What We Learned: 2021 Preseason
Check back here every week to listen to Tim: analyze what we saw, discuss who's trending up or down, and jump to some wild conclusions.
1. Is it time to panic on Tom Brady ?
Nobody can change the fact that Tom Brady has more Super Bowl rings than he can fit on one hand. He is, and always will be, the greatest quarterback of all time. But in two games as a Buccaneer, things have not been pretty.
It's tempting to sound the panic alarm, heck I've seen some do it already. Before you do, just keep in mind nobody had a full preseason to prepare, and we're only two weeks in.
I understand that judging based off this small sample size, it's looking like the guy we all viewed as a top-ten fantasy QB this season, is going to fall short of those expectations. But is it really his fault?
In week two, with Chris Godwin out of the lineup, it became apparent that Mike Evans (seven catches, 104 yards, one TD) was the only receiving weapon Brady could count on.
TE 'Sit of the Week' Rob Gronkowski (widely drafted as a TE1 in fantasy land) has been an absolute non-factor through two games. So far this season, he’s drawn just three targets. In week two, he finished with zero catches on one target.
Scotty Miller seemed like he would step into an expanded role after catching five balls for 72 yards in Tampa's season opener, but he finished with just two catches on three targets for 11 yard in week two. His only other target was a would-be TD pass that Brady gave him an opportunity to make a play on. Needless to say, he failed to make the grab.
Shady McCoy was second on the team with five receptions for 26 yards on seven targets, but also dropped a (very well placed) would-be TD.
The Bucs pulled off the victory in week two because they were bailed out by an exceptional 2-TD performance from Leonard Fournette who, by the way, is exactly what this offense needs to open things up. (More on that later)
Brady could’ve had a much bigger fantasy day if not for those two dropped TD's. But the fact is, things played out how they did, Brady turned the ball over twice and only finished with 8.6 fantasy points in week two.
Here is a list of notable QBs that outscored Brady in week two:
Brady had a cake matchup against a brutal Carolina defense, and he failed to deliver. But does that mean we should hit the panic button?
I say no.
Those looking at week two, strictly from a fantasy perspective, probably think Brady's final stats mean he played poorly. But the truth is, ProFootballFocus has Brady graded as the third-best QB in the league (87.8) through two weeks.
What you have to understand is that PFF player grades add in layers of context that cannot be captured by conventional stats.
They take into account a lot of external factors such as: whether or not passes are perfectly thrown or put in a spot where the receiver has to do all the work, defensive pass interference yards (which he had a surprising amount of in week two), plays called back by offensive penalties, etc.
Only Aaron Rodgers (95.6) and Russell Wilson (92.7) rank higher than Brady so far.
After two weeks of NFL football, there are a lot of wild conclusions being jumped to. People jumping ship on Tom Brady seems to be popular one.
I'd just like to say, there are 16 games in an NFL season. If two weeks was a reliable sample size, we'd be making a bigger deal about the fact Mitchell Trubisky is on pace to throw for 40 TD's. Or the fact the Raiders are undefeated. Or the fact Russell Gage is on pace for 308 fantasy points. "Who?" you ask. Exactly.
There's still plenty of time for Brady and the Bucs to recover and figure things out. Now, if he continues to turn the ball over and be hampered by the play of his teammates, then I'd say there is definitely cause for concern. But as of now, I firmly believe Tom Brady will have a few massive games this season.
So, to recap, I'm not necessarily panicking on Brady, I do think he figures it out at some point this season. BUT... It could take a while to iron out the kinks.
I personally am going to ride it out. I may not start him until I see it consistently, but I definitely would not drop him. If he starts to click with the weapons around him, it's going to be scary.
If there's one thing I've learned consistently, for as long as I've been watching football, it's that the absolute last player you want to bet against is Tom Brady.
Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com
Tom Brady cheers in excitment after throwing his first TD pass as a Buccaneer.
2. Leonard Fournette is the guy in Tampa
Bruce Arians and friends can act like Ronald Jones is their guy all they want but at the end of the day, it’s clear to see Leonard Fournette is the superior player. Plain and simple, he gives them the best chance to win.
Uncle Lenny finished with 100+ yards and two TD's on just 12 carries in week two. His second touchdown came at a critical moment for the Bucs late in the fourth quarter. His 46-yard scoring dash effectively iced the game for the Bucs who were only up by one score at the time.
He also drew a lot of attention from TB12 in the pass game, catching four passes on five targets.
Personally, I believe what Fournette provides as an explosive runner, is exactly what this offense is missing. Ronald Jones has flashed talent, but overall his efficiency has left something to be desired (3.7 YPC). The fact is, RoJo just isn't a player that strikes fear into the heart of an opposing defense.
