Tom Brady's 2016 Fantasy Football Outlook
A fiery Tom Brady took the league by storm in 2015.
Fueled by the “Deflategate” scandal, the future Hall of Famer started the season with 9 straight games of 2+ TDs. He notched at least 275 yards in each matchup.
In fact, Brady recorded fewer than 2 TDs in only 3 games all year. Each of those games came without Julian Edelman in the lineup. Edelman missed 7 total games, 5 of which accounted for Brady’s lowest fantasy outputs.
Injuries and drops
Pass-catching phenom Dion Lewis appeared in only 7 games. Rob Gronkowski also missed 1 game. Plus, the Patriots featured a makeshift O-line that Pro Football Focus ranked 31st in pass blocking. Nine different linemen played 225+ snaps.
There was even more bad news, as Brady witnessed 44 drops from his pass catchers, tied with Derek Carr for the most league wide. Some of that stems from Brady ranking 3rd in pass attempts (624). But it’s scary to think that his numbers could have been even better with more support.
Still a top talent
The 39-year-old finished with 4,770 yards, 36 TDs and just 7 INTs — good for a minuscule 1.1% INT rate. Brady’s yardage marked his most since 2012, and he hasn’t exceeded that TD total since 2011. He also bested career averages in yards per attempt (7.6) and completion rate (64.4%).
Despite some adversity around him, Brady still played like 1 of the NFL’s best QB. Fantasy wise, only Cam Newton scored more points. There’s clearly plenty left in the tank for a guy entering his 17th NFL season.
Brady returns all of the key pieces from his dominant 2015, namely: Gronk, Edelman and Lewis. We’ll have to track Lewis’ progress over the summer given his November torn ACL. But he and Edelman — who’s returning from foot surgery — are expected to be back at full strength ahead of Week 1.
The Pats upgraded the offense by trading for former Bears TE Martellus Bennett. Despite coming off a down year, Bennett still carries plenty of upside at 29. Pairing his 6’6, 270-pound frame with Gronkowski’s will certainly present mismatches.
Rookie Malcolm Mitchell and former Bill Chris Hogan restocked New England’s depth, as does veteran Nate Washington, who’s coming off a solid year with Houston (47-658-4).
The Pats O-line remains unsettled, especially at the guard spots. They acquired Jonathan Cooper from the Cardinals, but he has severely underachieved as a former top-10 pick. He’s at least an interesting reclamation project at 26.
The biggest storyline surrounding Brady’s 2016 production is a 4-game suspension for “Deflategate.” The punishment — brought on by the U.S Appeals count — means that Brady will miss games against Arizona, Miami, Houston and Buffalo. There’s not an “easy” matchup in there (although Brady will return for a cupcake matchup with the Browns).
Fantasy owners should consider the suspension an opportunity to get Brady at a discount. As of mid-July, he’s going in the early 9th round of MFL10s. That’s a great price for a QB who retains top-3 upside on a points-per-game basis. Besides, with the QB position as deep as ever, it’s easy to find a fill-in for 4 weeks. Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo are a few guys with promising early-season schedules.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line
Brady has everything you want in a fantasy QB: elite talent, a deep and diverse cast of weapons, and a system that allows for plenty of volume. His suspension merely suppresses his season-long totals. Savvy fantasy owners can capitalize on his lowered ADP and cash in on a potential top-3 fantasy points per game producer.
Brady’s age and a less-than-stellar O-line provide the biggest drawbacks, but his upside trumps all. He’s a great QB target at a discounted price.
Check back on Monday for our thoughts on exactly how to handle Brady in 2016 fantasy drafts.