10 through the first week of the postseason (9 games), he scored double-digit fantasy points in six matchups (10.50, 19.90, 17.90, 11.70, 15.30, and 11.70).
Fantasy Outlook: With Leonard Fournette no longer on the roster, White projects as the Buccaneers starting running back. On the downside, they'll have a downgrade in quarterback and throw the ball 200 times less than in 2022 (751). I'm not a fan of Tampa's offensive line, but he should be a better player this year. White ranked 24th in late June at the running back position in the high-stakes market. My early thought is 1,150 combined yards with four to six touchdowns and 50 catches.
RB Chase Edmonds - Fantasy Handcuff
In each of his first four seasons in the NFL, Edmonds improved his output in yards despite never earning the lead role at running back. Despite missing five games in 2021 with shoulder, ankle, back, and rib issues, he set a career-high in combined yards (903) and touches (159) while gaining 5.1 yards per rush. Edmonds gained over 100 combined yards in three games, but his only impact showing came in Week 16 (26.70 fantasy points in PPR leagues). He continues to have a high floor in catches (2020 – 53/402/4 and 2021 – 43/311).
Last season ended up being a disaster for Edmonds. He played his way out of a rotational role with the Dolphins, followed by a midseason trade to Denver. Over 13 games, Edmonds gained 407 combined yards with three touchdowns and 10 catches on 84 touches. His only fantasy game of value came in Week 3 (6/21/2 with one catch for six yards). An ankle injury cost him four games with the Broncos late in the year.
Fantasy Outlook: Tampa will give Edmonds a chance at winning their RB2 role in 2023. He has much to prove while never earning a full-time starting running back position in his five seasons in the NFL. At best, a flier handcuff with waiver wire value out of the gate.
RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn - Low Potential
White 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.
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). Tampa gave him only 20 touches last year (72 combined yards with three catches).
Fantasy Outlook: Vaughn is running out of rope in the Bucs' offense, but his experience with Tampa could lead to him earning RB2 snaps in 2023. In his two best seasons in college, he gained 2,712 combined yards with 24 touchdowns and 41 catches on 396 touches.
Other Options: Patrick Laird, Sean Tucker, Ronnie Brown
WR Russell Gage - Not Draft Worthy
The Falcons used Gage over the short areas of the field from 2019 to 2021, leading to 138 catches for 1,556 yards and eight touchdowns on 203 targets while working in many games as a WR2. His yards per catch improved each year (9.1, 10.9, and 11.7). 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.
In his first season with Tampa, Gage missed four weeks with a hamstring injury. The Bucs gave him a minimal role over 13 games (51/426/5 on 70 targets) while working close to the line of scrimmage (8.4 yards per catch). His only two playable showings came in Week 3 (12/87/1) and Week 15 (8/59/2).
Fantasy Outlook: With Julio Jones no longer on the roster, Gage should have a cleaner WR3 role in 2023. At best, a short-term injury replacement if the Bucs' passing game shows a pulse.
UPDATE: Gage will miss the entire 2023 season and should not be drafted in any leagues.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
WR Chris Godwin - Solid/Safe Pick
His value in scoring (15 touchdowns over 41 games) was lower than expected under the guidance of Tom Brady. Last season, he set a career-high in catches (104) and targets (142), but his yards (1,023) didn't match up to his previous career path due to gaining 9.8 yards per catch. Godwin had his highest value from Week 10 to Week 17 (56/564/3 on 70 targets) over seven starts, highlighted by four games (6/71/1, 12/110/1, 8/83/1, and 9/120). He missed two weeks early in the year with a hamstring issue.
Fantasy Outlook: If Tampa throws the ball 550 times this year, it would be a 26.8% decrease in targets for the Bucs' receiving corps. Godwin would still command between 110 and 120 chances. His catch rate (74.4) has been elite over the past four seasons, but regression would be expected. He ranked 26th at wideout in late June in the high-stakes market. I'll set his bar at 75 catches for 900 yards and only a handful of scores.
WR Mike Evans - Quality Backup
In 2021, Evans gained more than 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). 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 year.
Tampa gave Evans 350 targets over the past three seasons, with Tom Brady behind center. He extended his streak with 1,000 yards receiving to nine seasons. After setting a career-high in 2020 (13) and 2021 (14) in touchdowns, Evans scored only six times last year. Despite his success, he averaged more targets (9.6) from 2015 to 2018 (62 games) than his previous 47 starts (7.4 per week).
Evans had two impact showings (8/103/2 and 10/207/3) in 2022, but he failed to score in between those games (11 weeks). His only other two outings of value came in Week 1 (5/71/1) and Week 8 (6/123),
With two more productive years, Evans would rank in the top 25 all-time in receiving yards (10,425 – 45th).
