Brady’s Favorite: Which Receiver is the Leader?

The Bucs brought back all the wide receivers from last season, so who will be Brady's favorite target going forward? Let's take a look at the data.

Tom Brady added to his GOAT status by winning a Super Bowl in his first year with the Buccaneers and does not seem to be slowing down. There is reason to believe he has two to three years still left in the tank to lead the team. I thought either Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown would be brought back, but the Bucs decided to bring them both back, which leaves the WR depth chart a little crowded.

Brady is still productive, but can he support three fantasy-relevant receivers still? Let's take a look at how it could break down in 2021.

New Additions to Offense in 2021

Most of the work in the offseason was to retain the offense that won the Super Bowl. The only free agent signing of note was adding Giovani Bernard to an already crowded backfield. Bernard looks to be the change of pace receiving back and an insurance policy for the often injured Leonard Fournette.

After bringing back all of the receivers, the Bucs decided to add to their weapons with speedy playmaker Jaelon Darden in the fourth round. So far, reports are that they will be using Darden on special teams, but he is sure to probably eat into the time of Scotty Miller or Tyler Johnson at WR.

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2020 Trends for the Buccaneers Offense

If you look at the fantasy points per game in PPR, the Bucs finished with three WRs in the top 23. Chris Godwin missed four of the first eight games. Antonio Brown was suspended for the first eight games of the season. Mike Evans played all 16 games, but was severely limited in a couple of games and left the final game of the season early with only 11 snaps.

Since Godwin and Evans played the most games, if you look at games both played, the target share actually favors Godwin, 18.75% to 16.74 %. After seeing those numbers, I checked into what the numbers looked like with Brown. Since Evans left so early in game 16, I left that data out.

There is discussion of whether Godwin or Evans was the target leader, but it changes who is the second favorite target. As you can see, Godwin and Brown are close, with Evans as the clear leader. The only game that got out of hand, where the Bucs had to rely on the passing game, was game nine. As you can see, all three receivers had similar targets. The Pass/Run percentage difference increased after Brown's suspension, but only by a small amount, from 61% to 65%.

Brady asked for Brown to be signed, and it showed. Brown had the highest percentage of routes compared to snaps on the field. Another aspect I looked into was the difference in formations when O.J. Howard was hurt and when Brown started playing. Three-wide receiver sets and two-tight end sets only varied by 2-5%.

So Who is Brady's Favorite Target?

I asked Twitter who they thought Brady's favorite target is. The results were about what I expected, but after looking at the stats last year, Brown is not going away. In fact, Brady will likely be targeting him quite a bit. Brown had about a year and a half of not playing football, so a full season could provide even more chemistry with Brady.

Below are my projections for the three main receivers in 2021. I used past TD percentage, previous three years' avg yards per reception, and last year's target share when all three receivers played together. I believe Evans has the most ceiling. He has the larger depth of target and is more of a red-zone threat with his size in winning jump ball situations.

I think all three could finish in the top 25 in PPR, so it might not matter who Brady likes the best. Looking at the below ADPs, Brown is the biggest steal and Evans is going almost a full round after Godwin.

Mike Evans: ADP 46 WR 17

Chris Godwin: ADP 36 WR 13

Antonio Brown: ADP 292 WR 68


Brandon Haye

Dog & Craft Beer Lover. Go Browns, Jags, & Wolverines. Devy Dude for IDP GUYS and fantasy football analyst

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