Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Tom Brady‘s long-awaited Bucs debut came up a bit short against Drew Brees and the Saints, but he was able to salvage decent fantasy production. There were some huge duds and weird stat lines, but that’s to be expected after a modified training camp/preseason schedule. Who lived up to their ADP and who left their managers scratching their heads? Here’s what we saw:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady: 23/36, 239 yards, 2 TDs | 3 carries, 9 yards, 1 TD
There has perhaps never been more anticipation for an NFL quarterback to make his debut for a new team than there was for Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ QB Tom Brady. Brady started out hot – leading the Bucs to a TD on their opening drive, which he capped off with a 2-yard QB keeper. The rest of the first half wasn’t so hot for Brady and the Bucs offense, as they failed to score again before halftime. Brady also threw a couple of bad interceptions – including one in the first half on an apparent miscommunication with WR Mike Evans, which would lead to a Saints TD. Then on the Bucs’ first possession of the third quarter, Brady threw a pick-six to give New Orleans a 17-point lead. It was a struggle for both quarterbacks to move the ball against their respective opposing defenses, but ultimately Brady was able to produce a solid fantasy outing – despite not looking at his sharpest. Brady will look to shake some more of the offseason rust off next week at home against Carolina.
Ronald Jones, Jr: 17 carries, 66 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards
Leonard Fournette: 5 carries, 5 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards
LeSean McCoy: 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
With the Buccaneers’ recent addition of former Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette, there’s been a lot of anticipation to see how the backfield duties would be split between Fournette and incumbent starter Ronald Jones, Jr. As promised, we saw Jones get the start and all of the backfield touches until 8 minutes into the second quarter. Jones had trouble getting much going, however – finishing at just under 4 yards per carry for the game. Fournette wasn’t able to do much with his touches either, taking his five carries for just five yards. The clear takeaway here is that Jones is still the back to own in Tampa Bay. This is only week 1 and a lot of things could change, but with Jones out-touching Fournette 19-6 and out-snapping him 33-9, Jones seems to be the true starter with Fournette acting in more of a back-up capacity – rather than looking like a true split. LeSean McCoy actually earned the second-most snaps with 25, but he appeared mostly in a pass-protection role. It doesn’t appear that McCoy will hold any fantasy value with Jones and Fournette healthy, and is thus unrosterable in most formats.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Evans: 4 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards, 1 TD
Chris Godwin: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 79 yards
Rob Gronkowski: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards
OJ Howard: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD
Scotty Miller: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 73 yards | 1 carry, 6 yards
Justin Watson: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
If you came into this game expecting WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to lead the way into a high-flying shootout, then it’s likely you left sorely disappointed. In fact, Evans didn’t record his first (and only) catch until late in the 4th quarter. Thankfully for Evans’ managers, his one catch did go for a short TD – saving his performance from being a complete bust. As I mentioned previously, both defenses played extremely well throughout the game – especially the secondaries. WR Scotty Miller appeared to be a favorite target of Tom Brady, and depending on how their chemistry develops may be worth a waiver wire add. In another surprising note, it wasn’t Brady’s favorite target of old TE Rob Gronkowski who he leaned on, but instead, it was TE OJ Howard who paced the tight ends in targets, receptions, and yards. Howard even added a wide-open TD reception early in the 3rd quarter. Gronkowski was hardly a factor – struggling to get open often and not doing much with the receptions he made. It will be worth watching to see if Miller and Howard can carve out fantasy-relevant roles in this Tampa Bay offense.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees: 18/30, 160 yards, 2 TDs
Taysom Hill: 1/1, 38 yards | 3 carries, 13 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards
While Saints’ QB Drew Brees was able to lead New Orleans to a victory in week 1, his production was certainly disappointing from a fantasy standpoint. Brees struggled to find open receivers against a tough Bucs’ defense and didn’t get a lot of help from the running game, either. While Brees was drafted in range to be considered a QB1, he failed to produce to that standard today. I do think that discussions of his decline are widely overstated, but his performance today won’t help his case very much. A lot of credit is due to Tampa Bay’s defense – they were able to get pressure up front and keep New Orleans’ weapons from getting open for much of the afternoon. Fantasy managers with Brees on their roster will hope to see more production from him moving forward this season.
Alvin Kamara: 12 carries, 16 yards, 1 TD | 8 targets, 5 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD
Latavius Murray: 15 carries, 48 yards | 1 target, 0 receptions
Just a day after a huge payday for Saints’ RB Alvin Kamara, he responded by finding paydirt twice against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Kamara’s two TDs salvaged an otherwise pedestrian outing from a fantasy perspective. His 1.3 yards per carry were the lowest of his career in games where he had at least 10 carries. Kamara was able to turn his 5 catches into 51 yards, even though Tampa Bay’s defensive front was consistently able to blow up screen plays and prevent him from getting to the edge. Kamara still finished with a rushing TD and a receiving TD, and he even had a 3rd TD called back just before the end of the game. Second-year Saints’ RB Latavius Murray received more carries and snaps than Kamara on the day – an indicator that the Saints want to protect their large investment into Kamara. Murray wasn’t able to get much going on the ground either, but he was reliable converting short-yardage situations into first downs for New Orleans. It’s difficult to imagine Murray retaining much fantasy value on his own. If you have to rely on Murray in deeper leagues, he will likely continue to be a TD-dependent flex play at best.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Thomas: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards
Emmanuel Sanders: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 1 TD
Jared Cook: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 80 yards
Deonte Harris: 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards | 1 carry, 9 yards
If you drafted Saints’ WR Michael Thomas in the top half of the first round of your league’s fantasy draft, you probably had a pretty bad time today. Thomas struggled to get open through a barrage of double-teams and only hauled in a measly 3 passes for just 17 yards. It’s not a surprise that Saints’ pass-catchers struggled the most from a fantasy perspective today consider that Drew Brees threw for just 160 yards. That being said, Thomas was easily the most disappointing considering his sky-high ADP and his record-setting performance last season. First-year Saints’ WR Emmanuel Sanders was held without a catch until the second half but ended up catching a TD to salvage some fantasy production for the day. TE Jared Cook led all Saints’ pass-catchers on the day with 80 yards – accounting for half of Drew Brees’ yardage total. It would be more assuring if Cook and his big frame got more consideration in the red-zone, but even so Cook has the potential to threaten for low TE1 status this season. Michael Thomas and the rest of the Saints’ pass-catchers will look to bounce back next week in Las Vegas against the Raiders.
– Corey Saucier