Just three days prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, the league’s biggest story didn’t involve a rookie, a trade or even a free-agent signing. Instead, the endless deflategate saga moved on to its next chapter, with a federal appeals court overturning the ruling from a lower court that vacated Tom Brady’s suspension back in September.
This is a big victory for the league’s case and probably means Brady will actually miss four games, but there have already been various reports suggesting that the quarterback hopes to appeal. Because this can never come to a peaceful conclusion, Monday’s ruling by a three-judge panel wasn’t unanimous, which might help Brady’s slim odds to have the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agree to re-hear his case.
Although these re-hearings are extremely rare, Brady probably won’t give up on his last chance to avoid suspension, as an appeal to the Supreme Court (his only other option) would have no real shot at getting selected but would likely attract lots of negative attention. The good news is that we should get some answers soon enough, with Brady likely having just two weeks to file his request to the Second Circuit Court.
Moving to the football side of things….Jimmy Garoppolo will likely take the reigns for Weeks 1-4, first heading to Arizona for a Sunday night opener, then drawing three straight home games against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. It’s still too early to be certain, but this initially looks like a pretty tough run of matchups for the 2014 second-rounder.
The good news for the Patriots – apart from the fact they win the AFC East every year – is that Garoppolo completed 61-of-80 passes (76.3 percent) during the 2015 preseason, albeit for just 554 yards (6.9 YPA) with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a very different, yet also solid, stat line in the 2014 preseason, completing 46-of-79 passes (58.2) for 618 yards (7.8 YPA) with five TDs and one pick.
Granted, he was mostly playing against backups or camp bodies during those exhibitions, and his regular-season career consists solely of 31 garbage-time passes. It’s still wise to view Garoppolo as an unknown commodity, even if we have full faith in his coaching staff and teammates.
That’s not to say the uncertainty should be shied away from in fantasy leagues, as the Brady-Garoppolo pairing could still combine for high-end QB1 production in a New England offense that attempted 629 passes (fifth most) last season. Brady finished as the No. 2 or 3 quarterback in the vast majority of leagues, despite losing Julian Edelman for seven games and Dion Lewis (torn ACL) for nine.
Even if Lewis isn’t available early in the season, New England should feature improved pass-catching depth after replacing Scott Chandler and Brandon LaFell with Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and Nate Washington. Although Danny Amendola might eventually get released, it’s also possible the Pats acquire further help through the upcoming draft.
Perhaps I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, but Garoppolo will be dirt-cheap on DFS sites, and Brady’s absence wouldn’t necessarily prevent Bill Belichick from deploying one of his pass-dominant gameplans in the right matchup. The ceiling:price ratio should be appealing in large-field tournaments, perhaps even for Week 1 against the Cardinals, with New England quite possibly needing to play catch-up.
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While that’s obviously a decision for another month/season, I don’t think Brady’s suspension will have much impact on the real-life game, other than raising/sinking Garoppolo’s trade value.
In all likelihood, Garoppolo will keep a very talented Patriots team afloat, allowing Brady to secure the usual division title and first-round bye. For what it’s worth, New England is still listed among the two or three Super Bowl favorites at every major sportsbook, even holding on to the top spot at some.