People love to bring up Tom Brady's name and talk about Superbowl Championships, being a Hall of Famer, debate if he's better than Manning because of the rings, and all kinds of ancillary things. Rarely do you hear people talk about Brady as a strong fantasy QB, however. He's just a member of the pack. Consistent output, not much upside and not much downside.
For the last 3 seasons ( his first year starting he wasn't asked to do much beyond hand the ball off and not make turnovers ) He has averaged about 3700 yards passing, 26 PaTDs, 13 Ints, and 1 RuTD. He's been an upper third QB for that time.
This season I expect more from Brady, though. He's got more going for him on offense than he has in any year as the starting QB, and with the departure of Charlie Weis will be a little bit more involved in the ebb and flow of what the offense does.
Lets look at his skill players/packages:
RB: Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, and Cedric Cobbs.
Dillon has never been much of a pass catching back. That does present a little bit of a problem in terms of packages and talent disparity, but just to keep defenses honest he will see a few balls thrown his way, just as Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass will see a number of carries every game. His main threat, though, is obviously his ability to gain consistent yardage up the middle. He's not a thread to break many long runs, but he's tough to tackle and his presence forces opposing teams to play the run. Brady has been excellent, among the top QBs in the league, at selling the play action in his tenure, and that makes Dillon's appearances in the backfield on pass plays even more important. Lastly, Dillon's blocking really improved last year as he bought into the Patriot mindset (brainwash if you like) of team concept. I expect to see even better blocking presence this year.
Faulk just never was enough to be a primary back. Finally with a true, blue collar back to work with, Faulk really shined as a change of pace back. He's an excellent receiver, a decent blocker, and will snap off several medium length runs while he is in the game. The middle softens because he is primarily a pass catching back, and if Brady catches the defense in the wrong set Faulk is a nice runner in the open field. He's not special, but he manages to do his job nicely.
Pass is really such an under rated player and a big boone to have at fullback. He can sub at halfback, and when in at FB will see a few carries for nice change of pace and nice yardage. He's a great receiver. He blocks well. He's a real triple threat. He'll never gain or really deserve much name recognition, because he is not a star talent. He just accepts what he is and manages to excel at it.
Cobbs has yet to do anything. He's an injury problem, and a non factor at this point. What is nice about Cobbs, though, is that while he gets healthy he has had a reall oppolrtunity to learn the complex system, and in a year or 2 when Dillon hangs up his cleats Cobbs should be ready to step in and take the reigns.
TE: Dan Graham, Ben Watson, Christian Fauria, Jed Weaver
Graham enjoyed a nice season last year as the team's primary TE. He got as much time as he did because he's a terrific blocker. He has good size and speed. The knock on Graham has been his hands. He seems to have gone to the Koren Robinson School for Pass Catching. He's being pushed this training camp by Ben Watson, and I expect his hands to have a renaissance. Ben Watson is the big 'sleeper' because the Pats were high enough on him to spend a first round pick to get him a year or 2 after trading up to get Graham. I try and remind people that they were high enough on Graham to trade up to get him as well. The pats looooove their TEs and TE packages. Great blocking and catching TEs are exactly what the obfuscation the Pats want to run requires. Just because you have Pass, Dillon, Watson, and Graham in the game doesn't mean it's not a pass play, because 3 of those guys are great receivers.
Watson is so highly touted around here right now, it's amazing. He's a guy that has yet to do anything, but everone expects him to start. The fact is that if he's better than Graham he will, but being better means executing things on the field and not making vlocking or releasing mistakes, and Graham is excellent at both of those things. I expect Watson to make a splash, but not to take over as the primary TE this season. He'll be the Pat's Dallas Clark to Graham as Marcus Pollard. Both will see planty of action. Again, I think they are just collecting TEs to have pass catching lineman as one of the major cogs in their scheme. They try and focus on the cente.
Fauria just catches TDs. When he is in the game in the red zone, look out for him, because he manages to get open and collect the pigskin. He's not much of a blocker, which is why he gave way to Graham, but he is a great receiver and another change of pace that I expect to get his share of action. I am looking for lots of 2 TE sets this season.
Weaver only really bears mentioning because he is on the roster. I don't expect much of him, except to fill a hole if another guy goes down.
WRs: Deion Branch, David Givens, David Terrell, Andre Davis, Troy Brown
This is not set yet, but I think this will be the WR package the Pats go with. They have been known to carry 6 receivers, and if I had to guess on a sixth I would rank them PK Sam, Tim Dwight, Bethel Johnson. The Pats Brass is no longer in lkove with Bethel Johnson, and the speculation is that Davis was brought in to replace him as the big time speedster. So was Tim Dwight, but the trade with Cleveland suggests to me that Dwight won't make it except ad a KR.
Branch showed what he can do against the Eagles in the SB. There are health concerns with Branch. He's missed more than his fair share of time. But the Pats like him because he os a team player and can move after the catch better than anyone on the team. He is their #1, if that really mans anything in New England
Givens showed what he can do last year when Branch was out. he was the #1 reciver for several weeks and carried the load. He's more of a Keyshawn Johnson type (without the attitude) versus Branch being a Steve Smith type. Givens will get plenty of looks, and will have his Sundays as the top receiver, but not as many as Branch.
Terrell and Davis are players that I am very optimistic about. Terrell because he played with Brady at Michigan and they had really good Chemistry in the college game, and Davis because he is a stand-up kinda guy who fills the burner role. I don't think these guys will ever be #1 receivers, but I think in this system they will be great #3 and #4 receivers. The type of threats they are make this receiving group abong the strongest in the NFL, because they will just be flat out hard to gameplan for.
Brown shouldn't be going anywhere. He's probably the most popular player on the team after Brady and Bruschi, and he's done amazing things for the team, at least in the eyes of a Pats homer. He steps up across the middle and makes important possession catches, moving the team along. That's far and away his best skill, but it is extremely important as it will give the rest of the team more reps on offense. Brown's value is probably greatest in what type of attitude he brings and his ability to creat plays in the kicking game.
OL: Lets face it...there is nobody fearsome on the Pats OL. They just manage to do a nice job playing as a unit and giving Brady enough time to get things done. They have 2 rookies that should see some time, and that has not seemed to be a problem for them in the past. Light being injured could present a big problem, but I would bet that there will be someone that can fill the void, or that Light will play.
Coaching: Bill Belichick will most likely not be calling the offensive plays, at least not on every down. It looks like he has created a committee aproach, while giving final say (unless he ultimately disagrees) on the play call to the QB coach. I am guessing that, while last season he gave the offensive game-planning responsibility solely to Charlie Weis, that this year he will be leading the charge. He'll come up with a rough set of things he wants the coaches to accomplish, and then let the offensive coaching staff hammer it out together. It's an interesting approach. This is probably the only think that worries me RE: the Pats offense, but it's hard as a Pats fan not to have faith in Belichick.
Lastly, I will say that with the departure of Ted Johnson and with Bruschi sitting the year, there will be more pressure on the offense to put up points. The last time that happened, Brady led the NFL in TD passes with 28. I think he can and will do better than that this year.
That is my spiel. I think Fantasy Owners not grabbing one of the top QBs should feel very comfortable waiting and picking up Brady later in the draft.