There was a lot of debate last season about how much blame Tom Brady deserved for the New England Patriots’ offensive struggles.
It was a fascinating argument, to be fair, with plenty of reasons — unproductive pass-catchers, lackluster rushing attack, inconsistent offensive line, etc. — to suggest New England’s problems moving the football really weren’t Brady’s fault.
Still, that did little to calm the nerves of those fantasy football owners who expected Brady to produce at his usual high level throughout the 2020 campaign, only to be disappointed as the 42-year-old assumed the role of game-manager rather than game-changer.
By the time Week 17 rolled around, there’s a decent chance Brady was sitting on your waiver wire. Which begs the question: Should you invest in Brady now that he’s left the Patriots and their stagnant offense in favor of reportedly joining the high-powered Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Well, on the surface, it certainly seems like Brady is a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback whose stock just improved with his free agency decision. He has two Pro Bowl wide receivers (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin), two productive tight ends (O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate), a fairly decent offensive line, a running game with upside and an excellent head coach (Bruce Arians) known for maximizing the production of elite quarterbacks regardless of age.
Few, if any, free agency destinations would have boosted Brady’s fantasy value more than Tampa Bay, which led the NFL last season in pass attempts and passing yards with Jameis Winston at the helm.
Arians encourages his quarterbacks to let it fly, and Tampa Bay’s wide receivers ranked first in yards per reception and fourth in yards per target last season, whereas New England’s receivers ranked 28th and 30th, respectively. This seemingly reflects a huge discrepancy in the talent level of those units rather than serve as an indictment against Brady relative to Winston, whose inability to take care of the football proved problematic for the Bucs.
None of this is to suggest Brady will turn back the clock and become a gun-slinger at age 43. As ESPN’s Mike Clay pointed out this week, Brady has finished 12th or worse among quarterbacks in fantasy points three of the past four seasons despite finishing in the top 10 in pass attempts and passing yards each of those years. He’s typically been a far better real-life quarterback than a fantasy quarterback, especially now with so many mobile signal-callers capable of stuffing the stat sheet with their legs in addition to their arms — something Brady doesn’t provide.
But you could do worse. It’s fair to assume Arians will tailor the Bucs’ offense to Brady’s strengths, namely the six-time Super Bowl champion’s decision-making, and it’s therefore reasonable to expect Brady to improve upon the 4,057 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns he posted in 2019.
Just don’t reach and expect production in line with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and the other elite fantasy options. Or else you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Brady could be a nice value pick toward the end of your draft. He’s a borderline QB1 with a high floor whose best-case scenario likely involves finishing among the top eight to 12 quarterbacks.