The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The Buccaneers had a wild ride trying to defend their title in 2021. The team again won the NFC South and earned a top seed. Then, in the playoffs, they Buccaneers ran into a buzz saw with the Los Angeles Rams. In the Divisional Round, the team quickly found itself way behind. They battled back but weren’t able to overcome that hot start from the Rams. In the wake of the loss, Tom Brady retired. Then, later, he unretired. Following Brady’s return, Head Coach Bruce Arians retired, succeeded by Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. That was just part of a wild off-season as the Buccaneers try to compete again in 2022.
Brady is still the quarterback, which is the good news. The Buccaneers also brought back Leonard Fournette and return Mike Evans and Chris Godwin—himself coming off an ACL injury—at receiver. But the offense isn’t completely intact. Tight end Rob Gronkowski retired for the second time. This time it seems to be for good, leaving a hole at tight end. Tight end O.J. Howard departed in free agency for Buffalo, while running back Ronald Jones left for the Chiefs.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The Buccaneers worked to fill out their receiving corps by bringing in Russell Gage, who had more than 700 yards receiving and four touchdowns each of the past two seasons in Atlanta. The Buccaneers also signed veteran Julio Jones, who put up Hall of Fame numbers in the past for the Falcons but struggled to stay on the field in 2021 with the Titans. At tight end, the Buccaneers added veteran Kyle Rudolph—who played for the Vikings and Giants—to go along with veteran Cameron Brate.
The Buccaneers also re-loaded at skill positions in the draft. The team took running back Rachaad White out of Arizona State. White rushed for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns, catching 43 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown. White should add some pop in the backfield along with Fournette. The team also drafted a young tight end in Cade Otton, giving them a good prospect at the position moving forward.
Brady is still a top-tier quarterback. It’s possible that Father Time could erode his skills, but he’s shown no signs so far. I suspect he finishes as a low-end QB1 again. In the backfield, Fournette finished as RB6 in 2021. He gives the Buccaneers good pop as a runner and receiver, and I think he’ll do the same in 2022. I like White a more of a dynasty play, but I suspect he’ll be involved as well. That takes some of the top off Fournette’s numbers. I like him in the RB10-15 range this year.
In the passing game, Evans is Mr. Reliable. He has posted eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, and I think No. 9 is on the way. He’s a low-end WR1 for me after finishing as WR9 in 2021. He figures to be even more of a Red Zone factor with Gronkowski retired. Godwin is working back from injury and appears to be ahead of schedule. Still, I think they’ll be cautious at the start and I see him finishing as a high-end WR2. Gage should contribute, too, as a WR3. Jones feels like the boom/bust option, and I’m not sure what he has left. The best-case scenario is that he looks like Antonio Brown did in 2020 but I’m not bought in. He’s a late-round flier to me. I’m also not buying into any of the Buccaneers’ tight ends as a regular weekly start.
The Buccaneers are one of two teams that seems to be setting themselves apart in the NFC. With a strong returning cast, I think they win the NFC South and earn a top seed. I expect a deep post-season run, too, in what seems likely to be Brady’s last season.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.