News & Analysis

Fade the rumor: Why the Buccaneers' receiver props are currently enticing

One of the best ways to begin researching fantasy football data is to look at betting market expectations for individual players in the form of player props. These are some of the softest markets that exist and are inherently less random than week-to-week propositions. Targeting unders is typically the winning approach, so when an actionable over exists, it is worthwhile to highlight this discrepancy. Taking into account our season-long fantasy projections, let's take a closer look at the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers player props. 

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Current Fantasy Expectations

The quarterback change in the second season of Bruce Arians’ offense in Tampa has many expecting a significant impact on fantasy performance. Jameis Winston led the league in passing yards playing from behind most games. Here are the projections for the Buccaneers' offense in 2020 compared to the actual output from 2019.

Projections for Buccaneers' Offense | 2020
Description Attempts Completions Yards TD INT
2020 Projection 607 378 5142 26 6
2019 Actual 630 382 5127 33 30

Outside of the interception regression, not a lot is projected to change for the Buccaneers' offense. Slightly more opportunity exists for sustainable drives when interceptions aren't frequently killing possessions. That means that a more efficient Buccaneers offense could very well be on pace to lead the league in passing yards again. 

How much passing game opportunity do they lose given the expectation that they will win more and are invariably more ahead because of the improvement to their 2020 roster? It is a popular narrative, but from a season-long perspective, it is much better to take the efficient offense for three quarters than one that struggles to move the ball outside of garbage time. The expectation that players' fantasy performances will take a step back because of a more productive offense is hearsay.

The likely result, according to PFF's fantasy projections, is that the Buccaneers' offense puts up similar numbers to the ones we saw in 2019 given Bruce Arians' ability to produce high-level offense. So the question becomes: How do our team level projections break out in a crowded pass-catching room?

Expected Target Distribution

With more mouths to feed in 2020, the expected target distribution breakdown for Buccaneers' pass-catchers is below. 

Expected 2020 Target Distribution for Buccaneers' Receivers
Player Targets Receptions Yards Target Share Distribution Reception Share Distribution
Mike Evans 150 84 1417 25% 22%
Chris Godwin 145 102 1421 24% 27%
Rob Gronkowski 100 69 1065 17% 18%
Tyler Johnson 40 25 310 7% 7%
O.J. Howard 35 24 352 6% 6%
Cameron Brate 20 14 136 3% 4%

According to our fantasy projections, a significant amount of the target share will still be focused on the big three. Having Rob Gronkowski projected for 100 targets seems high. If he sees close to that number, he will eviscerate his season-long prop of 600.5 yards. Outside of his rookie season, Gronk has failed to eclipse that total only once during his career — and that was due to an injury-shortened 2016 campaign. If Gronk sees a 17% target share, that still leaves plenty of opportunity for both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to hit the over on their current season-long player props.

In 2019, the Bucs had three receivers on the field for 77% of their dropbacks. The 2020 Tampa Bay offense now has plenty of talent at the tight end position. It is not far-fetched to assume we see fewer three-receiver sets being and more two-tight end alignments. This doesn’t negatively affect Godwin or Evans unless the rumor of an addition at the wide receiver position comes into fruition. 

The Rumor

Antonio Brown is linked to a different NFL team seemingly every week. The flavor for quite some time has been a reunion with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. No betting odds currently exist on Brown’s next destination. After news broke of Brady to Tampa, -200 odds existed for Antonio Brown not to join Brady on his next team. The implied probability would most likely be even lower at this time, but something appears to be weighing the Buccaneers' player prop odds down. Even if Brown somehow finds his way to Tampa, a multi-game suspension would likely be handed down.

Conclusion

The big three pass-catchers in Tampa have suppressed season-long player props at this time. Given what Bruce Arians has been able to do on offense in previous coaching stints, the expectation for a significant downturn in fantasy production is overstated. Arians has now paired with the best quarterback he has ever had as a head coach. Any decrease in passing situations will be offset by an increase in efficiency and minimizing costly turnovers. Gronkowski could siphon off 100 targets in the passing game and still not hinder the production of Godwin or Evans.

The only real downside to either wide receiver is the rumor of Brown joining and forming the best pass-catching unit we have ever seen. Outside of this scenario playing out, all Tampa Bay passing or receiving props are set to hit the over according to our latest batch of fantasy projections. 

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