He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
We’ve grown accustomed to seeing Tom Brady post gaudy numbers. Of course, that magical 2007 campaign comes to mind first and foremost, but for years, Brady has been a player who would throw for 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards. Fantasy fans and real football fans would always regard Brady as one of the best signal callers in the game.
Those days are long gone, folks.
In 2013, Brady was very, very bad. He finished outside of the top-12 among fantasy passers for the first time since 2008, also known as the year he got hurt in Week 1. Sure, many Brady apologists defended him by saying that it was because his receiving corp was bad and that Rob Gronkowski wasn’t healthy. But if you look deeper into the numbers, you’ll understand that Brady simply wasn’t Brady. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady posted an accuracy percentage when under pressure of 57.6 percent, which ranked 28th among passers. The league average that year was around 70 percent. His deep ball has gotten considerably worse, too, as it has declined in each of the last three seasons. And I understand that Patriot wideouts posted the second-most drops among any receiving corp in football last year, and his receivers led the league in times tackled inside the five-yard line. But don’t let that fool you.
Tom Brady is no longer fantasy elite, and hasn’t been for a few years now.
Last year, according to Tristan Cockroft and his Consistency Ratings, Brady was worthy of a “start” just seven times, and finished as a top-12 fantasy option just 37 percent of the time. Below is a look at his weekly fantasy finishes.
So, what has Brady done through three games in 2014?
In a good matchup against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Brady was bad, throwing the ball 37 times for 234 yards and just one touchdown. The Patriots offense scored just 16 points against an Oakland defense that is allowing almost 22 points per game thus far. Now, through three weeks, Brady has the same amount of touchdowns–three. During this span, he has accumulated just 33 fantasy points, which is good (or bad) for the 27th-most in the NFL. Austin Davis and Derek Carr have more fantasy points than Brady, while rookie Blake Bortles stepped in and scored more fantasy points than Brady on Sunday– in one half of football. Brady just lacks the upside of some of these upper echelon passers right now. Over his last 21 games, Brady has just seven 300-yard passing games.
Fantasy Points Per Dropback
*Stats provided by Pro Football Focus
When do you normally see Brady next to names like that? His deep ball accuracy is once again down, starting the season just one-of-13 on deep passes thus far. Not only is he not hitting receivers deep, but New England’s offense isn’t taking shots down the field a whole lot. Brady is also averaging just 5.50 yards per pass attempt. Only Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr are sporting lower yards per attempt thus far.
Dating back to last year, the Patriots offensive line has struggled mightily. Last year, Brady was sacked 7 percent of the time, his highest total since 2001. He was under pressure on about 33 percent of his dropbacks and was sacked 18.3 percent of the time he was under pressure. So far this year, the offensive line continues to struggle. Through three games, Brady has been under pressure 35.2 percent of the time, the 11th-highest rate among quarterbacks this season. He is also only completing 41.7 percent of passes when under pressure, ranking 22nd in the NFL in that category. Brady was sacked twice, under pressure 30 percent of the time and was hit as he threw twice during Sunday’s game against the weak Raiders defensive unit. Meanwhile, Brady still has to play some stout defensive fronts such as the Jets, Bills, Dolphins and Lions.
According to PFF, only Cousins and Romo have less time in the pocket before being sacked this season.
It’s still relatively early, and it is worth noting that New England is typically not the greatest team in the month of September, but I’m still concerned. It’s been a year and three game sample size, folks. Through three weeks, Brady hasn’t been a top-12 fantasy passer in any week, and his best finish is QB23, which was yesterday. It seems like the only time he has success is when he is throwing the football to the trustworthy Julian Edelman. According to ESPN Stats and Info, so far this season, Brady is completing 85 percent of his passes when throwing to Edelman, but that number drops to a pedestrian 51 percent when throwing to anyone else in New England. And when you combine all of this and then consider that Brady doesn’t even have the necessary volume to overcome bad numbers, it gets even more difficult to defend Brady in fantasy.
The Patriots have been transitioning to a running football club, ranking inside the top-10 in rushing attempts per game in each of the last two seasons. And through three weeks in 2014, they rank eighth with 29.7 rushes per game. Last season, and perhaps this is due to the lack of Gronkowski, only the Vikings had a higher rushing touchdown percentage than New England last year. When they get in close, they want to run the football.
Heading into Week 4, Brady is my 16th-ranked quarterback, behind players like Eli Manning, Teddy Bridgewater and Ben Roethlisberger. That’s what it’s come to. As crazy as it may sound, I would drop Brady for a guy like Kirk Cousins or Philip Rivers (if available). I want upside in my fantasy passers and Brady simply doesn’t have it any longer.