The exposure and recognition for Buccaneers players is already starting. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco released his annual Top 100 players list and a whopping six players from Tampa Bay's roster have now made the cut.
For reference, that's up from just two last year. Wide receiver Mike Evans, who is the only other player besides Randy Moss to start his career with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, wasn't even mentioned until 86. Both he and fellow receiver Chris Godwin made the Pro Bowl last year. Granted, these lists come out prior to the season, but Evans was hardly a secret at that point. Linebacker Lavonte David, another player who is criminally underrated, was the other Buc to crack the list, coming in at 92 – and this year, he's listed much higher.
The first Bucs player to appear on the 2020 list is unsurprisingly quarterback Tom Brady, who *checks notes* signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent this offseason after 20 seasons in New England – in case you hadn't heard. Though, Brady dropped a few spots on the list for 2020. In 2019, he was in the top 10 at No. 6. This year, he's listed at No. 19. Brady posted his lowest passing total across a full season since 2016 last year, yet it was still good for seventh-most in the league. Plus, he now has guys like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin plus best friend Rob Gronkowski and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate at the ready. That should be enough to see an uptick, don't you think?
It brings us to the next Buccaneer on the list, which is none other than Godwin, who comes in at No. 29 after not making the list at all prior to last season.
"He had his breakout season in 2020, catching 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns," Prisco wrote. "He led the NFL with 25 catches of 20 yards or more. He just turned 24 in February."
Godwin had 86 catches for 1,333 yards in his third year as a pro, earning him his first Pro Bowl appearance, in fact. He was on track for a 100-catch season, as Head Coach Bruce Arians had predicted during training camp, but missed the last two games due to injury. He's fully healthy and should see a monster season at the arm of Brady.
Evans comes in next at No. 45, making three Bucs players in the Top 50 after none last year. Evans will be another one to perhaps get a bump in production with the arrival of Brady. He'll be going after some NFL history this year, too. Should he eclipse 1,000 yards for his sixth-straight season, he'll stand alone in the record books, surpassing his current fellow record holder in Moss.
David is next, ranked 67th and a full 25 spots higher than he was last season. It comes after both he and now second-year linebacker Devin White made their case for best linebacker duo in the league. Good Morning Football's Kay Adams says they are and Bucs fans agree. Perhaps this is the year the rest of the league does, too.
Then comes the league's 2019 sack leader in Shaq Barrett at No. 82. I don't know how the guy that took down opposing quarterbacks a franchise record 19.5 times doesn't rank higher than this but at least he makes it.
Rounding out the list, center Ryan Jensen sneaks in five spots later. This is two-fold. Not only is an offensive lineman getting recognized, but it's a Bucs offensive lineman. The Eagles' Jason Kelce is the only center that appears on this list before Jensen. It's well deserved after Jensen played the best ball of his career last season, cutting down on penalties dramatically while still maintaining his 'nasty' style of play.
"You might be surprised to see his name here, but he was really good in his second season with Tampa Bay in 2019," Prisco wrote. "His pass blocking inside will be big for Tom Brady."
As a bonus, two more Buccaneer players are listed among those that just missed the cut. Defensive tackle Vita Vea along with the aforementioned White are among some 30 others that were honorable mentions. White ended his season with consecutive Rookie of the Month honors and ranked among the top five in tackles for rookies despite missing three games. Under the wing of David, White should continue to thrive into 2020.
Vea became the heaviest player to ever catch a touchdown pass when the Bucs visited Atlanta in Week 12. The former high school running back lined up on offense, which he did sparingly last season primarily as a blocker, but instead went out wide and turned to catch a pass at the goal line, scoring a touchdown in a lopsided 35-22 win over the division rivals.
Now that the expectations are there, we'll see how the exposure and recognition develops this season for players behind the Bucs' biggest free agent addition this offseason.
View pictures of all the Buccaneers' 2020 opponents.