Tom Brady will be 36 years old at the start of the season. His receiving corps is less talented than the Dillon Panthers. He hasn't actually won a Super Bowl in almost a decade. And God no longer wants him to be the starting quarterback with Our Lord and Savior Tebow on the bench.
But with that said... an average draft position of No. 50 overall? And the fifth QB drafted, three rounds after Aaron Rodgers? Really?
It looks like a few people haven't looked closely enough at Brady's potential. We're big fans of waiting on a QB, but if you're going to take one early, the New England QB is as safe a bet as any. He's the No. 20 overall player and No. 3 QB on our overall Draft Kit, right there among Rodgers, Brees, and Peyton for the top spot. (All four of those players are between 14 and 22 on our board.)
Still feeling a bit anxious? Then take a look at these numbers.
The Receiving Corps
I know Brady's receiving corps may look like a Boston Yankees fan's jaw circa October 2003. Trust me, the fear is understandable. When you get past the ugliness of the names though, you'll realize that these guys aren't actually half bad.
In fact, three receivers will be primarily relied upon to fill new holes in the offense. One is second round draft pick Aaron Dobson, who may just be my favorite late sleeper on the board. The other two, judging by their efficiency levels last season as determined by Net Expected Points (NEP) gained, really aren't half bad.
Say what you want about Amendola and Edelman, but those two can catch the ball. Both were well above the league-average catch rate of around 60 percent. And although Amendola's NEP/target figure was super low due to his continuous short routes, that figure should change since Brady threw 2.7 percent more of his passes for 15+ yards last season last year than did Sam Bradford per AdvancedNFLStats.com.
Now, let's compare that to the "miles ahead" receiving corps Brady had last season.
Welker's 67 percent catch rate had him near the top of all receivers, as it always has, but I'm not so sure Amendola can't get close to those figures. Amendola would require a 0.14 NEP/target increase and five percent catch rate bump in order to duplicate Welker's 2012 efficiency ratings. Considering Brady managed 0.26 more NEP per pass and a 3.5 percent higher completion rating than his St. Louis QB counterpart, the numbers aren't counting out his potential.
Lloyd, to be frank, was awful. Given his low analytics, it doesn't surprise me at all to see the Patriots replace him with Dobson, and it surprises me even less to see him unsigned. His production will be easily replaceable.
And as for Hernandez, here's the dirty little secret: he wasn't actually that efficient last year. 22 total tight ends received at least 75 targets last season, including the Jailed One himself. Of those 22 TEs, Hernandez's 61.45 percent catch rate ranked 14th, and his 0.54 NEP/target ranked 16th. Gronk ranked sixth and first in those categories respectively; you can't blame the QB.
Let's say those short routes go to a slot receiver or a back instead of the next tight end in line, Jake Ballard (62.4% catch rate, 0.85 NEP/target in 2011, by the way). Sure, more pressure is on Gronk when he's healthy to contribute in the tight end role, but throwing to high-catch rate receivers such as Edelman or Amendola hypothetically should prove just as effective for Mr. Brady.
Consistency, My Dear Watson
Perhaps people don't realize that Brady has always had a rotating receiving corps. Since the start of 2007, the Patriots' 16-0 regular season and the statistical turning point for Brady as a fantasy god, the Patriots have had 14 different players finish with at least 40 targets: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, Brandon Tate, Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Kevin Faulk, Sam Aiken, Benjamin Watson, Donte Stallworth, and Jabar Gaffney. This isn't exactly a Peyton/Harrison/Wayne deal here; there has been massive turnover if Brady's targets.
And yet, Brady's analytics just don't seem to change no matter the receiving corps. In each of his past five full seasons, he has been in the top five QBs in both NEP per pass as well as the percentage of passing plays that increased the Patriots' chance of scoring.
|Year||Passes||Total NEP||NEP/Pass||Success Rate|
|NFL Average|| || ||-0.09||42.26%|
On just an average drop back for Brady, he gains his Patriots squads over a quarter of an expected point more than the league-average play. That means longer drives, which leads to more yards and touchdowns. It doesn't take a fantasy genius to see how this would be beneficial to your fantasy team.
Statistically, Brady's old age actually works for him. Those numbers have been consistent for a long time, and the more of a sample size we have for Brady, the less variation there will be with his score. According to our confidence intervals, Colin Kaepernick may reasonably score as high as 334 FP, but he also may bomb down to 267 FP given his past numbers. Brady, though, reasonably sits between 300 and 363 FP. With 300 as his low end, you're guaranteed to get a top performer given his constant consistency.
What to Expect
Aaron Rodgers may be our top projected FP earner with 339 in standard leagues, but Brady's right on his trail with a third-place 332 point haul. There is no clear top player this year, as Rodgers, Brees, Brady, P. Manning, and even Cam Newton are all within 14 projected points of one another.
So with that said, why is Tom Brady going so late? Unfounded fear, I'd have to say. False fear in the receiving corps; the new guys have the potential to be just as efficient. False fear in his age; he's missed zero games in 10 seasons other than his unfortunate 2008. False fear in a decline; he's been a top five efficiency QB since 2007. The haters have nothing concrete.
Those who pick up Brady in even the fourth round will be highly rewarded, as he has the potential to score as many points as (or perhaps even top) Aaron Rodgers this season. Control the fear, and trust The Hoodie. Brady isn't going anywhere.