2023 Fantasy Football Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview

by A.J. Applegarth

Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Football Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview brought to you by the Fantasy Six Pack!  I’m your host, A.J. Applegarth.

You may remember me from my recent team preview article about the New England Patriots. In that article, I outlined the correlation between Tom Brady's rise to prominence and the overall success of the Patriots from 2000-2020. I also discussed how the Patriots' fortunes changed once TB12 took his talents to Tampa Bay in 2020.

The Bucs won Super Bowl LV in 2021 but failed to make it past the Divisional Round in 2022. Then, last season, Tampa Bay lost to the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 in the Wild Card Round. Now, that's not quite the trajectory we're used to seeing from a Tom Brady-led team. So, it wasn't a big surprise to see TB12 retire (again...and likely for good this time) after the early playoff exit.

Fast-forward a few months, and the Buccaneers are starting another new quarterback era; the Baker Mayfield era! The Bucs are also moving forward without Leonard Fournette, their stalwart running back whose playing time in Tampa Bay also started in 2020. All signs point to second-year running back, Rachaad White, getting the first crack at the lead role.

Like Brady and Fournette, wide receiver, Julio Jones, will not be playing for the Bucs in 2023. However, the wide receiver trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage will be back this season, as will tight end, Cade Otton. That said, there's still plenty of talent surrounding Baker Mayfield, but will he be able to step up and take advantage of his new opportunity with these weapons? Let's find out!

2023 Fantasy Football Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview

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After a very forgettable 2022 season that included stops in both Carolina and Los Angeles, Baker Mayfield will start the 2023 Fantasy Football season in yet another new uniform. The difference with 2023 is that his competition for starts is fairly non-existent. Kyle Trask may be more familiar with the other offensive players on the Tampa Bay roster, but Baker is more familiar with actually running an NFL offense.

The other quarterback currently on Tampa's roster is John Wolford. You may remember him as the guy who Mayfield supplanted after just three snaps in Week 14's Los Angeles Rams showdown with the Las Vegas Raiders. While it is quite ironic that both Baker and Wolford are sharing an offense again, I can't imagine the latter seeing a different outcome this year compared to 2022.

Now, keep in mind that Mr. Mayfield himself only has one winning season under his belt as an NFL quarterback. Back in 2020, Baker led the Cleveland Browns to an 11-5 record, by throwing for 3,563 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. Not too shabby, but also not very impressive from a fantasy football standpoint. In arguably his best statistical season overall, Mayfield couldn't even crack the Top-15 for fantasy football (he finished as QB17).

Again, without any other proven talent behind him, this should be another lame-o episode of "The Baker Show" down in Tampa this season. For fantasy football purposes, it's still hard to see Mayfield as much more than a low-end QB2. Maybe the other talent around him on the field changes that, though.

Running Backs

As noted above, the loss of Leonard Fournette could be fairly devastating for the 2023 Buccaneers. Leo had an unquestioned knack for finding the end zone over the last three seasons (22 RRTD total). This was an impressive feat seeing as he split time with other running backs during his tenure in Tampa Bay. His best season came two years ago when he notched 10 touchdowns and 1,266 scrimmage yards on only 249 touches.

One of the running backs Fournette split time with last season was none other than Rachaad White. The 2022 rookie runner started every game for the Bucs from Week 10 on last season. Of those games, Fournette was only inactive for one, which came in Week 11. White, on the other hand, racked up 4.3 yards/touch (771 scrimmage yards on 179 touches), and three total touchdowns.

For fantasy football, specifically half-PPR and PPR-based scoring leagues, White offers a plethora of value as a receiving back coming into 2023. From Week 11 to Week 16, White averaged five receptions/game with 33 targets. Both of his receiving touchdowns also came during that span. The only potential barrier that could cap Rachaad's PPR ceiling is Tampa's acquisition of Chase Edmonds.

In 2022, Edmonds played sparingly for the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos, gaining only 157 yards on 16 receptions. However, Edmonds accumulated 713 receiving yards on 96 receptions for the Arizona Cardinals from 2020-2021. Still, Edmonds has missed some time due to various injuries, so it remains to be seen if he can recapture his early career success again.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Patrick Laird, who also currently reside on the Tampa Bay roster, offer very little value for fantasy managers. No need to waste your time with them, unless you play in a very deep league. And, even then, both White and Edmonds would still see the majority of the touches, outside of an injury.

Wide Receivers

For 2023, the Bucs' wide receiver room is filled with plenty of upper-end talent for fantasy teams.  Mike Evans has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving every year of his nine-year career in the NFL. Evans has also scored double-digit touchdowns four times. Even with Baker Mayfield under center this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Evans make it 10-for-10 with the 1,000 yards/season.

Chris Godwin has never played a full season in his six-year career, but he seems to finally be fully healthy heading into the 2023 season. If he is, watch out! Over the past two seasons, Godwin missed five games total. Yet, he still averaged 101 receptions and 1,063 yards.

The downside to having Godwin on your fantasy roster the past two seasons (aside from the missed time) was that he only scored nine total touchdowns (eight receiving, one rushing). But, he scored 23 touchdowns from 2018-2020. If Godwin is in fact back to full speed, I predict we'll see an uptick in the touchdown department in 2023.

Russell Gage currently slots in at...well, the slot receiver position. Gage missed four games last season, but he also only started in four of the thirteen games he played. Granted, Gage did have five touchdowns in 2022, which is his current career-high in scores. Don't be too surprised if rookie Trey Palmer starts eating into Gage's playing time and/or targets as the season progresses.

Tight Ends

Cade Otton will likely be the main beneficiary of targets for the Tampa Bay tight ends. Cameron Brate is no longer rostered by the Bucs, and Ko Keift is used more as a blocking tight end.

It's possible that rookie tight end, Payne Durham, starts siphoning some targets away from Otton. However, my gut tells me that Cade will still receive the majority of the red zone looks out of this group.

Final Verdict

The 2023 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' key offensive players are quite the mixed bag for fantasy managers! You have the dearly-departed-dudes (Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, Julio Jones, and Cameron Brate), the new-faces-in-new-places guys (Baker Mayfield, John Wolford, Chase Edmonds, and David Moore), and the hold-overs (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage).

With all of these categories of players present (or, not), it really brings this entire offense into question. We've seen what these guys are capable of, to differing degrees, and (some) with other organizations altogether.

Overall, I love the upside that Rachaad White brings, and both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been fantastic throughout their careers (when healthy, of course). I'll be targeting these three in my drafts often, but hopefully, I won't have to overpay too much to get them.

Mayfield, Edmonds, and Otton are all later-round fliers and should be targeted for added depth once your fantasy roster is filled out. Of the group, Otton is the most intriguing, as he does offer some sleeper/potential breakout candidate vibes.

That wraps up our 2023 Fantasy Football Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview. Thanks for tuning in, and good luck with your fantasy teams this season!

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