Last season, Tom Brady was far and away the best fantasy football pick, as he teamed up with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to form an almost unbeatable offensive unit.
However, don't expect the same in the '08-'09 season. Tom Brady will be a great quarterback, and among the league leaders for sure, but he will not have the same unparalleled success he enjoyed last season.
Here are five reasons why.
1. Missing Components of '07-'08 team
During the offseason, the Patriots lost third receiver and deep threat Donte Stallworth, who signed with the Cleveland Browns for $24 million over three years. This will lead to more double teams for Randy Moss and Wes Welker, and thus less production from the receiving duo. The offense also lost blocking TE Kyle Brady, who acted like a sixth O-lineman, as well as a pass-catching threat. These moves will hurt Brady's fantasy value.
2. No QBs have had two record-breaking seasons in a row
The last time a QB broke a major record was in 2004, when Peyton Manning threw for 49 TDs and a 121.1 QB rating. The year after, he threw for 28 TDs, and while his 104.1 QB rating was tops in the league, it was over 15 points lower than the rating he had last season.
Peyton Manning has since not thrown for over 31 TDs in a single season. Tom Brady is coming off a season with 50 TD passes and a 117.2 QB rating, and will probably experience the same drop as Manning.
3. Running game was undervalued last season
Pats' RB Lawrence Maroney had a total of two games last year where he had 20 or more rushes. Granted, he was injured for three games, but he was still underused in the Patriots offensive system.
However, Maroney started to carry more of a load later in the season, and perhaps this is a taste of things to come.
You can blame Maroney's late-season workload increase on the weather, but by that time, defenses were beginning to figure out Brady, which is why he started to hand off the ball more.
4. Defenses have figured Brady out
During the Pats' first 10 games, Brady threw for 38 TDs, an average of 3.8 TDs per game. Those numbers averaged out throughout a full season would equal 60.8 TDs in a single season, smashing Peyton Manning's record by over 10 touchdowns.
However, defenses were able to stop Brady much easier over the last six games, as he threw for a mere 12 touchdowns over his last six games, an average of two per game.
He took until the final quarter of his last game to reach 50 touchdowns, a milestone he would have reached much earlier under his previous pace. Defenses have learned how to control the Patriots' offense, resulting in lower fantasy point totals for Brady.
5. Brady is a marked man
There is absolutely no way the other 31 NFL teams want the Patriots to repeat their perfect 16-0 regular season. Thus, Brady will be paid special attention to, and possibly blitzed with the same ferocity the New York Giants did when they upset the Pats in the Super Bowl.
The Bottom Line
Brady is definitely worth a look in the first round, but I would be bold enough to rank him second among QBs when I create my fantasy-draft shortlist (Peyton Manning being first among QBs).
Brady will put up a solid 30 TDs and 4,000 yards, barring injury, and will be a consistent week-in-week-out fantasy performer, but he will not come close to the totals he had last year.
I myself would pick Brady late in the 1st round, but no higher. You may do things differently, but if you pick him with the top overall pick in your fantasy draft (or even top three overall picks), do not be surprised if he pulls out an ordinary season.