Fantasy Football 2014: Tom Brady No Longer Terrific?
Tom Brady is one of the greatest players to play football– ever.
Before I get into this, I just wanted to clarify that, although I am an avid Buffalo Bills fan, I do understand that Brady is one of the legends of the game. Super Bowls, passing records, supermodels, you name it. Brady has done it all. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that fantasy owners should still consider him one of the legends of fantasy.
In 2013, Brady wasn’t himself, finishing outside the top-12 among fantasy signal callers for the first time since 2008. Obviously, it didn’t help that his receiving corp was one of the worst he’s had in quite some time, and star tight end Rob Gronkowski could hardly stay on the field. And while many fantasy owners may use that as an excuse, it’s also worth nothing that Brady just simply wasn’t as good under center as we have been accustomed to seeing.
According to Tristan Cockroft’s Consistency Rating, Brady served worthy of a “start” for fantasy owners just seven times, which was fewer than the likes of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. And he finished as a top-12 fantasy passer just six times, or just 37.5 percent of the time. Guys like Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton were more consistent than Brady last year. His 15.1 fantasy points per game were the 11th-fewest among quarterbacks, as well. Brady wasn’t Brady last year, folks. and the receiving corp wasn’t the only reason why.
Brady is being discussed a lot at the moment. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote a terrific piece on ESPN, stating his case that Brady is no longer a top-five quarterback in the NFL. It had triggered a ton of discussion, debate and controversy, but if you look at it from a pure statistical standpoint, it’s accurate. And this is fantasy football, folks, so do not tell me stats don’t mean everything. Monson dives into Brady’s performance under pressure, which hasn’t been among the league’s elite as of late. In 2013, Brady posted an accuracy percentage of just 57.6 on passes under pressure, which was good for 28th in football. The league average, meanwhile, is around 70 percent, so the fact that Brady was about 13 percent below the average is pretty telling. Meanwhile, the AFC East has some defenses that can get to the quarterback, as the Bills finished 2nd in the league in sacks (57), while the Dolphins with a modest 42 sacks (11th). And last year, Brady was sacked seven percent of the time, which was his highest total since way back in 2001.
Pass protection is a problem, and Brady hasn’t been able to handle it very well.
Also, Brady hasn’t had the touch with his deep ball over the last three seasons. During that span, according to PFF, Brady has posted a deep ball accuracy of 41.7, 40.5 and 39.4 percent. His accuracy has declined in each of the last three seasons, which is also a bit concerning. As a result of this, and a few other factors, Brady hasn’t had nearly the fantasy upside lately as he did in year’s past.
*via Pro Football Focus
Brady’s fantasy points/dropback have also decreased in each of the last seasons. This is no longer the upside Brady from 2007, or even 2010 or 2011. The weapons aren’t trustworthy, and while Brady has never been one to need a star-studded supporting cast, it may be even more important now that he is beginning to tail off. Last season, as a whole, the Patriots wideouts ranked second in the league in dropped passes. Who knows how many games guys like Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will play, and even if they are miraculously healthy, the Patriots offense isn’t what it once was.
Over the last two seasons, the Patriots have ranked 9th and 2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts per game. This team continues to translate to a more balanced, and possibly, run-first offense. Last season, they ranked second in the league in rushing touchdown percentage (47.27%), so when they got up close, they ran the rock. Perhaps that was a product of missing the league’s most dominant red zone presence in Gronkowski, but the Patriots have been transitioning to more of a run team anyway.
Don’t fall in love with name value. That’s something you should never, ever do in fantasy football. It’s an unwritten rule– like waiting 30 minutes after eating before going into the pool. No one ever listens to the latter, however.
Listen to the first one. Brady is no longer an elite fantasy passer.