Statistically, Will Chris Godwin and Mike Evans Get Better or Worse With Tom Brady?
The 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a seafood diet. Well...it was more the 'see food, eat food' version of it. Comparatively, the 2020 Bucs are an organic, plant-fed, healthy diet.
Sure, eating whatever your heart desires is a wonderful fantasy, but it's a healthy diet that keeps you...well, healthy.
There's no doubt that Jameis Winston was an excellent quarterback for fantasy purposes. Having two wideouts -- Chris Godwin and Mike Evans -- finish as top-eight fantasy wide receivers in standard leagues despite missing two and three contests, respectively, is all the evidence you need. Like the 'eat whatever you want' diet, Winston wasn't beneficial to the long-term health of the organization. After all, turning the ball over 35 times is hardly a recipe for success.
Enter Tom Brady. Brady is the kale to Winston's Baked Macaroni and Beer Cheese. He's the broccoli to Winston's Sweet Heat Fried Chicken Nachos. He's the spinach to Winston's 3-Pound Texas Pretzel. I could keep going, but you get the point.
Just how different are these two passers? Winston's 35 turnovers last season are the same number of giveaways Brady has had over his last four seasons combined.
Thus, while Winston may have been better for fantasy purposes, Brady is bound to be an upgrade in real-life.
What does all that mean for the fantasy values of Godwin and Evans? Let's take a look.
Since the beginning of June over at BestBall10s, Godwin has had an average draft position (ADP) of 20.13, while Evans' has been 26.47.
The two are coming off the board sixth and eighth at the position, respectively.
Brady vs. Winston
If you told me a couple years ago that I'd be doing a serious comparison of Tom Brady and Jameis Winston's accuracy, I'd have done a spit-take in your face. And yet, here we are.
According to Player Profiler, Brady ranked 30th in true completion percentage last year, not much better than Winston's 32nd ranking. More concerning is the fact that the average separation for Brady's targets was 1.72, the sixth-best mark in the league. On top of that, Winston, who tossed 30 interceptions, recorded a total passer rating (53.7) equal to Brady's.
Among quarterbacks with at least 150 pass attempts last year, Brady ranked 22nd in adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), according to Pro Football Reference. Next Gen Stats had him ranked fifth-worst in completion percentage above expectation among full-time starters. In other words, not many passers were worse at hitting on passes they should've been completing.
Brady's actual completion percentage was just 0.01% better than Winston's in 2019.
As per NFL's Next Gen Stats, Winston led all quarterbacks in 2019 (10+ starts) with an average intended air yards of 10.5, nearly a full yard ahead of the next closest signal-caller (Ryan Tannehill, 9.6). Brady was fifth-lowest at 7.6. That's pretty damn close to a three-yard difference. In fact, Brady has averaged at least 2.6 fewer yards than Winston in that metric in three of the last four seasons.
Per AirYards.com, Brady totaled 1,834 fewer air yards than Winston last year despite attempting just 13 fewer passes.
On a similar note, Brady's passing yards on long attempts (defined as attempts of 15+ yards) have dropped by 25.0% and 19.5%, respectively, over the last two seasons. That coincides with 21.4% and 10.1% decreased in deep attempts over those two seasons. On those attempts, his Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play has dropped from 1.10 in 2016 all the way to 0.53 in 2019, while his Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense) has declined in each of the last four seasons.
Winston, who completed 144 long passes in 2019 to Brady's 89, totaled nearly 1,000 more yards on those attempts and had a far better Passing Success Rate -- 45.14% to 45.57%.
It would be fair to point to the difference in weapons as a differentiator between the two quarterbacks. Still, the fact that Brady hasn't come close to sniffing Winston's 144 long attempts in any season over the last decade is noteworthy.
Volume and Production
Brady attempted 613 passes in 2019, though he averaged 527.7 in the three seasons prior. Meanwhile, Winston led the league with 626 attempts last year.
In his six seasons at the helm, Bruce Arians' teams have averaged 596.3 passes per season. Though I'm sure the Bucs would love to keep the soon-to-be 43-year-old's volume down, I'd say the odds of Brady experiencing a huge decrease are low.
Whereas Winston posted career-bests in touchdown percentage (5.3%) and yards per attempt (8.2) last year, Brady's dropped to a career-low for the former (3.9%) and his lowest since 2002 for the latter (6.6). In fact, Brady's touchdown percentage over his last two campaigns (4.5%) is the worst two-season stretch of his illustrious career.
