Which is more likely: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suddenly spirals into statistical obscurity, or the single-season passing touchdowns record-holder continues his bombarding of box scores, manufacturing a new pass-catching fantasy superstar as a byproduct?
It’s no secret that Brady has been at the top of the fantasy QB leaderboards for quite some time. In his last two seasons, he completed 802 passes—401 apiece in 2011 and 2012—for 10,062 yards, 73 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Drew Brees threw 19 picks last year alone.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 84 touchdowns and just 14 INTs—an astounding 6-1 TD-to-INT ratio—in his last two seasons, but he doesn’t throw as often as Brady. Rodgers’ loss of Greg Jennings and addition of two rookie running backs to better balance the offense won’t keep him out of Brady’s class of elite fantasy producers, but those personnel changes could keep him out of the top spot.
So does his games played number in two of the last three seasons: 15.
He’s almost too good.
Rodgers missed Week 15 in 2010 against Tom’s Patriots due to injury and Week 17 in 2011 against the Detroit Lions because Green Bay’s playoff spot was locked up. His absence in both late-season matchups certainly decided fantasy league titles.
Even if you like Matt Flynn, he’s an Oakland Raider now—he can’t save you in those situations. Maybe that means Rodgers should be penciled in for the full 16-game schedule, unlike the prime of Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts operation.
Manning has made a career of playing 16-game slates but was also notorious for turning in truncated Week 17 performances: From 2007 to 2009, he threw for 95 yards in each Week 17 game and totaled one touchdown and one interception throughout the three.
Brady has played 16 games in 10 of his last 11 seasons (he tore his ACL in 2008) and will chuck the rock even in the ugliest of blowouts. New England led the NFL in 2012 plays from scrimmage with 1,191, 2.7 percent higher than the second-place Detroit Lions (1,160) and 9.3 percent more than the fourth-place Denver Broncos and Houston Texans (1,090).
Hand the ball to a guy who is—according to Sporting News analyst Ross Tucker—“not only still the best quarterback in the NFL, but an extremely compelling argument could be made that he is the best player of all time,” that often, and very good things will happen as a result.
Don’t worry about his targets.
With all due respect to Wes Welker, people simply didn’t know who he was before he was in Brady’s crosshairs. In three seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he totaled 96 receptions for 1,121 yards and one touchdown.
He topped those marks in five different individual seasons since.
Randy Moss totaled 102 catches for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Raiders. When he joined forces with Brady in 2007, he broke the single-season touchdown record (23) on 98 receptions and 1,493 yards.
As for the QB, you’d expect a regression in completion percentage and TD-to-INT ratio in his first year with guys who attracted 52 percent (305-of-586) of the team’s targets.
That would be incorrect.
Brady completed 398-of-578 passes for still-standing career highs in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and touchdowns (50). At the time, his completions (398), passing yards (4,806), yards per attempt (8.32) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (6.25) were also career highs.
They were supplanted by his numbers in the past few seasons. In 2011, he notched 401 completions, 5,235 yards and 8.57 yards per attempt. In 2010, he threw nine scores (36) per interception (four).
2012 wasn’t a record-setting campaign for the veteran, but he didn’t fall off a cliff: 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and eight picks were enough to keep him entrenched among fantasy’s elite passers.
So don’t worry about his age.
Peyton, the QB to whom Brady is most often compared, completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns (11 interceptions)—each placed second among his respective season marks.
He was 36 last year. Brady will be 36 when the 2013 campaign kicks off.
He didn’t have a presence at tight end quite like Rob Gronkowski in that 2007 season. Replacing Welker is Danny Amendola, a more publicized slot machine in terms of their respective national presences prior to suiting up with New England.
Tom won’t give you the rushing numbers you’d expect from one of the younger, flashier—although still quite substantive—read-option quarterbacks, but he has averaged 2.2 rushing scores per year since 2007. That includes seven in the last two seasons.
Brady is still the safest fantasy quarterback, but he also has immense potential for fireworks. Snatching him in the third (12-team leagues) or fourth (10) round should pay huge dividends this season.
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