The Dynasty Value of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin With Tom Brady at Quarterback

Johnny Kinsley

I have six words in response to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2020 off-season: What the hell is going on?

Never in my wildest dreams would I have come close to guessing that Tom Brady would not only leave New England but also be the next Buccaneers quarterback. And this is also as he’s approaching the age of 43, so that he’s even still got some gas left in his tank at this point is as big of an outlier as Super Bowl XLII.

The contract Brady signed goes straight to the point: Two years, $50 million in fully guaranteed money, and a no-trade, no-tag clause. In other words, Brady could be near the age of 45 by the time he retires or leaves Tampa.

Fortunately for him, Brady is investing in some pretty talented wide receivers, easily the most talented wide receiving duo (Remember Rob Gronkowski) he’s had since the days of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. That happens to be Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who both made the Pro Bowl in 2019, with Godwin also receiving Second All-Pro honors. Evans always harnessed the power of a god at the position, and Godwin was gradually realizing his potential behind DeSean Jackson in his first two seasons before breaking out for good in his third season.

Both receivers exploded into the top ten in numerous receiving stats.

Godwin put up 86 catches for 1,333 yards (third behind Michael Thomas and Julio Jones), and nine touchdowns. His efforts not only gave him the 41st-most fantasy points on FantasyData’s metrics for all players but made him second among all receivers, only trailing Thomas.

Evans only played in 13 games but caught 67 passes for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. His 165.7 points on FantasyData made him the WR8, but if he had played in a full season he would’ve been on pace to rank higher than Godwin at WR2 with approximately 203.94 points.

Tom Brady, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as successful in his position as in years prior. He threw for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, giving him 165.7 fantasy points on FantasyData. This made him the QB12 and put him at 15th among all players in 2019.

One clarification many people use (and one I agree with to a degree) is that Brady’s weapons in 2019 were lacking. Julian Edelman was still there, but without Gronkowski by his side for the first time since 2009, Brady played with a cast consisting of Phillip Dorsett, a washed Mohamed Sanu, rookie N’Keal Harry, and tight ends Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo. Of course, Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon were both on the team, but by week seven both players were gone, leaving Brady with the aforementioned options.

It should come as no surprise that Evans and Godwin are immediate upgrades at wide receiver for Brady, and at a significantly large margin. Whether or not Brady will be a significant upgrade in Bruce Arians’ offense over Jameis Winston has yet to be seen.

That sounds like crazy talk considering this is Tom Brady we are talking about. The undisputed greatest quarterback of all time, the six-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Super Bowl MVP, you couldn’t possibly have the NFL without his legacy. Yet, I can’t help but feel the least bit skeptical about how he’ll perform with the Buccaneers.

Before I get into that, let’s talk about Winston, since comparisons are going to be unavoidable. As we all know, he was the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season. His interceptions were the prime reason the Buccaneers didn’t finish any higher than 7-9, thus holding them back from their potential.

And yet, Winston was also an aggressive, downfield minded passer, throwing a league-leading 84 deep passes in 2019. That complemented the receiving skills of both Evans and Godwin, who happen to be not just two of the best receivers in the league, but two of the best vertical threats as well.

In terms of deep accuracy, this is where things get a little tricky. Brady finished as the 16th-most accurate deep passer of 2019 according to my charting, while Winston finished as the 21st most accurate.

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The main stat to takeaway here is Accuracy Percentage (ACC%), highlighted in black. You can see that Brady’s 46.0 accuracy percentage is obviously higher than Winston’s 44.05 accuracy percentage, though Winston finished with more deep passing yards, more touchdowns, more air yards, and only one more interception on throws of 21+ yards.

Now, the reason I say the differences in accuracy percentage between the two quarterbacks is tricky is also because of the age gap. At the age of 26, Winston is in the prime of his life physically. He’s a very mobile quarterback who has shown flashes of incredible playmaking outside of the play structure. Brady, on the other hand, is significantly less mobile, has mostly been reduced to making plays inside the structure, and is going to turn 43.

In many circumstances, this would not be that big of an issue, especially with how well Brady’s skill set has aged. However, there’s one major concern going on with the Buccaneers under their new quarterback: The offensive line. For years, Brady has been able to perform at a high level against the blitz, but hasn’t really met an offensive line quite like the one Winston had been given. This is said in the worst possible way.

In 2019, New England’s offensive line gave up 28 sacks (tied for fifth-fewest) but 90 QB hits (16th most), so Brady was facing more pressure than we’d expect. That was nothing, however, compared to what Winston was dealing with, as the Buccaneers offense gave up 47 sacks (11th most) and 109 QB hits (tied for fifth-most). Even with Winston escaping pressure, there was only so much pressure he could offset.

There are two reasons why this is such a big deal. The first is that, outside of new lineman Joe Haeg, Brady will be starting with the same group of pass protectors as Winston did last season. This was a group that struggled to keep Winston clean for a majority of the season, and yet they’re still here. And yet Winston was a more accurate deep passer under pressure, interior pressure, and edge pressure, than Brady was in 2019.

Second is Bruce Arians himself. Arians is a quality head coach who appears to have the Buccaneers’ ship steered in the right direction, but with a specific system in mind. Similar to how he handled Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger, Arians kept in the vertical passing offense Winston was used to, encouraging him to stand in the pocket and take deep shots while sacrificing his body and knowing he was going to have to take some hits for plays to work.

This worked for those quarterbacks because of their quality as deep passers. Brady’s deep accuracy was fine in 2019, but the concern is he’s much older than all three quarterbacks were under Arians, and with his lack of mobility that means Arians must change the offense to fit Brady’s quicker release. It is unknown at the time if he will do that.

Finally, and to tie this all up, what does this have to do with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? Well, with an ancient Tom Brady taking the shots, a bad offensive line, and Arians’ deep passing system likely remaining intact, I have some concerns about both receivers’ dynasty input going into the 2020 season. Of course, I expect both to have at least 1,000 receiving yards, but I’m not sure if they can have the seasons they did in 2019 with a much older quarterback.

For all of Jameis Winston’s faults (and there were many), he at the very least had Evans and Godwin rack up massive numbers in his time. He had the arm and mobility to do that in spite of less than stellar offensive lines. If this were a younger Brady, then I would have far less skepticism, but that’s not the case. That’s why Tampa Bay needs to continue to address the offensive line in the upcoming draft in April.

Still, pick up Godwin, and pick up Evans. Both are really talented vertical threats who have gotten a lot done with Winston and could still get some mileage out of Brady. Both should still finish in the top ten in fantasy points when all is said and done. But with the current offensive line and current system in place, changes have to be made to ensure the quarterback and receiving duo can survive together and produce at a very high statistical level once more.

johnny kinsley