Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are at it again. After taking a year off and a WWE title, Gronk says he's ready to take the field -- just not in New England. It's not a surprise to see these two reunite, especially given Gronkowski's willingness to retire if the Patriots intended to trade him. He made it clear; it was Brady or bust.
Hardly an hour after the announcement was made that Rob Gronkowski was considering a return, the Buccaneers had finalized terms on a deal. They will send a 2020 fourth-round pick to New England for Gronkowski and a 2020 seventh-round pick. Tampa Bay acquires yet another weapon for Brady with whom he's had a tremendous career-long rapport.
Gronkowski's body has undoubtedly been through the wringer in his nine-year career. A broken arm, a torn ACL and MCL, back problems, concussions... and along with those injuries, a whole lot of rehab. He was outspoken at the point of his retirement regarding the toll that football these injuries have had on his mental health. Now, it would appear that he is ready, both physically and mentally, after a year off. Now, what does this mean for the Bucs' offense?
The Fantasy Outlook
It doesn't seem as though Tampa Bay has wasted any time to make a run at a Super Bowl with Tom Brady under contract for the next two seasons. They are just one running back and a few defensive pieces away from making that a genuine possibility.
We already know that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. How will it translate to fantasy production in 2020? It's hard to say. Brady finished as the QB12 in fantasy leagues for 2019 with a less-than-ideal supporting cast. Now, he's easily got one of the best.
He threw the ball 613 times last season, ranking fourth in pass attempts for all quarterbacks. These attempts were sometimes for naught though, as Brady had 34 passes dropped, the second among all quarterbacks. Interestingly, despite his risky playing style, Winston ranked 17th in passes dropped with 23: a compliment to his receiving assets, perhaps.
Between a pass-heavy offensive scheme, lack of an established run game and a plethora of receiving talent in Tampa Bay, Brady is likely in for another QB1 performance.
The Wide Receivers
Before Tom Brady's signing with the Buccaneers, they already rostered the most prolific wide receiver tandem of 2019. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin each ranked top-five among wideouts in fantasy points per game and combined for just under 2,500 receiving yards. Evans and Godwin are both set to return in 2020 and should expect to maintain similar roles; Evans will play outside and Godwin in the slot.
Brady's signing almost felt like instant money for those with Godwin shares in their dynasty leagues. Evans owners? Not so much. It's difficult to understate the opportunity Evans saw because of Jameis Winston's unabashed willingness to force the ball down the field. Despite missing three games in 2019, Evans ranked second among wide receivers in total air yards.
It will be a different ballgame with Brady under center. In 2019, Brady's average depth of target (aDOT) was 8.0 yards, tying Jared Goff for the 21st-lowest aDOT among quarterbacks to play at least 50% of offensive snaps. He plays safer, more methodical football, and for this reason, we can expect a decline in Evans' fantasy production despite the talent.
Godwin should continue his role in the slot and flourish. Brady is used to utilizing the slot wide receiver heavily with former teammate Julian Edelman. Godwin is younger, faster, taller and heavier than Edelman - all good things in terms of fantasy potential. Lock him in as a WR1 for 2020, and ask no further questions.
The Tight Ends
The addition of Gronkowski has now made for a crowded tight end room. He joins Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard at the table - for now at least.
Despite the number of mouths to feed, there's still opportunity. The Buccaneers utilized two-tight end sets on 37% of plays in 2019 - the fifth-highest rate of any offense in the NFL, so we should project much of the same.
Given Gronkowski's lack of playing time within the last year and health history, we can likely assume that his role in 2020 may be limited and specific. Drew Rosenhaus reports back to his playing weight of 260 pounds, and the best way to utilize a monstrous 6'6" man of his build has to be in the end zone. Gronk has the potential to be a touchdown machine but carries risk in fantasy leagues if he doesn't accumulate yardage. It's likely he'll be overdrafted in 2020 fantasy leagues.
Brate is entering his third year in a six-year contract and has been a solid performer for the Bucs since signed as an undrafted free agent. He's proven to be a reliable blocker and red-zone target, but he's an asset that is better for his NFL team than he will be for your fantasy rosters.
With all of this, it seems inevitable that Howard will be traded. His 2019 season was riddled with mental errors, and he appeared to be on the outs with head coach Bruce Arians. Despite this, Howard remains a physically gifted tight end who ran a 4.51 at 6'6" and 251 pounds. He scored exceedingly well in agility drills and showcased that athleticism while healthy in 2018.
The upside is there, and with a fresh start in a new offense, we might get another chance to see him shine. He's got the first-round draft pedigree, so it's likely just a matter of finding the right compensation. He's a buy-low candidate in dynasty leagues.