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Fantasy Football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2022 Outlook

RotoBaller logo: MainLogo RotoBaller 8/7/2022 RotoBaller Staff

leonard fournette fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks © Provided by RotoBaller leonard fournette fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks Welcome to our fantasy football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks, a series on RotoBaller where our writers look at three key players on each NFL team. Today, we're talking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa was set to rebuild this year after Tom Brady retired, but then Brady went out and unretired, because of course Tom Brady would do something like that.

Below, you'll find a fantasy football breakout candidate, a fantasy football bust candidate, and a safe fantasy football pick for the Buccaneers based on early ADP for fantasy football drafts in 2022.


Fantasy Football Breakout: Russell Gage

Note: The Bucs signed Julio Jones, so you can read the next few paragraphs if you want to see why I liked Gage before, and why I'll like Gage if Jones gets hurt. But the Jones news obviously changes everything here, and it also makes me change my breakout pick from Russell Gage to...well, to no one. The Bucs are going all-in on veterans to try getting Tom Brady one final Super Bowl. It's a good strategy, but it isn't one that really allows for breakout fantasy performances. I guess Jones could be someone who surprises if he stays healthy since we've stopped expecting much out of him?

Russell Gage is a really contentious player right now and I'm not really sure I understand why. He's going to get volume and volume is good.

With Chris Godwin set to miss a big chunk of this season, Gage has the inside track to be the No. 2 receiver behind Mike Evans. And in an offense that passes the ball as much as the Bucs have, it seems almost impossible for the Bucs' No. 2 receiver to struggle.

Tampa threw a league-high 731 passes last season. Only five other teams were even within 100 passing attempts of them. I think you can safely assume that they throw the ball a little less this year, but unless Tom Brady just falls off a cliff, this team will be in the top-five in pass attempts. That's what a Bruce Arians offense does, and while Arians has retired, the team should retain the same basic system since Byron Leftwich returns as offensive coordinator and has been the play caller for the last two seasons.

Look, I know Russell Gage isn't some elite receiver. His breaking out would be much more about the system than about him as an individual talent. And a Gage "breakout" likely tapers off when Godwin is back.

But this offense averaged 43 pass attempts per game last year. I think it's safe to pencil Gage in for seven or eight targets per game in this offense. Gage is being drafted as a WR4 right now, but volume can easily make him worth starting on a weekly basis until Godwin returns.


Fantasy Football Bust: Tight Ends

The narrative about Bruce Arians as a head coach was that he didn't like to target tight ends. That changed in Tampa over the last few years, which just happens to coincide with Byron Leftwich calling the plays.

But it also happens to coincide with the Bucs having Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

If we look at the games that Gronk didn't play last year, we see that the targets for the tight ends weren't really there:

Week Targets to TE % of Targets
4 7 16.2%
5 4 9.1%
6 11 26.1%
7 8 20.5%
10 3 8.8%

For the season as a whole, the team targeted the position 23.5% of the time, so just one of those five games featured the team exceeding that average and the average is being brought down by having these weeks included.

This leads me to assume that without Gronk, the Bucs will probably not be relying on the tight end position, especially when the team doesn't have a clear No. 1 guy at the position. Cameron Brate and Kyle Rudolph are solid veterans, but having both on the team will limit what either one can do. There was also some offseason hype for rookie Cade Otton, but the Rudolph signing really puts a damper on that.


Fantasy Football Lock: Leonard Fournette

Tom Brady will be 45-years-old this season. Yes, he's the greatest quarterback in NFL history. But at age 45, it's so hard to predict that he'll definitely still be a top QB in the National Football League. I'm not betting against Brady, but I am conflicted enough to not call him a lock. And if age does hit Brady, that makes Mike Evans not quite a lock either.

That's why I'm going with Leonard Fournette.

After being cut following a 1,000-yard season with the Jags, Fournette landed in Tampa and was part of a committee approach in 2020 before taking over in 2021. He had 180 carries last year plus was targeted 84 times.

One thing about Fournette is that when he entered the league, he wasn't expected to do a ton in the passing game, but he's actually developed into a really reliable receiver. And with Tom Brady being the kind of QB that he is, he'll make the smart play and check it down to Fournette a lot this year, just to ensure the play winds up as a positive.

While the team drafted Rachaad White in the third round, Fournette will get the first crack at every down work. He should run away with that work.

Per PlayerProfiler, Fournette did a lot of really good things last year. He was 14th among NFL running backs in yards per touch at 5.1, and he was 15th in yards created. His 14% target share ranked sixth among running backs.

Tom Brady showed that he likes to get the ball to Fournette. Because of that, Fournette is going to be on the football field. A lot. And he's going to easily return his current value, as he's being drafted around the second/third round turn.

Look, there are probably a lot of safe plays on this team. Brady. Evans. Gage, who I mentioned above. But even those players rely on Brady's arm still being strong enough to push the ball down the field.

Fournette doesn't. He just needs rushing attempts and check downs. He'll get both things and will finish as a low-end RB1.


alex roberts

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