The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their eyes set on becoming repeat champions all year long. Now, they are part of The Great Reset, with no Tom Brady, probably no Rob Gronkowski, and potentially no Chris Godwin or Leonard Fournette in 2022. It’s going to be hideous for them next year, but what should we remember from their 2021 fantasy football season?
- In the preseason, we all wondered if it would be Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones taking over as the lead running back for Tampa Bay. After all, injury gave 4nets the opportunity to not get cut and become Lombardi Lenny. The Buccaneers tried to make it Ronald Jones, but could not ignore the way that Leonard Fournette was… better in every way. So, they gave him the rock, a lot. Fournette ranked third in the league in running back targets, something we thought would go by the wayside with Giovani Bernard’s inclusion on the roster. He was also top-three in red zone touches, and tenth in goal line carries. All told, Lombardi Lenny stretched it through a full season. What do we remember, here? Coaches don’t forget what players did for them, we shouldn’t, either.
- There isn’t a non-dominant split for Rob Gronkowski (well, except for when he got hurt after one target in week eight). Gronk averaged 5 catches, 61 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns per game prior to his injury. After his injury, he got right back on the horse, averaging 5 catches for 77 yards per game. Gronk had double-digit targets in three of his last four games, meaning that Brady turned to him when everything else fell apart (AB84, Chris Godwin). He might retire, or he might go to Cincinnati, but Gronk was still a key part of this offense.
- We can’t let him get lost in the shuffle because Antonio Brown lost himself and Tom Brady’s lip bled in the playoffs then retired, and because Mike Evans is about to make a Hall of Fame case (more on that in a second)… but we have to talk about Chris Godwin. When Tom Brady joined the Buccaneers prior to 2020, everyone talked about how he needed a slot receiver like he had in New England (read: short and white). But, he already had a slot receiver at his disposal: Chris Godwin. Godwin played 57.5% of his snaps in the slot this year, and Brady turned him into a better Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. Godwin was Brady’s go-to receiver (more games with 13 or more targets than fewer than five targets), and he turned that into an incredibly solid and consistent 7 catches for 79 yards per game. The only downside is that Godwin’s touchdowns dropped each of the last two seasons after he had nine in 2019.
- We tried to count out Touchdown Tom Brady. We really did! There were tons of think pieces in the middle of the year, where he “struggled” to produce. Those struggles from weeks ten through sixteen (I’m trying to get the most disingenuous sample size to figure out Brady’s “struggles”) came out to 276 passing yards, 1.7 touchdowns, and 0.9 interceptions per game. While not great, it wasn’t exactly the horror show we all pictured when we thought about Tom Brady down the stretch. Plus, I had to hem him into those weeks because in week nine he had four touchdowns, and in week seventeen and eighteen, he totaled six touchdowns. Brady is retired, and because he doesn’t run, his margin for error was much smaller, but I regret to inform everyone: Tom still had it, right up until the end.
- Mike Evans is on track to make his Hall of Fame case solidified in 2022, provided his quarterback (whoever that might be) cooperates with his goal. As of writing this, Mike Evans is one of fourteen wide receivers with at least four seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. There are currently six wide receivers with five seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and ten touchdowns: Cris Carter, Lance Alworth, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, and Jerry Rice. All six of these players are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.