The team’s leading receiver from the past five seasons now plays for the Denver Broncos. The second leading receiver from 2012 is also no longer with the team, currently a free agent. Sure, last season’s No. 3 pass catcher is still with the team, but has undergone four surgeries on his forearm in the last year, and one on his back, June 18.
And what about the No. 4 receiver from a year ago?
Well, about ninety minutes after he was taken away in handcuffs last week and named as a suspect in multiple homicide cases, the New England Patriots released him.
In total, when you include running back Danny Woodhead, who signed with the San Diego Chargers this offseason, four of the top five Patriots receivers from 2012 are no longer with the team, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for quarterback Tom Brady.
Now, let me be very clear on something: I’m of the firm belief there is no such thing as a bad day in the life of Tom Brady. However, in terms of his fantasy prospects, no one can dispute the fact he does not have the same weapons he did when the Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game to the Baltimore Ravens in January. Inevitably, Brady has gone sliding down the boards of mock fantasy drafts, as fantasy players are rightfully questioning who the smooth, dynamic quarterback will throw to.
Further, the emergence last season of dual-threat quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have led to questions of whether the classic drop back quarterback can produce at a similar level.
Consequently, with the emergence of the dual-threat quarterbacks, and the loss of so much receiving talent, have fantasy players asking whether Brady’s days as an unquestioned No. 1 fantasy quarterback are over?
Certainly, I don’t think we’ll ever see another year like 2007 from Brady again. No doubt assisted by having both Wes Welker and Randy Moss, Brady threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns during that magical season. Currently, he does not have weapons of that caliber.
But keep in mind, the Patriots pass-catching corps has been a revolving door ever since Brady emerged in 2001 as a starter. However, other than Welker and Moss, no Patriots wide receiver has been what you would call elite. And until Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have not had an elite tight end.
Yet, Brady has put up elite fantasy numbers annually for the better part of the past decade. For example, in 2005 Brady threw for 4,110 yards with Deion Branch, a fine player although by no means an elite one, as his leading receiver. What is particularly interesting about that season is no Patriots receiver cleared 1,000 yards. Branch led the team with both 998 yards receiving and five touchdown receptions. Brady’s 28 touchdown passes that year were spread amongst 11 receivers. Linebacker Mike Vrabel caught three.
In other words, the question isn’t who Brady gets to play with, rather who gets to play with him. Brady has shown he does not need elite receiving talent to be an elite quarterback. While playing with Moss and Welker allowed him to become other-worldly, so to speak, Brady was already elite well before they arrived in New England.
So, the question probably should not be whether Brady will remain an elite fantasy quarterback. While we will not see the other-worldy statistical output of 2007, plenty of evidence suggests Brady will continue to put up impressive numbers.
What we probably should be asking is, who is best positioned to capitalize on the opportunity to play with him?