During his time in Jacksonville, Fournette faced stacked boxes at a higher rate than any other running back in the league. That should tell you all you need to know about how defenses feel about him.
Unlike the Jaguars for the past couple years, the Bucs actually have a passing game that needs to be respected.
Leonard Fournette + Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and two very talented TE's = a defenses worst nightmare.
If they get defenses into a position to commit to stopping the run, Brady will eat them alive with his arm. If they commit to playing the pass, Fournette will eat them alive with his legs.
In week three, the Bucs play the Broncos who are well-aware of what Fournette is capable of. Last season, in his one game against the Broncos, Lenny rushed for a career-high 225 yards on 29 carries (7.8 YPC). If you don't think they're terrified of him, you're wrong.
Forget what he offers as a rusher, the intimidation factor he provides is what is going to keep defenses honest.
Don't even get me started on how he has developed into a reliable pass-catcher. (Career-high 76 receptions in 2019)
I suspect the Bucs come to their senses as early as next week and commit to Fournette as an every down back. And if not next week, well... It's only a matter of time.
3. The age of the mobile QB is upon us
It seems like this season more than any other has made it increasingly clear that mobile quarterbacks are the key to success in fantasy football.
Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Josh Allen all went off for over 30 fantasy points this past week. They each had an excellent game as a passer, but none (except Allen) would have scored over 30 without the production they provide as rushers.
The thing about non-mobile QB's like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Matt Ryan is, if the passing production isn't there, the fantasy points aren't either. You are then left with a low floor.
For example: it wasn’t a good fantasy week for Lamar Jackson (by his standards) he threw for less yards than, and as many touchdowns as, Brady in week two. BUT thanks to rushing for 50 yards (and not turning the ball over twice) he outscored him by nine points.
Two QB's could finish with the same amount of passing yards and passing TD's but it is the guy who picks up yards and TD's with his legs that can afford to slack as a passer.
4. Jonathan Taylor does not disappoint
In his first game as a starter, Jonathan Taylor proved to the world he could be a true workhorse at the NFL level.
In week two, Taylor took his 26 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown, making guys miss and passing the eye test on his way to a 19.0 (PPR) point performance.
After seeing the way things played out (backfield touches-wise) it's probably safe for us to pump the brakes on Nyheim Hines, myself included. After an impressive week one where he was an integral part of the running and receiving game, he received just one touch in week two, taking a backseat to Taylor.
I suspect that Hines will be an up-and-down producer all season having seven catches when you decide to sit him and only touching the ball five times when you decide to use him.
Taylor, on the other hand, remains a must-start for the rest of the season. He is currently a top 10-15 back for me at the moment with the opportunity to firmly establish himself in the top-10. I personally am excited to watch it play out.
5. Josh Allen = elite
The athleticism was never in question, it was always his capability as a passer. He went from never throwing for 300+ yards in a game, to beginning the season by doing it twice in a row, stacking back-to-back 30-point fantasy performances in the process.
He already provided you with a high-floor as a rusher, but this leap forward as a passer makes him un-sittable. I know he played two brutal defenses in the Jets and Dolphins, but in my opinion, Allen has shown more than enough as a passer to trust him as a top-five QB moving forward.
New addition Stefon Diggs and trusted weapon John Brown are providing Allen with all the production he could possibly ask for.
Diggs currently has the fifth-most receptions in the league and is WR4 in fantasy through two games. From what we've seen, he is easily one of the best draft-day bargains this season.
Brown has at least 70 yards, a TD, and 18.0 fantasy points in both games this season. He is currently WR9 in fantasy. He was a PPR machine last season, and it looks like that is going to carry over into 2020.
There was concern (on my end) about whether or not there would be enough volume to go around for these two, considering Allen's history as a lackluster passer. But those concerns have been laid to rest.
As a Jets fan, it pains me to say this, but if what we've seen is an indication of things to come, I'm all-in on the Bills-mafia's passing attack this season.
Tim Brosnan, Fantasy Sports Analyst/Freelance Journalist
Tim Brosnan is a college-educated sports journalist from the New Haven, Connecticut area.
Brosnan earned his Bachelor's Degree from Castleton University where he majored in Media & Communication, with a focus in Journalism.
During his tenure as the sports editor of the Castleton Spartan newspaper, Brosnan created the segment 'Tim's Fantasy Tips'. It began as a simple weekly start/sit column, but since then, the idea has grown into so much more.
Brosnan has taken his experience/passion for fantasy football and combined it with his journalistic know-how in order to bring you a completely original, well-informed, multi-layered fantasy football advice experience.
We hope you enjoy.