(Editor’s note: Every day, we’re offering our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day, something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for the 2016 fantasy season.)
When we think back on the biggest fantasy football quarterback seasons of 2015, we’ll think of Carolina’s Cam Newton first. He had the second-most fantasy points in the last nine seasons, and had incredible pace numbers as well. After Newton, Russell Wilson of Seattle will come to mind as well, with his 24-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio in the season’s last six weeks. Newton and Wilson finished 1-2 in quarterback fantasy scoring on the season.
It wasn’t guaranteed to be this way early on, though. New England’s Tom Brady, who finished the season as the No. 3 fantasy quarterback — 56 points behind Newton — was No. 1 on the list as late as Week 13, one point ahead of Newton, before putting up 36 fantasy points the last three weeks compared to Newton’s 93.
In fact, Brady’s season-long production in 2015 inspired today’s Fantasy Stat of the Day: In his first eight games of 2015, Tom Brady averaged a top-five finish in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks (average finish: 4.4), but finished much worse in the second half (13.9). The Patriots had a Week 4 bye, so in Weeks 1-9 — eight games — Brady averaged 28 fantasy points a game. In Weeks 10-17, that average fell to 17.9, and he didn’t even finish in the top 10 among quarterbacks.
Not all of the blame for this can fall to Brady, of course. The offense around him was a shambles in the second half. Brady’s top five pass-catching weapons — Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler — played 38 of a possible 40 games in the first half, but only 19 in the second. Brady’s numbers suffered across the board—his PFF Quarterback Rating went from 101.17 to 88.72. His adjusted completion percentage (completion percentage corrected for drops, spikes and throwaways) dropped from 80.4 to 74.5. Per fantasy points per dropback, Brady fell from 0.59 to 0.45. What was a historic pace fell off to merely really good — he was still the season’s No. 3 fantasy quarterback, after all.
[What kind of quarterback will you end up with in Weeks 1-4 if you draft Tom Brady this year? Check our new fantasy draft tool and see.]
All that is true, and maybe Brady would have been fine had he had all his weapons at his disposal. It’s also possible, though, that Brady, at age 38 and in his 16th NFL season, wore down as the season went on (he also fell off in the second half of 2014, though less significantly). If that’s the case — and that’s no guarantee, but if — then it’s possible the suspension that will likely cost Brady the first four games of 2016 could be a blessing in disguise for fantasy owners who are weighing whether to draft Brady this season. He’s currently the No. 7 quarterback in our staff consensus rankings.