How to Replace Tom Brady in 2QB Leagues
The Tom Brady Deflategate saga is officially over, with the Patriots quarterback deciding to no longer pursue his legal battle against the NFL’s four-game suspension. …
Patriots QB Tom Brady now will miss the first four games and return in week 5 against…the Cleveland Browns.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 15, 2016
In 1QB leagues, Brady missing the Patriots first four games (@Arizona, vs. Miami, vs. Houston, vs. Buffalo) doesn’t matter much. He’ll still get drafted late and get plugged back into the starting lineup when he makes his return in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns.
The situation is different for those playing in 2QB leagues because of the way we draft quarterbacks. We knew there was a possibility of Brady missing four games this year, just like there was last year. That “fear” of drafting a QB1 and having to sit him for a quarter of the season led to his low 2015 ADP of 49.7 (QB13) back in August of last season.
Fast forward to the end of the 2015 season and all Brady did was score the second-most fantasy points overall and finish as the QB2 in points per game behind Cam Newton. He also threw the third-most passing yards (4,770) and led the league in passion touchdowns (36). Brady’s ROI was immense in 2QB leagues for his ~50th overall ADP.
What About 2016?
Did Brady’s looming four-game suspension cause his 2QB ADP to drop in 2016, as it did last year? In short, no.
- May — QB7, 38.3 overall
- June — QB7, 37.3 overall
- July — QB7, 38.0 overall
While his overall ADP this year isn’t too far off the mark from last year, he’s shot up the board in terms of where he’s being drafted compared to other quarterbacks. Last year he was a high-end QB2 draft pick, and this year he’s a mid-range QB1. It seems we weren’t getting a Brady discount this year. ADP trends over the years have shifted dramatically in this current LRQB-dominated fantasy landscape, which is why I’m more focused on where he was selected at his position rather than his overall ADP.
We still have plenty of drafting season left between now and Week 1, and Brady’s ADP is sure to drop. How far remains to be seen, but he could realistically fall to the mid-range QB2 tier now that owners definitively know he’ll be missing four games.
What About Jimmy?
The other side of the coin with Brady suspended sees Jimmy Garoppolo handed the keys to the starting offense for four games. While he hasn’t officially been named the starter, with rookie Jacoby Brissett the only other active signal caller on the roster, there’s a high likelihood of Jimmy G. steering the ship from Week 1 to Week 4.
Whenever Brady was drafted in 2QB leagues the last two years, tracking Garoppolo’s ADP went hand-in-hand. The strategy of handcuffing QBs in 2QB leagues will also be one drafters struggle with, but in the case of Garoppolo, there was a chance he would suit up for a minimum of four games. His ADP last year was in line with backup quarterbacks, as he was going off the board as the QB31 with an ADP of 140.
Yes, the New England backup quarterback was drafted over NFL starters, signifying his value as a fantasy QB2/QB3. The story is different in 2016 though, and you can see his 2016 ADP below:
- May — QB36, 149.8 overall
- June — Undrafted
- July — QB25, 104 overall*
*Has been selected in only one July mock draft so far.
If we compare his 2015 and 2016 ADPs, Garoppolo has fallen slightly out of favor with the 2QB community. I was surprised by his undrafted June ADP. TwoQBs co-founder Greg Smith smartly noted how fringe-tier quarterbacks are less appealing in 10-team 2QB drafts, but Cody Kessler and Jacoby Brissett were both drafted. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ combined
I wonder if it had more to do with owners feeling confident Brady would play all 16 games this year like he did the previous season and feeling like Garoppolo would be a wasted pick? It’s one theory. Once we have more July 2QB ADP it’ll give us a greater idea of Garoppolo’s worth. He’s already been picked higher in one July mock than he had been in the previous 26 May and June mocks combined.
In May, I profiled Garoppolo and discussed his fantasy prospects as the potential QB1 in New England. If you’re planning on going with a Brady/Garoppolo stack in 2QB leagues it’s worth reading again as refresher on the situation. Garoppolo’s schedule and lack of experience in Josh McDaniels’ offense causes some hesitation, but if his ADP remains low (unlikely now) he could prove to be a valuable fantasy asset.
If you plan to take advantage of the sure-to-come Brady discount, I will go over a few QB pairing options to consider in your upcoming 2QB draft.
Tom Brady and ___ Sitting in A Tree…
When it comes to strength of schedule analysis (SOS), there is no one I trust more than Patrick Thorman of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Since breaking into the fantasy industry together, I have relied on his SOS breakdowns to pair quarterbacks with appealing weekly matchups to stream at the QB2 position. Pat put out a SOS masterpiece again this year, and you can read all his 2016 QB SOS articles at PFF.
SOS analysis is not a perfect science, especially since we have no 2016 data to go off, but it is a tool worth utilizing during your draft preparation. Pat breaks down each defense into five tiers, ranging from who is the toughest defense to the softest defense. The color-coded chart he provides is worth the price of subscription alone at PFF.
Going off his chart, Jimmy Garoppolo has one easy matchup in Week 2 (Miami), one tough/avoid matchup in Week 1 (Arizona), and two decently tough/sort of neutral matchups back-to-back in Weeks 3 and 4.
