SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 17, 2013

Is Brady an elite fantasy quarterback in 2013?

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — As the summer nears a close some solace can be taken in the fact that soon, very soon, there will be meaningful football on Sundays once again.

For many, it feels as though the offseason just started. For others, it felt like an eternity. Count Tom Brady as someone likely feeling the latter.

It’s not often you feel sorry for Brady. Multi-millionaire, supermodel wife, likely Canton-bound. But this offseason won’t be one he’s going to remember fondly.

224 receptions; 2,627 yards and 22 touchdowns. That’s what Brady lost in production this offseason between the departure of Wes Welker, the arrest and release of Aaron Hernandez and the likelihood that Rob Gronkowski won’t be ready to start the season following offseason back and forearm surgery.

Sure, the Patriots signed Danny Amendola (63 rec., 666 yards, 3 TDs in 2012) to try to replace Welker. But with his durability a question and the fact that he is not the same threat as Welker not in question, one has to wonder how much fantasy Brady will have this season.

Brady has fallen out of the Top 5 drafted fantasy quarterbacks, going at an average draft position of 39.4 in Yahoo! leagues. It’s hard to argue the fall. Who’s going to stretch the field for Brady? Who’s going to be his security blanket when a play breaks down or a blitz comes? Until Gronkowski returns, and that’s if he can be the same player he was prior to the injury, it’s hard to believe that Amendola can help Brady reach the same heights as he has before.

That said, Brady has made due with less than stellar targets in the past and he has tended to generally protect the ball. Brady still has the same skills and intangibles he’s always had. But, it seems more likely that Brady will be a better real-life quarterback than fantasy quarterback in 2013.

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I have to say that I’m surprised that Welker is being drafted later (48,4) than his replacement Amendola (45.4).

I mean, it’s only a three-pick average difference, but still it’s somewhat hard to fathom why Amendola seems to be more popular. Welker has had 100 receptions or more in six of the last seven seasons and back-to-back 1,300-plus yard seasons. Welker has also been more durable, playing in 14 or more games in each of the last nine seasons. And I’m fairly sure that if you injected Brady with truth serum he would prefer having Welker.

And it’s not like Welker took the cash and went to an also-ran. He is going to go from catching passes from future Hall of Famer Tom Brady to catching passes from future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The Broncos, I’m sure, will find the best way to utilize Welker’s skills and I’m sure that Welker will look to make the Patriots sorry that they let him walk.

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One of the quarterbacks being drafted above Brady is 49ers third-year starter Colin Kapernick.

The combination of arm strength and mobility, along with new target Anquan Boldin and a full preseason taking snaps with the first team should conspire to make Kapernick a top flight fantasy quarterback.

Sure, the league will likely gain some in-roads, make adjustments to course correct following Kapernick’s burst into stardom last season. But, 49ers coach and former star quarterback himself Jim Harbaugh has shown the ability to help quarterbacks develop and grow (he even helped turn around the majority thinking on former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith).

Despite some growing pains that will undoubtedly come, I would feel comfortable taking Kapernick at his current average draft position in the fourth round.

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Andy Silva’s Fantasy Forecast appears in The Salem News on Saturday. You can follow him on Twitter @SN_FantasySport.