Here we are with Tom Brady now a member
of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Where does this leave us?
I never thought this day would come. Maybe it was vividness bias.
Maybe it was denial. I watched Tom Brady play his entire career
with the New England Patriots. Weíve seen plenty of Hall of
Fame quarterbacks switch teams late in their career including Joe
Montana, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre. At age 43, it just seemed
incomprehensible that Brady would have any reason to continue his
career for a different team. What exactly does he have left to play
for? Yet, here we are with Brady now a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Where does this leave us?
While Brady did spend a couple seasons with Randy Moss, I donít
think itís a stretch to say that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
are, by far, the best receivers heís played with. This is
great for Brady, but are we sure receivers were the problem for
him in New England? Heís 43 years old. He might just be
Brady has seen his completion percentage drop for three consecutive
seasons. His 60.8% completion percentage in 2019 was good for
third-worst of his career ahead of his 2003 and 2013 seasons and
his 24 passing touchdowns were also his fewest since 2003.
By many measures, Brady was one of the worst quarterbacks in
the league last season. He finished 27th or lower in true completion
percentage (which factors out drops and unpressured throwaways),
play-action completion percentage, red zone completion percentage,
pressured completion percentage, and clean pocket completion percentage.
But, with weapons like Evans, Godwin, and perhaps a resurgent
O.J. Howard, itís hard to just write Brady off. If Evans
and Godwin are going to both be fantasy WR2s or better, it seems
unlikely Brady will be as mediocre as he was in 2019.
Brady also benefited from 20 years in the same system with the
same coach and obvious rapport with Julian Edelman. Godwin and
Evans are better than Edelman, but Brady needs to develop chemistry
with them. That could be tough if OTAs and training camp are impacted
by the ongoing pandemic.
I would be surprised if Brady emerged into anything more than
a high-end streamer. With that being said, he gets drafted every
season and there will be enough people buying into unprecedented
late-career resurgence due to the increased weaponry. However,
you wonít find Brady on any of my fantasy teams.
For the Bucs, the move from Jameis
Winston to Brady is an obvious upgrade. If your goal is to
win football games, Winston is not your guy. However, fantasy
is not reality and this is a clear downgrade for Mike Evans and
Chris Godwin. Winston led the NFL in pass attempts last season
with 626 and while Brady did have 613 pass attempts himself, itís
hard to imagine that being the plan for a 43 year-old pocket passer.
More importantly, while Bradyís physical abilities have eroded,
his brain has not. Brady is not going to throw the ball to the
other team as much as Winston did. Not even close. Interceptions
may seem bad for fantasy because your receivers canít accumulate
fantasy points while the offense is on the sidelines, but Winstonís
propensity to turn the ball over kept the Bucs in a constant state
of needing to chase points. That kept Winston throwing. Brady
will have the Bucs in neutral to positive game script far more
often than Winston, which will naturally lead to fewer opportunities
for his two high level receivers.
Both Evans and Godwin got hurt late season and missed the final
couple games. If you extrapolate their numbers, Evans was on pace
for 145 targets and Godwin 138 targets. They both deserve those
lofty totals, but Iím not sure they can both get there.
The most likely party to suffer is Evans, who benefitted from
Winstonís recklessness in launching the ball downfield.
Not only does Brady not do that, but Bradyís deep ball isnít
what it used to be. Godwin is much more in line with Bradyís
comfort zone. I would definitely move Godwin ahead of Evans in
your 2020 ranks if you havenít already as Evans will likely
slip from WR1 status.
I want to briefly touch on O.J. Howard. Bradyís arrival
really shouldnít move the needle on Howard at all. If you
still believe in the talent and think Howard can overcome his
disastrous 2019, then he will be a good value regardless of who
is at quarterback.
Itís been Tom Brady for nearly every game of the past
20 years. In 2020, it will be someone new. It might be Jarrett
Stidham, who is most famous for appearing in relief of Brady in
a blowout and promptly threw a touchdown to the other team, resulting
in Brady returning to said blowout seemingly out of spite.
It is possible the Patriots sign or trade for a veteran like
Cam Newton or Andy Dalton or take a quarterback in the upcoming
draft. For the first time since before Drew Bledsoe, the Patriotsí
quarterback situation is a complete unknown. That makes it very
difficult to project the impact on Julian Edelman, who, as of
now, is the only relevant Patriot pass catcher.
New England spent a first round pick on NíKeal Harry in
the 2019 draft, but Harry missed the majority of his rookie season
due to an injury suffered in training camp and failed to fire
when he did get back on the field. Phillip Dorsett is currently
a free agent and even if the Patriots do bring him back, heís
nothing more than a rotational player. With Ben Watson retiring
and Rob Gronkowski now a member of WWE, the Patriots currently
donít roster a tight end of consequence. How do you feel
about Mohamed Sanu? The only excitement surrounding him last season
was because of Tom Brady. As of right now, there is not a single
Patriotsí pass catcher you care about besides Edelman.
So what do we do with a 34 year-old slot receiver who has played
his entire career with the same quarterback? I think itís
safe to say Edelman is an elite slot receiver and he sure didnít
look his age last season, but how much of his success is attributed
to his connection with Brady? I am certainly not enthusiastic
about Edelman and his lengthy injury history playing with a new
Ultimately, losing Brady downgrades everyone on the Patriots.
As poorly as Brady played last season, it seems unlikely the replacement
will lift the offense to bigger heights. We canít even begin
to make specific projections regarding the fantasy values of Patriots
skill players until we have some clarity on their quarterback
situation. That is something potentially weeks, if not months
away. For now, we wait and see.