Since 2006 (the first instance of this stat becoming available), Brady had never posted a total QBR lower than 62.1. Last year, it dropped all the way to 53.7 -- the same mark as Winston, who was intercepted more times than any signal-caller since 1988.
I could go on and on, but the crux of this piece is neither about Brady nor about Winston -- it's about the impact the change behind center has on the fantasy value of Godwin and Evans.
Chris Godwin 2019 Production and 2020 Outlook
Last year, Godwin became just the eighth player to post at least 1,300 receiving yards on 125 targets or less since Pro Football Reference started recording targets in 1992.
According to Player Profiler, Godwin finished the season first at his position in yards after the catch, second in fantasy points per game, third in total yards and contested catch rate, fourth in yards per target, sixth in true catch rate, and ninth in passer rating when targeted. And he did all of that despite missing two games and not finishing inside the top-25 in target share. Not too shabby.
Godwin was also anything but inconsistent in 2019. In half-PPR (point per reception) formats, he had just three outings with fewer than double-digit fantasy points, compared to five efforts with more than 20. He had just two contests where he failed to record at least 69 (nice) total yards or a touchdown. That'll play.
Everything that I just mentioned bodes quite well for Godwin's 2020 prospects. Though perhaps nothing is more vital to his outlook than the fact that he lined up out wide on just 16.2% of his snaps in 2019. Here's why.
Since 2007, when Brady's slot guy was either Julian Edelman or Wes Welker, neither received a target share below 24.1%. For reference, Godwin's piece of the pie in 2019 was less than 20%. That could change in 2020 with him being potentially the most talented slot receiver Brady's ever had.
As an added bonus, according to Pro Football Focus, Brady is the highest-graded quarterback when targeting the slot since 2010.
Less than a third of Godwin's production (half-PPR) last year came on long passes, so if Brady's decline in deep pass accuracy and volume continues, he's not likely to see a big hit there.
Seeing as though Godwin led the league in yards after the catch and was fifth in catch rate on intermediate throws, he shouldn't have much (if any) trouble adjusting to Brady in 2020.
Mike Evans 2019 Production and 2020 Outlook
While Godwin was fairly consistent, Evans was anything but that in 2019.
In just 13 games, Evans had 6 outputs with fewer than double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR. His upside is huge -- as evidenced by his three outings with 30-plus fantasy points -- but his floor is equally as low.
As a matter of fact, if you removed the three 30-plus performances, Evans averaged a mere 8.63 fantasy points in the 10 other contests. Not great, Bob.
What's also not great is that he posted those game logs with a quarterback who was anything but shy about tossing it downfield. Now he's playing with Brady, a passer whose aDOT (average depth of target) is generally under 8.0, per Sports Info Solutions.
According to AirYards.com, Evans' aDOT has been at 14.0 yards or higher in each of his six seasons in the league. Last season, more than 40% of Evans' fantasy production in half-PPR came on long passes -- that number is greater than 50% in standard leagues.
Evans relying heavily on downfield passes, coupled with a quarterback who doesn't like to throw downfield and hasn't been accurate under pressure, is far from an ideal combination. Add to the mix a secondary role behind Godwin and plenty of competition from Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Scotty Miller, and rookie wideout Tyler Johnson for the remaining targets, and you have a guy who could be in for a disappointing season.
numberFire's models project Godwin for 93.6 receptions, 1241.7 yards, and 7.7 scores -- that would've been good enough for a top-five finish last year. Remember, he's currently being drafted as the WR6.
As for Evans, he's projected for 86.4 receptions, 1187.1 yards, and 7.9 scores. With that line, he would've been the WR9 in 2019.
To a lesser extent, our algorithm's projections represent how I feel about these two wideouts.
Godwin's forecasted for what would've been a top-five finish last year, and his ADP is a bit below that right now. It's not a stretch to say that he can even be considered a value at his current draft slot. I might even consider taking Godwin ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and/or Julio Jones.
The same can't be said for Evans. The soon-to-be 27-year-old is predicted for what would've been the WR9 last year, a spot blow his current draft position of WR8. And I feel that our models are too optimistic for Evans. Brady's inability -- or potential reluctance -- to go deep at this stage of his career could drive his value down. As could the competition for looks from other bid-bodied targets.