The Buccaneers and AB have reached a deal, officially:
Initially, I discounted the idea of AB going to the Buccaneers because Arians seemingly shot it down prior to the season. Here’s his quote:
On the “Tiki and Tierney” show on CBS Sports Network on Thursday, Arians was asked by Tiki Barber about the likelihood of Brown coming to Tampa Bay.
“Yeah, it’s not gonna happen,” Arians said. “There’s no room. And probably not enough money. But it’s not gonna happen — it’s not a fit here.”
That seemed pretty clear, but it was also way back in March. Maybe Brady changed Arians’ mind.
Or maybe it was the lingering injuries to both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
Either way, it looks like Antonio Brown will pass through all the Covid protocols and be on the field in Week 9. That’s why they got the deal done now.
We should see Antonio Brown playing football on November 8, a night game against the Saints.
So what does this mean fantasy-wise?
My initial instinct is that it’s not going to be good. Tampa has so many mouths to feed on that offense. It already looks like Godwin’s presence on the field significantly hinders Mike Evans’ fantasy value. I can’t see adding another big time WR to that offense as being anything other than bad for Evans.
Brady is throwing the ball a lot this season, with 223 passing attempts through 6games so far. That ranks 6th in the league, and keep in mind both Daniel Jones and Carson Wentz are ahead of him on that list and they’ve each played 7 games after last night.
Brady is averaging 37.2 passing attempts a game this season. That would seem to be enough to support three big-time fantasy receivers, plus Gronk and the tight ends.
But as mentioned above, we’ve already seen that with Godwin on the field, Evans’ production plummets. In weeks 1, 3 and 6, the games Godwin has played this season, Evans saw 4, 4 and 2 targets respectively. That is just not going to get it done. In the games Godwin missed (weeks 2, 4 and 5), Evans saw a healthy target share: 10, 8 and 9 respectively. So clearly it would seem Godwin significantly lowers Evans’ fantasy ceiling. Then you add AB into the mix and it’s hard to see how Evans will be better off.
Evans is primarily a deep threat, but AB will now be competing with him in that area. And because of Evans’ size, he’s a good endzone target, but it looks like Gronk is now taking over that role.
As for how AB will affect Godwin, it’s hard to be optimistic about that situation, too. In terms of skill set, AB is more of a deep threat but he can also handle those over the middle/slot routes that Godwin thrives on. AB, being one of the greatest receivers of all time, can do pretty much everything.
Brady’s arm on the deep balls is not what it used to be, so I wouldn’t expect AB to mainly be running deep routes and leaving all the short/intermediate work for Godwin. Brady is only averaging 6.9 yards per passing attempt this season, which is tied for the 13th most of his career going by prior seasons. And his average yards per completion this season is 10.8, which is the 4th lowest of his career. There’s going to be a lot of overlap between Godwin and Brown. Brown will absolutely cut into Godwin’s role.
This is not going to be a situation like 2007 where Brady was consistently airing it deep to Randy Moss and Wes Welker was catching everything underneath. Brady no longer has that kind of arm.
I think you’ve got no choice but to downgrade both Godwin and Evans in light of the AB signing.
I also don’t think AB will be the elite fantasy option he usually was in the past, for the same reasons Godwin and Evans are taking a hit here. They’re going to cut into his target share as much as he’s going to cut into theirs.
Now, Scotty Miller is another factor here: he’s had 23 targets in 5 games this season. You have to assume that’s going to stop and he’s not going to see much action from now on. In order for Godwin, Evans and AB to be quality fantasy options now, the overwhelming majority of Brady’s targets must go to them.
The way I see it is that AB, assuming he can still play, might actually be the best fantasy option on this team now. He’s the most versatile, and despite only playing one game with Brady, it seems like he has the most chemistry with Brady. Brady was pushing the team to sign him even though they already had Godwin and Evans. Evans loses the most value, and Godwin loses some value but will remain a high-end WR2 with WR1 upside.
This is not the ideal situation for fantasy owners of any of those three guys.
The ideal situation would’ve been AB on the Eagles, where he would have instantly gotten an unbelievable amount of targets.
Here’s a video of all four of AB’s receptions in his only game playing with Brady in New England: it’s a lot of short and over-the-middle routes. It’s a lot of Godwin routes:
Now, of course Tampa is a different team with way better weapons than last year’s Patriots team, but this could be an indication of how things will look between Brady and Brown.