Fantasy Football: Is Tom Brady Still a Top-Five Quarterback in 2013?

Bruce ChenAnalyst IJuly 23, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots sits on the ground after getting knocked down in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It seems rather nonsensical to question the fantasy chops of a man who's finished second last season in fantasy scoring and been a lock as a first or second-round pick for the last three or four years in fantasy drafts. 

Poor Tom Brady. He's had his offense endure a comically unlucky and bad offseason. With Rob Gronkowski's injury risks, the waiving of Brandon Lloyd, the criminal prosecution of Aaron Hernandez, the bolting of Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead - that's a lot of lost production. Chris Harris of ESPN notes that about 67 percent of the fantasy points Tom Brady had last season were produced by receivers he won't have on his roster this season. He's been a stud for years, but his stock may be on the downfall with these moves.

FantasyPro's ADP calculator clocks in Brady as the No.5 signal-caller drafted. That's fair given the fact that Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning are ahead of him.

But the No.4 is Cam Newton? Really? A third-year passer warrants a two-spot lead over the great Tom Brady? What about the fact that just five picks later, Matt Ryan is being chosen? Shouldn't so many years of excellence be more than enough fuel to unquestionably afford Brady at least a one-round lead over two guys who've had exactly three decent fantasy seasons between them?

There's a notion that Brady can turn water into wine with any pass-catcher. And when you run an offense with Reche Caldwell as your No.1 wideout, you deserve that praise, and then some.

Here's the danger with Brady - the Patriots are trying to win Super Bowls, not your fantasy league. Brady's three best fantasy seasons came in '07, '10, and '11. No rings for the Pats in any of those seasons despite numbers produced in that time frame that will forever be etched in fantasy lore - 50 TD's in '07 and a staggering 9-to-1 TD to interception ratio in his MVP season. 

For their three Super Bowl seasons? Brady averaged just 23 touchdown passes and never exceeded 231 passing yards a game.

Now, the argument against Tom Terrific isn't as simple as the fact that I think the Patriots will win a title this season and therefore, his numbers will stink. 

Rather, it's the fact that Bill Belichick is one of the smarter coaches in the league, especially in the department of personnel usage. Brady's leading receivers in his earlier years were the likes of Troy Brown, David Patten, and David Givens. His last two Super Bowl winning rosters didn't feature a 1,000 yard pass-catcher. 

As such, they tailored their offense around the running game - ranking in the top 10 in '03 and '04 for rush attempts. 

Stevan Ridley is coming off a season where he had 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, which is the most successful rushing season for any Patriot back since Corey Dillon. So when was that season? Oh what a coincidence, it happened in '04!

The Patriots' offensive line is so loaded they were able to move one of the better left tackles in the league in Sebastian Vollmer to the right side, and have 2011 first-round pick Nate Solder protect Brady's blindside. Rotoworld ranked them No.1 overall, but more importantly, No.2 in run blocking in 2012. 

So if you're keeping track, the Patriots have one of the better young running backs in the league, behind one of the best run-paving offensive lines in the league. 

It's no secret that they have shortcomings in the pass-catching department. But for fun, let's just run through how bad it is. 

Their No. 1, Danny Amendola is their "prized" free-agent signing and will be an important replacement for Wes Welker. But he's played in just 20 of the past 32 regular season games, while Welker's been an iron-man except for his blown knee in 2009. Not coincidentally, Brady's 2009 season faded down the stretch in both fantasy and real-life - he had his worst fantasy season since 2007 and the Patriots got blown out by the Ravens in Round 1 of the NFL postseason. 

Their No. 2, Michael Jenkins's best season was 777 receiving yards despite seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons in which he was featured heavily in their offense. ESPN Boston gives him just a "75 percent chance" of making the roster. 

Their No. 3, Julian Edelman, just landed on the PUP list. And he had to play defense at times last year.

Their tight end is Jake Ballard, who will start and see lots of looks if Gronkowski isn't fully healthy. His resume includes one half-decent season with the New York Giants in 2011, but reports are surfacing out of camp that even he might not make the roster due to being described as "looking stiff," "rigid," and "slogging."

At least it's better than being a risk for hurting your forearm spiking a football or partying, or being charged with murder. 

We've established Bill Belichick wants to win, and is smart about his personnel choices because he plays to his roster's strengths. Clearly, we've proven that those strengths are now the offensive line and a young, capable running back that just led the No. 2 NFL rushing offense last year. 

I recognize that the NFL in 2013 is a much more pass-happy league than it was in 2003. For me to say that Brady produces less than 4,000 yards and less than 25 touchdowns is a pretty bold statement, and despite everything that's just been written, can't possibly be justified. 

But in the fantasy football world is one so full of many unknowns and few guarantees. It used to be that year-to-year, one of the ostensibly infallible assertions about the quarterback picture was that Tom Brady would give you top-five production at the worst and potentially top-three production as a ceiling.

For the first time since 2008, we can't say that about No.12.