With His Suspension Overturned, Will Tom Brady Be an Elite Fantasy Football Quarterback?
I'm not a politics kind of man, and I don't really get wrapped up in off-field concerns.
So I don't know if Tom Brady knew anything about anything because I didn't follow the story that dragged out for six
hundred years months or so, and that's not what's important anymore. All that we know now is that Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension was successful and that the suspension is currently overturned.
Of course, the NFL can appeal the decision, meaning it's not a done deal just yet. But the NFL likely won't seek an injunction, so Brady now has the potential to play a full 16-game season. That's important for fantasy football purposes.
Brady in 2014
We all know how great Brady can be on the field and on the stat sheet, but we also have to keep in mind how good-but-not-great he can be in terms of fantasy statistics.
Last year, Brady ranked as the QB9 in standard scoring leagues, according to FantasyData.com. In 2013, he was QB14. But his QB3 finish in 2012 and his QB4 rank in 2011 is really what fantasy owners would love to get from their investments -- provided that they drafted him in the mid-seventh round or so.
And yeah, there's the "he's going to play angry" narrative and all, but after a statistically strugglesome 2013 (while the Pats still went 12-4 on the year, mind you), shouldn't we have expected a bit of the ol' Brady bouceback last year, too?
It didn't happen that way.
If we take a closer look -- rather than just year-end totals -- and check out Brady's weekly ups-and-downs in terms of fantasy point totals, we can see just how consistent he was, based on standard deviations in his weekly scores.
Among 34 quarterbacks who averaged at least 10 fantasy points per game and who played in at least eight games last season, Brady's standard deviation indicated he had the seventh-largest range of realistic outcomes on a weekly basis, a statement that needs a ton of context.
|Name||FantPt||FP/G||Std Dev||68CI L||68CI H|
Basically, having a large standard deviation isn't a bad thing because it means that given player potentially has a high ceiling. That wasn't really the case for Brady, as his range of outcomes suggested he had a pretty low floor (12.14 points) and not an immense ceiling. Just check out his marks compared to Philip Rivers'.
If we step back another season, Brady's range from 2013 was even lower (11.01 points to 27.49 points). Alex Smith's was 12.08 to 27.72 that year.
None of this is meant to say that Brady won't berserk this year, but in the past two seasons, he hasn't been exactly a fantasy nightmare for opponents.
Something to keep in mind is that he has simply been a better on-field quarterback than a fantasy one, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which indicates how many points above expectation-level a player performs. In 2014, Brady's Passing NEP (123.69) ranked him fifth among quarterbacks. In 2013, his 68.71 ranked him ninth, both better than his fantasy point rank.
However, despite coming close to doubling the amount of points he added to New England's expected scoring with his passing, his actual fantasy performance wasn't significantly better on a weekly basis than it was in 2013.
What Are We Dealing With in 2015?
That's a huge unknown, honestly, and there's no way around it.
Brady's underlying metrics have been solid enough in his past two seasons. He led the league in Passing NEP in 2012 (186.79) and was third in 2011 (213.43), but that didn't keep him from a rather sharp decline the following two seasons -- though he did stay inside the top 10. It's more or less the same for his fantasy production, which -- again -- wasn't much different than guys like Rivers and Alex Smith the past two seasons.
And we're all aware of the weak receiving corps Brady has propped up in the past, but as of now, Julian Edelman hasn't practiced in more than a month because of an ankle injury, Brandon LaFell has been flirting with the PUP list for months, and Reggie Wayne doesn't really have much to offer the Pats at this point in his career.
Building on the question marks, Brady has completed just 10 of 22 passes in three preseason games for just 4.9 yards per attempt to go along with a pair of interceptions. I'm not saying we put significant stock in 22 preseason attempts, but as a piece of a larger puzzle, I think it's fair to say that getting too excited about a phenomenal season from Brady isn't the way to approach the lift of his suspension.
On the flip side of all of this, he does have Rob Gronkowski to throw to, Edelman is expected to be just fine for Week 1, and Brady also has a pretty generous schedule based on how his opponents fared in our Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP metrics last season.
Based on his NEP scores, he's still moving the sticks, and because this is totally something the Patriots would do after all of this, they could try to throw more near the goal line -- despite ranking fifth in red zone run plays (202) they threw just the 11th-most passes (87) and ranked 26th in pass percentage (43.07%) inside the 20 last year.
Still, considering Brady a no-brainer top-five fantasy quarterback is to put emotion and narrative in front of recent performance and surrounding talent.