“DeflateGate” brought another news nugget on Wednesday, with a federal appeals court denying Tom Brady’s request for a rehearing as he continues to fight a four-game suspension for his supposed role in taking the air out of footballs. He can now take his appeal to the Supreme Court, but that does not look like a fruitful path and Brady may end up missing the first four games of the coming season.
The prospect of sitting out the first quarter of the regular season is obviously not good news for anyone that drafts Brady in fantasy football. But two of New England’s five matchups against top-10 pass defenses from 2015 come in that stretch (Week 1-Arizona Cardinals and Week 3-Houston Texans), and four of six games upon his theoretical return from suspension come against pass defenses that were 20th or worse last season with one of the others (the Buffalo Bills-Week 8) having finished 19th against the pass.
I don’t buy into preseason strength of schedule in fantasy football, since so much changes year-to-year around the league. But Brady’s replacement, and possible eventual successor, Jimmy Garoppolo does not look usable in three of the four starts he’s now in line to make. The one promising matchup is Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins, but the potential for a conservative game plan takes some of the shine off of that.
In terms of other Patriots that could be affected by Brady’ possible absence, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman seem the most immune to a short-term change of signal caller. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis (assuming he’s all the way back from a torn ACL) should benefit most from Garoppolo being under center, with Blount in line for consistent carry totals and Lewis sure to become a prominent option as a pass catcher.
If Brady continues to fight his suspension, gets another delay and is eligible to play, then of course everything I just mentioned becomes moot. But the lingering possibility of a four-game ban could make him a value pick in fantasy drafts and auctions.
I’ll leave you with a few closing points.
1-Don’t completely avoid Brady in your fantasy draft.
2- That said, do plan for a possible four-game absence that may or may not come. Depth at quarterback makes it easy to find a find another option to get through Week 1-Week 4, if need be.
3- Don’t overreact and automatically downgrade the fantasy value of the rest of the Patriots’ offense, assuming Brady does wind up missing four games. But do take advantage of potential value that could develop over the course of a draft or auction, most notably tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Danny Amendola in certain situations.