Fantasy Outlook: The expected change in offensive plan and questions at quarterback suggest Evans is on a path for the lowest output of his career. He has never had fewer than 67 catches, 1,001 yards, and 109 targets in his career. The fantasy market jumped ship on him this year based on his wide receiver ranking (35th) in late June. I expect him to find his way to four catches a game with about 900 yards and five touchdowns, fitting his WR3 profile in the fantasy market.
WR Trey Palmer - Dynasty Only
After a minimal opportunity over three seasons in college (41/458/3 on 73 targets), Palmer emerged on the NFL radar after success in 2022 (71 catches for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns on 111 targets) at Nebraska. He posted four impact games (10/92/1, 8/157/1, 7/237/2, and 9/165/2).
Fantasy Outlook: Palmer had many easy long catches last year, thanks to his ability to beat defenses over the top. He'll compete for the Bucs' WR4 this year while needing to prove his worth over the short areas of the field.
Other Options: Deven Thompkins, Kaylor Geiger, David Moore
TE Cade Otton - Quality Backup
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).
Tampa Bay had Otton on the field for 66.5% of their plays in his rookie season. He caught 42 of his 65 targets for 391 yards and two touchdowns while gaining 9.3 yards per catch. His best value came in four games (6/43, 4/64, 5/68/1, and 6/28/1). Otton missed Week 2 with a personal issue.
Fantasy Outlook: In his second year with the Bucs, his natural progression would be an improvement. Otton projects to be the fifth passing option for Tampa, pointing to TE2 stats in the fantasy market and a possible 45 catches for 450 yards and low scoring.
TE Payne Durham - Dynasty Only
Durham picked up the pace in catches and receiver yards over his final two seasons (45/467/6 and 56/560/8) at Purdue. He caught 71.6% of his targets while gaining short yards per catch (10.2).
Fantasy Outlook: Tampa will use Durham on early downs where his value in blocking is an edge over Cade Otton. His overall speed is below par, but he is a load to bring down while willing to do the dirty work close to the line of scrimmage.
Other Options: Ko Kieft, David Wells, Dominique Dafney
PK Chase McLaughlin - Not Draft Worthy
After kicking for five franchises in 2019 and 2020, McLaughlin made 32 starts for Cleveland and Indianapolis over the past two years. His best season came in 2022 when he made 30 of his 36 field goals (83.3%). He went 9-for-12 from 50 yards or more, with all 21 extra points going through the uprights. In his career, McLaughlin has been exceptional from long range (17-for-21).
Fantasy Outlook: The Bucs brought in Rodrigo Blankenship to compete with McLaughlin for their kicking job. Last year, Tampa scored 32 touchdowns while creating 38 field goals. The cloudiness of the starting kicker puts both in the avoid column in the fantasy market until later in the draft season.
Tampa Bay - Low Potential
The Buccaneers fell to 15th defending the run (2,052 yards) while allowing 12 touchdowns. Ball carriers gained 4.5 yards per rush, with offenses only attempting 26.9 runs per game.
Tampa jumped to the 21st ranking in passing yards allowed (3,461) with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 6.7 yards per pass attempt while being sacked 45 times.
DE Calijah Kancey slides into the starting lineup after getting drafted in the first round in 2023. They expect him to improve their pass rush while knowing his foundation in run support isn't NFL-ready. DT Vita Vea comes off a career-high in sacks (6), but his run defense has regressed in back-to-back years. He has been a rotational player in his five seasons with the Bucs. DE Logan Hall struggled off the bench vs. the run in his rookie campaign after getting drafted in the second round in 2022. Tampa expects him to move into the starting lineup this year.
LB Lavonte David posted his ninth season with more than 100 tackles while adding three sacks and five defended passes. He has been an asset in run support over the past six years. LB Devin White continues to be a top player in production (124 tackles, 5.5 sacks, five defended passes, and two forced fumbles). He still missed too many tackles, leading to some shoddy run defense in some starts. In addition, White does allow some touchdowns in coverage. LB Shaquil Barrett missed nine games in 2022 due to a torn Achilles. From 2019 and 2021, he delivered 37.5 sacks while offering winning help in run support. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka entered his third season with the Bucs after getting drafted in the first round in 2021. He moved to the league average against the run. His pass rush had more juice, but most of his chances fell short of landing the quarterback on his back.
CB Carlton Davis held receivers to a low catch rate over the past two seasons, but he gave up more big plays in 2022. He tends to miss tackles in the open field, hurting his value vs. the run. CB Jamal Dean played at his highest level last year, leading to 57 tackles, two interceptions, and eight defended passes. S Antonio Winfield has been an excellent run defender over his three seasons with the Bucs. He likes to keep receivers in front of him, leading to short yards per catch. S Ryan Neal set a career-high in tackles (66) and defended passes (8) last year with the Seahawks. He showed growth vs. the run and in coverage over his 13 starts.
Tampa Bay has a competitive player at most defensive positions. They need to play better vs. the run. An increase in the pass rush should be a given if Shaquil Barrett is healthy and some of their young talented players develop as expected. I view the Bucs as a backup fantasy defense with some matchup value.