Tom Brady has been a mainstay in the top tier of fantasy football quarterbacks for almost his entire career. However, a troublesome offseason in New England may have some fantasy owners worried as they prepare for their upcoming drafts.
We'll start with what has become the biggest story in the NFL over the past week: Aaron Hernandez has been charged with murder.The Patriots' brass did not hesitate to release Hernandez as soon as this story broke. No matter the outcome, Hernandez is gone and will not return to the field for New England.
He has been a very big part of the Patriots offense for the past three seasons, pairing up with Rob Gronkowski to be the best one-two punch at tight end the league. Although he missed six games in 2012 due to injury, Hernandez still managed 51 receptions, 483 yards and five touchdowns.
Next up is Rob Gronkowski. The offseason has been full of bad news. After breaking his arm in 2012, Gronk required four surgeries to finally get it repaired. He had to fight off an infection incurred during one of his first three surgeries. After his fourth surgery, it was revealed that Gronk also had back surgery in June. Wow.
All of this leaves his Week 1 status in doubt. There is no doubt he should remain very productive when he gets on the field. However, owners should worry more about when he gets on the field and how long he can stay. In 2012, Gronkowski missed five games due to injury. He still managed to put up great numbers: 55 receptions, 790 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Finally, we have the loss of Wes Welker, Brady's No. 1 target. This loss may have more of an impact than the plight of the tight ends.
Welker has caught over 100 passes in five of the past six seasons. In 2012, Welker caught 118 passes to go along with 1,354 yards and six touchdowns. New England did sign Danny Amendola. While Amendola is a younger version of Welker, he has had a lot of injury problems over the past couple of seasons.
Brady is left with a journeyman, Michael Jenkins, and a lot of unproven talent.
New England did bring Tim Tebow into the fold this offseason. Barring a complete disaster in the form of injuries under center, it's doubtful Tebow will be taking any snaps this season. Does Bill Belichick have something else up his sleeve? Probably. Maybe he'll have the guy line up at tight end. He couldn't do any worse than he does at quarterback.
The bottom line is this: Brady does not have the receiving weapons he is accustomed to having.
What does this mean to fantasy owners? Look for a slight drop in production from Brady. I mean, it is still Tom freakin' Brady. The team will make adjustments and Brady will still put up really good numbers. He is definitely still a top-10 fantasy quarterback, just maybe not top five anymore. I currently have him ranked No. 7 going into 2013.
2013 Projection: 4,200 yards, 30 TD, 13 INT.