I'm about to provide you with one name and one number, and tell you that Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians connected the two on Tuesday when he was speaking with the press at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix.
The name: Chris Godwin.
The number: 100.
If you're a fan of the Buccaneers (a decent possibility if you're on this site) and an aficionado of fantasy football, I'm going to have to ask you to turn off that latter part of your brain for a moment. If you're focused on fantasy football, Arians' assertion might short out the rest of your attention span, and I'd like to keep you around for the rest of the article.
"I think Chris Godwin is going to be close to a 100-catch guy, especially because I think he can play in the slot," said Arians. "He's never coming off the field."
Okay, I'll admit that's the money quote whether you care more about the Bucs or fantasy football, or are capably of a healthy (yet atypical) balance of the two. The Buccaneers drafted Godwin out of Penn State in the third round in 2017 and in his rookie year he drew the same reaction from his coaches every time they were questioned about him: He operates like he's already a veteran and the only thing holding back his numbers are his opportunities.
Godwin had 34 catches for 525 yards and a healthy 15.4-yard average as a rookie, his biggest grab being the game-winning touchdown against New Orleans on Tampa Bay's last offensive play of the season. His opportunities were capped by the presence of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, who ate up the lion's share of the starting snaps in a three-wide set and combined for 182 catches. Last year, Godwin was essentially a co-starter with Jackson and actually logged more snaps than his veteran teammate, in the process seeing his numbers climb to 59 catches for 842 yards and seven touchdowns.
That's the type of progression that gets a fantasy football student excited, particularly when it appears that the player in question is going to get even more playing time the next year. There can't be too many receivers around the NFL who fit into that category better than Godwin heading into 2019. Why? Well, Jackson is now a Philadelphia Eagle and Humphries is going to take over the slot for the Tennessee Titans. Godwin is now in the perfect position to assume a much bigger role in an offense that led the league in passing yards in 2019.
How much bigger? I refer you back to Arians' "never-coming-off-the-field" bon mot. What this obviously suggests is that Godwin is the expected starter opposite Mike Evans in two-receiver sets but that he also will see action in the slot in three and four-receiver alignments. Fatigue shouldn't be an issue; Godwin is in ridiculously good shape. Handling multiple jobs shouldn't be an issue; he's smart as a whip and a dedicated worker. One hundred catches would likely make Godwin one of the most valuable receivers in all of fantasy football, and we're not ready to say that yet, but it's understandable why that thought would be so enticing to fake-team owners.
It should also be enticing to Buc fans, who would like to see the offense continue to produce high-flying aerial treats, even after the departures of Jackson and Humphries. Helping make that work is the free agency addition of Breshad Perriman, who will be a prime candidate to play outside when Godwin moves into the slot. Perriman saw his career get off to a slow start after he was drafted by Baltimore in the first round in 2015, with injuries being the biggest culprit, but he had a strong second half in Cleveland last year, averaging 21.3 yards on 16 catches.
"Everybody I've talked to has said, 'You got Perriman; he was breaking back out,'" said Arians of the addition to the Bucs' arsenal of pass-catching weapons. "That was one of the best gets we got.
"Reshad just adds that speed element. He's also a guy that can take a short one a long way. All three of those guys can go deep. They're so interchangeable. Mike can get in the slot. All three can get in the slot and take the top off the coverage. It's a lot of fun. Then you've got the two tight ends. It's a group of really talented skill players."
Evans is already a first-round candidate in fantasy drafts. Perriman could be a sneaky late-round find. But it's Godwin who has value-seeking fantasy players licking their lips. That's all fine and dandy, but more importantly, a Godwin breakout in 2019 could be exactly what the Bucs need to take their offense to yet another level.