If we were to base our weekly quarterback starting decisions strictly off of matchups, there’s only time we would feel confident starting Garoppolo. Do you want to use draft capital on someone you might only start once all season long?
Yes, Garoppolo pulling a ‘Tom Brady’ on Brady, and becoming the season-long starter is a possibility. The probability of that actually happening seems low though. If you were playing the long-term game, you could draft Garoppolo, hope he lights it up against Miami in Week 2 and then trade him for anything — a backup RB/WR/TE — to a team in your league desperate for early in-season quarterback help. By Week 4 of last season, seven backup quarterbacks started a game.
If the thought of drafting Garoppolo and only starting him one week in Brady’s absence isn’t appealing we do have other Brady replacement options thanks to Pat’s SOS analysis…
Tom Brady + Robert Griffin III/Cleveland QB TBD
On the surface, pairing RG3 with Brady doesn’t seem appealing. However, our own Anthony Amico highlighted the Hue Jackson Effect on the quarterback position, making RG3 an intriguing and cheap option in 2QB leagues. The addition of Corey Coleman has only helped.
In June 2QB mocks, RG3 was going off the board as the QB32 with an overall ADP of 142*.
*I will reference June ADP for this and each subsequent pairing because we don’t have sufficient July ADP data yet.
Not only is RG3 the cheapest quarterback you can pair with Brady, but he also has four neutral to easy matchups from Week 1 to Week 4 (Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, Washington).
Tom Brady + Tony Romo
If the thought of starting RG3 four straight weeks makes you squeamish can I interest you in Tony Romo? Before his 2015 season was derailed by injuries, the 36-year-old Romo had finished as the overall fantasy QB10, QB10, and QB11 the three seasons before that, according to his QB stat card.
Injury concerns, coupled with his age, has some questioning Romo’s status as a sure-fire fantasy QB1. That also means there’s a draft day discount on Romo, as evidenced by his June 2QB ADP of QB17 (80.8 overall). In 2015, he was being drafted as the QB9 (42.3 overall).
From 2007 to 2014, minus his shortened six-game 2010 season, Romo averaged 3,595 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 265.04 fantasy points. Romo starts off the season with four neutral to really easy matchups (New York Giants, Washington, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers).
A healthy Romo could start the season as one of the highest fantasy scoring quarterbacks through four weeks, making you strong at the quarterback position. Depending on who else you draft, you could trade either one of Brady or Romo to strengthen your team elsewhere.
Tom Brady + Blake Bortles or Derek Carr
I’m lumping Bortles and Carr together because of how much it would cost to pair either one with Brady. Bortles was going off the board as the QB9 in June with an overall ADP of 46.1; Carr was right there behind him as the QB12 (57.4 ADP).
Bortles has only one neutral/tough-ish matchup in his first four weeks (Week 1-Green Bay) but his next three get easier (San Diego, Baltimore, Indianapolis), while Carr is set up with four straight easy matchups to kick off the 2016 season (New Orleans, Atlanta, Tennessee, Baltimore).
Pairing Brady with either Bortles or Carr brings with it a sense of comfortability starting either one in Brady’s absence, but their high ADPs makes this a cost-prohibitive move.
Tom Brady + Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater or Brock Osweiler
Sam Bradford and his QB33 (143.4) ADP is even lower than RG3’s, but the issue with Bradford, if you’re still a believer that is, stems from his Week 4 bye. While starting off the season against Cleveland, Chicago, and Pittsburgh is an attractive proposition for a starting (for now) quarterback being drafted as a backup in 2QB leagues, you would have to pair Bradford with another quarterback, essentially tying up three players to one spot on your roster. Osweiler and Bridgewater are being drafted as the QB26 (119.2 ADP) and QB28 (124.6 ADP), respectively.
While drafting two quarterbacks to replace Brady ties you up in terms of roster management, their costs aren’t all that prohibitive, and if one or both start their 2016 campaigns strong you will most likely have a deeper QB depth chart than your leaguemates, giving you a ton of trade flexibility.
Tom Brady + Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins
Here’s another situation where you would have to pair Brady with two quarterbacks, but with one of them being Garoppolo it makes for an intriguing trio.
First, you would secure the services of the QB1 in New England. In the event Garoppolo tears it up on the field, and Brady is left on the sideline even after his return from suspension, you wouldn’t have to worry about not owning Garoppolo.
Second, Cousins and Garoppolo mesh in terms of SOS as the only neutural/potentially difficult matchup the Washington signal caller has comes in Week 2 against Pittsburgh. If you’ll recall, Garoppolo’s only easy matchup through the first four weeks of 2016 is in Week 2 against Miami.
There’s also the possibility of being able to start two QB1s in Brady and Cousins the rest of the season. Our own Ben Cummins outlined how Cousins has top-five fantasy potential at the quarterback position this year. Cousins’ ADP of QB13 (66.1 overall) isn’t cheap, but it’s still 20 picks lower than Bortles’.
I’ve hopefully highlighted the best course of action to take when drafting Tom Brady this year and the options you have to replace him for the first four weeks of the season. If his ADP drops in July and August, which is a distinct possibility, you could find yourself owning a QB1 from Week 5 through the rest of the season at a discounted price. It’s worth considering depending on the makeup of your roster and how you plan to replace him the first four weeks.