Fantasy 5: Tom Brady is still a QB1
The Patriots star is in the top 10 of our QB rankings, even with his four-game suspension. Plus, why Eagles RB Ryan Mathews is a great value.
Fantasy 5: Tom Brady is still a QB1
No news is good news. Or at least that’s how the saying goes. But in the world of NFL football, no news is boring. Yesterday was quite boring. Besides one long and extremely drawn out story, there really wasn’t much going on. That being said, there were some deeper nuggets that might help you out when your fantasy drafts roll around. Here’s today’s Fantasy 5:
1. Tom Brady’s appeal denied, but he remains a fantasy QB1
There are only two things for certain in life: death and the Deflategate saga never ending. At least, it certainly seems that way. But we may have gotten one step closer to finally putting the Patriots deflated football scandal behind us yesterday when the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Tom Brady’s request for a rehearing. That leaves Brady with one final Hail Mary appeal to the Supreme Court. His chances of getting out of the four-game suspension to begin the season look pretty slim.
So the Patriots are likely to open the season with Jimmy Garoppolo, which has some defenders licking their chops, while others are disappointed to not face Brady. The good news is that we’ve had plenty of time to prepare for Brady’s suspension. Those looking to draft Brady can safely value him as the eighth quarterback off the board, especially given the wealth or replacement value quarterbacks this year. However, in two quarterback formats, Brady’s value drops significantly, as it’s much more difficult to get a strong replacement-level quarterback.
The question is which quarterback to choose as the replacement? Some have suggested going with Garoppolo for the first four weeks. He’s in a good situation, and could certainly offer front-end QB2 production. However, there are pitfalls that come with Garoppolo. Despite glowing reports out of OTAs, he’s unproven in regular-season action. He also has the same bye week as Brady, which won’t help you in Week 9. Instead, it may be wise to look at other QB2 types who have QB1 upside. In current ADP, Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota, and Matthew Stafford are interesting names who will likely still be available after the first 15 or so quarterbacks have been drafted. Combining one of those late-round players with Brady will give you a fantasy points total that’s squarely among the QB1s.
2. Ryan Mathews is being undervalued
With the Eagles in transition under new head coach Doug Pederson, there has been a lot of speculation about how this offense will look in 2016. About a month ago, Pederson suggested we could see a committee at running back with rookie Wendell Smallwood pushing Mathews for touches. However, on the Pro Football Focus show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, Eagles beat writer Chris McPherson called Mathews the “clear No. 1” and had no worries about a committee.
That’s not to say that Darren Sproles and Smallwood won’t have a role in the offense. Sproles will certainly continue to be a big part of the passing game, and Smallwood figures to spell Mathews in early-down work. But Mathews is the lead dog, and he’s currently being overlooked by the drafting public with an ADP in the late fifth round as the 24th running back off the board.
Pederson’s committee situation comment and narratives about Mathews being injury-prone are largely to blame, but don’t fall prey to this line of thinking. Sure, Mathews has gotten hurt in his career, but very few running backs don’t get injured. Mathews also showed in 2013 that he is capable of making it through a full 16-game season. While the Eagles offense won’t run at anywhere near last year’s frantic pace, the feature running back role is one that will produce fantasy points. Mathews offers great value right now and should be considered a solid mid-range RB2.
3. Who is the Packers No. 3 receiver?
At this point, it’s really anyone’s guess. Just a week ago, I mentioned Davante Adams as a post-hype sleeper, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel believes Adams “needs a big summer to stick around” and expects the Packers to give Jeff Janis more opportunities. A small-schooler who entered the league as a raw and athletic prospect, Janis became just the sixth player in NFL history to top 100 receiving yards in a playoff game after failing to do so in the regular season. In that game, he also recorded an improbable 101 yards on one drive. Janis has nearly identical measurables to Jordy Nelson, and could provide some much-needed field stretching speed on the outside should he win the job.
But it’s not just Adams and Janis vying for the job. Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery, and Trevor Davis are also in the mix. This is a very frustrating position for fantasy purposes, but fortunately it’s one that will sort itself out before the bulk of fantasy drafts come at the end of the summer. For those drafting in leagues before the start of camp, the best approach is to draft for value. You can get Adams and Janis as late-round picks, with Janis just slightly later in ADP.
4. Should fantasy owners buy in on Jared Cook?
We’ve certainly been down this road before with Cook. He’s oozing with athletic upside – he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash coming out of college – but Cook hasn’t been able to put it together on the field for more than just short stretches. Cook’s best fantasy finish came in 2013 when he ranked 11th among tight ends in fantasy scoring. Otherwise, he’s been a disappointing TE2 or worse.
Of course, those performances came with the Titans and Rams, and not with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He now gets the benefit of playing with Aaron Rodgers in a Packers offense that hasn’t had a speedy tight end since Jermichael Finley. Green Bay sorely lacked speed among its receivers last year, and the Packers plan to use Cook to stretch the field. While that certainly bodes positively for fantasy purposes, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Green Bay. Cook is certainly an underdog candidate for TE1 status, but he’s best viewed as a risky TE2. With so much value currently at the tight end position, Cook makes for an upside backup or deep league fantasy option.
5. Mohamad Sanu could provide late-round value.
Last season the Falcons offense had Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and pretty much nothing else. While Jones and Freeman proved to be extremely strong fantasy assets, Atlanta’s lack of offensive firepower proved to be very predictable for opposing defenses. In an attempt to bolster their skill-position players, the Falcons signed Sanu, previously with the Bengals, in the offseason. While Sanu is by no means an elite talent, he’s certainly an upgrade on what Atlanta had last season and he’s off to a good start through the offseason.
For fantasy purposes, we fully expect Jones and Freeman to continue to be heavily targeted. But there’s certainly still some meat left on the bone for Sanu. He currently projects out with 91 targets on the season, and falls right in the borderline WR4 range. That’s just a tick about his current ADP of the 56th wide receiver. While Sanu isn’t a sexy name, he’s a solid player in an offense that averaged the sixth-most passing yards per game last season. If his ADP remains in this range, Sanu will likely prove to be a strong draft-day value.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.