Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: the impact of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension

As it pertains to 2016 fantasy football draft strategy, Tom Brady’s acceptance of his four-game Deflategate suspension isn’t a game-changer on some grand scale. Does it stink? Yes, but it’s not the end of the world. Fantasy owners interested in drafting the Patriots’ quarterback and his skill position players will be able to survive the storm. Here’s a Cliffs’ Notes refresher on how we got here:

May 11, 2015 – The NFL suspends Tom Brady for four games (wrote about that here)

September 3, 2015 – Brady’s four-game suspension is nullified by a judge. The NFL appeals.

April 25, 2016 – The U.S. Court of Appeals reverses the judge’s 2015 ruling and reinstates the four-game suspension for 2016. (fantasy update here)

July 13, 2016 – The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals denies Brady and the NFLPA from rehearing the case. His last shot to have the suspension thrown out would be a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

July 15, 2016 – Brady announces via his Facebook page that he will drop the legal process and accept his four-game suspension.

Considering Jimmy Garoppolo attempted all of four passes last season, training camp and preseason games aren’t going to boost the average fantasy draft position of a guy slated to start four games before heading back to the bench. However, it’s worth revisiting Jimmy G’s resume for those in uber-deep leagues, two quarterback leagues and those living the stream.

Here’s an overview of his college stats while leading the University of Tony Romo, a.k.a. Eastern Illinois of the FCS:

Year G Cmp Att Comp % Yds TDs Int
2010 8 124 211 58.8 1639 14 13
2011 11 217 349 62.2 2644 20 14
2012 12 331 540 61.3 3823 31 15
2013 14 375 568 66.0 5050 53 9
Career 45 1047 1668 62.8 13156 118 51

Now, it could just be me, but touting a completion percentage south of 63 percent within a 45-FCS-game sample size could be reason for us to worry. It could just be me or …

"Is a tad undersized with small hands and short arms. Uses a three-quarters delivery that could lead to batted balls. Works heavily out of the shotgun in a spread offense, and footwork could require adjustment to working from under center. Does not always feel pressure in the pocket. Does not rip the deep out or drive the ball with high RPMs. Undershoots and often hangs the deep ball. Makes receivers work for the ball downfield, and deep accuracy could stand to improve. Makes a lot of simple, one-look reads and was not heavily challenged by consistent pressure or complex looks in the Ohio Valley Conference."- Nolan Nawrocki, NFL.com Garoppolo draft scouting report

To be fair, all 32 teams scouted Garoppolo before the draft and any pre-draft analysis was before he had a chance to learn from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick for two seasons. Here’s what Jimmy G. has in front of him the first month of the 2016 season:

Week Opponent 2015 FPA to QB’s
1 at Cardinals 14.9 (7th-best)
2 vs. Dolphins 17.2 (18th)
3 vs. Texans 15.5 (10th-best)
4 vs. Bills 17.1 (17th)

For what it’s worth, Brady averaged 25.5 fantasy points per game through the first eight games of the 2015 season. However, he averaged 17.4 points per game the second half of the season and only 15.9 FFPG during the fantasy football playoffs – Weeks 14-16.

In addition to losing Brady the first month of the season, you lose his services Week 9 for the Patriots BYE and most league playoffs end Week 16. So, Brady will suit up for you in eight regular season games with the possibility of three fantasy playoff games.

Here’s my quick-hit advice come draft day:

– Brady shouldn’t be drafted until the sixth round or later, but I wouldn’t encourage it. If you must own Brady in fantasy football, be sure to target your September quarterback in the 9th or 10th rounds. Future features will focus on those names as new average draft position data is available. Ryan Tannehill as a Brady replacement for four games isn’t the worst idea in the world. But I reiterate, I wouldn’t force Brady onto my roster unless he’s lingering there in the 10th.

– Gronk remains a TE1, but even before Brady accepted the suspension, the tight end was a late-first, early-second round target. Also need to consider Martellus Bennett’s impact on Gronk in red zone.

– Edelman remains a WR2 in PPR leagues for me.

– I could see Dion Lewis thrown right back into the fire with Jimmy G. at quarterback. If at 100 percent, Lewis could erupt in September and beyond.

– Pay close attention to Patriots’ camp and preseason games as it applies to Jimmy G’s comfort level in the offense. We don’t know what we don’t know.

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