The Buccaneers were serious about contending for a Super Bowl the second Tom Brady signed on with them. Adding former All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to the roster two weeks before his league-mandated suspension ends is completely understandable, then, even if Brown himself carries incredible risk as an off-field distraction.
That risk, and of course the reward, includes every possible outcome you could think of. If he can somehow focus on football and not on his helmet, his feet, his teammates, his social media, his coaches, the law, or anything else, he'll have a chance to be anything from a useful Fantasy option to a legit league-winner.
There's no point in rehashing Brown's history, other than saying he went from being the most reliable receiver in Fantasy Football to suspended and unemployed. But as part of his whirlwind 2019, he spent some time with Brady and obviously left an impression, scoring a touchdown in his lone game with the Patriots. It's assumed the two will pick up where they left off when Brown is eligible to play starting in Week 9.
We also know the Buccaneers' top receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, have been dealing with injuries. Godwin's hamstring strain seems to have slowed him down, while Mike Evans' ankle continues to make him sore. If one or both are more hurt than we've been led to believe, Brown could easily replace them — and pick up their target shares.
It doesn't hurt that the Buccaneers schedule is incredibly favorable. They still have two games left with the Falcons, one with the Panthers, one with the Saints, one with the Chiefs, and dates with the Vikings, Lions and Rams once Brown is officially on the active roster. See any scary matchups? Me neither.
At the very least, Brown adds a speedy dimension to the offense, something Godwin's never been known for and something Evans would probably be suitable enough to do if he were healthy. Though there have been short spurts of inaccuracy, Brady's arm seems relatively reliable. He could connect with Brown in ways he never really could consistently with Evans or Scott Miller. That work on top of anything Brown contributes as a short-area receiver and red-zone target could make him dynamic in Fantasy.
Brown should be viewed as a borderline No. 2/No. 3 receiver until we get a feel for how he could be used with the Buccaneers. If he looks like the same shifty blazer we remember, there is No. 1 receiver potential, especially if Evans or Godwin miss time or become obsolete in the Tampa Bay offense.
And Brown's arrival naturally will cause some doubt with Godwin and Evans. At least Godwin's role as a short-area slot weapon shouldn't be compromised too much unless his injury is serious — but an injury would harpoon his Fantasy value whether Brown signed or not. Godwin should be viewed as a No. 2 receiver, more so in PPR.
Fantasy managers with Evans should be worried since he does a lot of the same things Brown can do. Even if his ankle improves, he'll compete with Brown for downfield throws from Brady and with Brown and Godwin on shorter routes. He might even devolve into a red-zone weapon used for his size — and that's the same kind of role Rob Gronkowski might have. That's what he's been in a bunch of games already this season. I have the most concern about Evans' value moving forward.
Gronkowski also figures to see fewer targets. The past two weeks have been great for him — the 14 targets he's seen matches the 14 throws from Brady he had in Weeks 1 through 4, albeit with better results. That's out the window if he's forced to share the field with all three receivers. He'd really need an injury to one of the wideouts to truly be a reliable weekly Fantasy starter.
But you know who wins with this signing? Brady, of course. He's literally throwing to a Fantasy Football dream team. The expectation is that defenses will play against Brady as they've been playing against Patrick Mahomes in the Chiefs: Zone coverage, lots of deep safeties, focused on not getting beat deep. Brady can pick apart zone coverage week in and week out, and when he gets in the red zone he'll have no shortage of players to throw at in single coverage or open spaces. Get used to the idea of Brady as a top-10 Fantasy quarterback, even if some of his receivers aren't playing at full speed.
There's one more winner: Whoever is running the ball for Tampa Bay. If defenses are focused on not getting beat through the air, Ronald Jones is in the incredible position of rushing into soft defensive fronts. Defenses have already been playing the Bucs that way quite a bit and he's averaged 5.3 yards per run in his past three games. If he doesn't make mistakes, Jones will also be a league winner. If he does make mistakes, Leonard Fournette could replace him and further complete the dream team. Whoever that lead back is for the Buccaneers is an obvious top-12 option.
In short order, Brown will be rostered in 100% of Fantasy leagues. Between now and his debut, he will carry significant trade value. If you added him off waivers but don't believe in his upside (or don't want to deal with any headaches he might cause), move him ASAP. Don't be shy to ask for a struggling stud like Cooper Kupp or an unexpected early-year sensation like Robby Anderson.
But if you do believe in his upside, or more importantly, have the roster strength to carry him as a "bonus" while having other roster spots reliably filled, then hang on and enjoy the ride. It might not be without turbulence, but the reward is absolutely worth the risk.