The Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially kick off the 2021 NFL season Thursday night at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both have favorable fantasy football matchups. Which Buccaneers WR should you start?
Mike Evans’ 2020 season had ups and downs
Evans has had seven consecutive seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards. Last season, he had a career-low 109 targets in a crowded Buccaneers’ WR group that also included Godwin and Antonio Brown. However, Evans averaged 15.5 PPR fantasy points per game, finishing as a WR2 or better in 56% of his games.
The only other receivers who scored more touchdowns than Evans (13) were Davante Adams (18), Tyreek Hill (15), and Adam Thielen (14).
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady had a passer rating of 127 when he targeted Evans last season. The future Hall of Fame quarterback publicly stated that he and Evans “have a great connection and it’s only going to get better.”
We have Brady projected for 600+ pass attempts. Therefore, Evans and Godwin each may exceed 100+ targets this season. Let’s briefly discuss Godwin’s 2020 season.
Chris Godwin’s 2020 season was an injury-plagued one
Chris Godwin’s fantasy stats for 2020: 65 receptions, 840 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. He missed four games but has been quite productive on a per-game basis over the last two seasons.
Godwin has averaged nearly 8 targets (4.5 from the slot), 6 receptions, 83.6 receiving yards, and 18 PPR fantasy points per game over the last two seasons. Brady had a passer rating of 132 when targeting Godwin. The receiver was limited in Tuesday’s practice with a quad injury. However, Godwin was a full participant on Wednesday.
The Buccaneers’ matchup against the Cowboys
Tampa Bay is a 7.5-point favorite over Dallas according to NFL odds, with a point total of 52. Brady averaged 38 pass attempts per game, and this trend should continue behind the Buccaneers’ elite offensive line (which is very capable in the area of pass protection).
The Cowboys, on the other hand, have one of the NFL’s most potent offenses with Dak Prescott under center. Dallas’ defense is still a work in progress with new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Cowboys used their first six draft picks in this year’s draft on the defensive side of the football, but it will take time for their personnel to adapt to Quinn’s scheme. Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense will eviscerate Dallas’ secondary.
The point total in this matchup seems lofty, but the potent Tampa Bay and Dallas offenses should meet or exceed that number. This bodes well for Evans and Godwin, which begs the question of who you should prioritize in lineups this week.
Should you start Mike Evans or Chris Godwin?
My recommendation is to start Evans. The word on the street suggests that the connection between the veteran receiver and Brady is miles ahead of where it was last season.
Evans is likely to be matched up against Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs for a high percentage of his offensive snaps. Regardless, whether it’s Diggs or Jourdan Lewis lined up across from him, Evans can prosper. Godwin, assuming he plays, is also in a position to thrive.
One differentiator between Evans and Godwin is red-zone usage. Evans finished last season with 18 red-zone targets. He managed to remain a consistent red-zone threat despite the presence of Godwin, Brown, and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The 6’5″, 225-pound receiver is a big target that Brady will leverage even more this season. Evans can be deployed as a low-end WR1 in Week 1.
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