We always want that shiny new toy in fantasy football. The next Puka Nacua or Justin Jefferson. And, with guys like Darren Waller retiring at age 31 after a few years struggling with injury, we understand why it’s scary to draft older players. Or boring. Or, with some players, possibly both. 

No one wants to draft the guy on the downslope of his career – we want sleepers and breakouts on the upswing. I get it. But sometimes that can lead this community to overdo it; to bury some of these veterans in the fantasy football rankings and ESPECIALLY the dynasty rankings, well before it’s time. 

And I’m not just talking about the usual suspects like DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen who are 32 years old – sometimes, guys start getting faded before they even turn 30. Not everyone is going to be Larry Fitzgerald and play until they are 37, but we’ve seen some of the all-time best fantasy seasons at age 30+ like Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison Sr. and the great Jerry Rice.

With Chris Godwin, we’re seeing him classified as “boring” or “old” despite him just turning 28 in February and coming off yet another 1,000-yard season last year. And, as you’ll soon find out, I don’t think his days of having monster fantasy football upside are done. So, let’s take a look at the breakout for Chris Godwin, his recent regression and why he could return to greatness from the slot in 2024!

 

 

 

The Breakout

Chris Godwin is the classic example of the “year three wide receiver breakout”. Some young wide receivers, like Justin Jefferson after Stefon Diggs was traded, get a full-time opportunity right from the jump. Same with a player like Puka Nacua in 2023. And when you get that combination of talent, scheme and opportunity, you can break out right from the rip. Other players like Chris Godwin, even as a day two NFL draft pick, need to wait their turn. 

Godwin walked into a Buccaneers wide receiver room that already had Mike Evans as the split end, DeSean Jackson as the field stretching flanker and Adam Humphries as the slot wide receiver. In year one Godwin was the odd man out, only playing more than 60% of the snaps in games where either Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson were out. He finished with 34 catches, 525 yards and one touchdown. 

In year two, Godwin was able to carve out a slightly bigger role, but it wasn’t until down the stretch when DeSean Jackson once again battled injuries that he was able to play more than 80% of the snaps in any game. He still managed a solid season of 59 catches for 842 yards and seven touchdowns.

In year three, the Buccaneers made some big changes. DeSean Jackson AND Adam Humphries were out. Now Godwin’s full-time role was solidified with Mike Evans at split end, Godwin playing flanker in two WR sets, then Godwin moving into the slot for three WR sets (with Breshad Perriman coming in to play flanker). 

With this new role, he was playing 99-100% of the snaps at times. And he finished the season as the WR2 overall in fantasy with 86 catches for 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns despite missing two games.

 

 

 

The Regression

The main reason Godwin has not hit his highs of 2019 again has been injuries. Godwin missed games in four straight seasons starting in 2019. And he just recently played through injury in 2023. 

Per Godwin himself, he suffered a neck injury early in the season that “affected his range of motion” and the injury flared up mid-season causing issues once again. This is partially to explain why he had a slow start, then had some games with 11 and 12 targets in Weeks 4 and 7, cooled off a bit once again, then finished with a stretch of 11, 12 and 10 targets for Weeks 14, 15 and 16. 

Another potential underlying reason for Chris Godwin’s regression was a change in his usage. As we mentioned above, Godwin has previously played slot whenever they were in three WR sets, only moving outside for two WR sets. In 2023 however, they asked Godwin to play more outside with Trey Palmer playing in the slot. Here are how Godwin’s snaps were divided in 2022 and 2023, per Pro Football Focus:
 

YEAR

WIDE SNAPS

SLOT SNAPS

TOTAL SNAPS

2022

291

576

867

2023

588

295

883

This might not seem like much, but it changes both the route selection, the strength of the coverage and the ease in which the quarterback can deliver you the ball. That’s likely why Godwin saw his lowest catch rate and lowest yards per game since his sophomore season when he was a part-time player. He still managed 83 receptions for 1,024 yards, but only scored two touchdowns.

 

 

 

The Return

Despite not having another season quite as impressive as 2019, Godwin has still finished with over 1,000 yards in four of his last five seasons and he’s finished with more than 800 in six straight. The number one key for Chis Godwin is health as, whenever healthy over that span, he’s been a reliable player you can lock into fantasy lineups. 

From 2019 until now, he has averaged 19.72 PPR points per game which clocks in right in between Davante Adams’ 19.74 and Justin Jefferson’s 19.44 over the same period. It’s the availability that has been his main issue. The other key is his return to the slot. Both new Bucs offensive coordinator Liam Coen and wide receiver coach Bryan McClendon have stated that Godwin is “moving back to the slot”. 

This role, playing slot for three WR sets and flanker for two-wide, is the same one we see from guys like CeeDee Lamb, Cooper Kupp and Keenan Allen, which takes advantage of matchups and soft zones. CeeDee Lamb, for instance, ran the fourth most routes of any wide receiver from the slot last season and he finished as the WR1. Here is a clip of McClendon talking about that same role for Godwin in 2024:

Chris Godwin himself talked with Bucs beat writer Greg Auman and told him that he’s back to being healthy and that he’s excited to move back into the slot. Per Auman’s article, Godwin said, “The flexibility of being inside allows me to get more creative” and head coach Todd Bowles added, “He’s an inside guy by nature. He can play outside, but he can make a living inside doing a bunch of things for us”. 

It seems everyone in Tampa Bay is on board with the move for Godwin, who is still only 28 years old and smack dab in the middle of the age apex for wide receivers. If he can stay healthy in this role with a resurging Baker Mayfield, Godwin could return to the fantasy football glory that we saw just a few years ago. Based on where we have him ranked in our 2024 Best Ball Cheat Sheet compared to his current ADP of WR38 on sites like Underdog, Godwin is an easily accessible draft pick that could end up a league winner.