Tom Brady: Should you Take the Suspension Discount?
I’m usually happy to pounce on player discounts due to injury or suspension concerns. After all, I think I’m better than the average fantasy owner. … So I can get by on replacement-level production at one position and come back with extra strength later in the season. So I’ve been interested in Tom Brady for 2016 ever since a federal appellate court reinstated his suspension. Alas, it seems drafters are overrating Brady’s production enough to nullify the suspension discount.
Let’s start with the basics. We think of Brady as one of the best QBs in fantasy football, but really he’s been inconsistent for the last several years. As Brady’s QB card shows, he finished outside the top-12 in points per game in both 2013 and 2014, sandwiched by top-5 seasons in 2012 and 2015. That alone doesn’t make him a bad draft day value at QB7, but it makes him fairly priced.
Then, of course, there’s the suspension. Even in a Superflex league, you must draft three QBs to cover Brady’s four-game suspension. If you normally draft two QBs, you’re sacrificing roster flexibility. Even if you typically draft three QBs, you may have to reach on your third earlier than you otherwise would. And that’s all just so you can get baseline scoring — not Brady-like scoring — in the first four weeks. The fantasy playoffs matter most, of course, so I’m not knocking Brady’s value by 25 percent. But a healthy 10 percent discount should be baked into his ADP, and it isn’t.
But here’s the real reason I’m bearish on Brady: I expect the Patriots to throw notably less than they did in 2015. New England was fifth in the NFL with 629 pass attempts. That number isn’t outrageously high, but it is when you consider game script. Winning teams typically run more and throw less, and the Patriots were a winning team. Based on game script, they should have had a 53.9 percent pass rate, second-lowest in the NFL. Instead, they threw on 63.2 percent of plays, ninth-highest in the NFL. That 9.3-point gap was the largest in the league, and it wasn’t even close. The next highest was Detroit with a 6.8-point gap, and New Orleans (5.4) was the only other team with a gap greater than 3.6 points.
Looking at it another way, here’s every offensive game from 2015, charted by game script and pass rate. The curve represents expected pass rate based on game script. (It’s not a line because teams drift toward neutral pass rates in blowouts.)
A little volume loss goes a long way. If Brady weren’t suspended, I’d project him for around QB7 production based on recent history and expected volume drop off from 2015. And I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall outside the top-10 (again) in points per game. Brady’s ADP puts him in the late fifth round of 10-team leagues as the eighth quarterback off the board. That’s basically no suspension discount from my projections. He’d have to fall at least a round past that ADP for me to think about drafting him, and even then, there will likely be QBs I prefer left on the board.
If he does slip far enough for your liking, you need a plan for how to deal with the first four weeks of the season. You’re in the right place. Just click over to Salvatore Stefanile’s post for some ideal Brady pairings.