It's hard to believe, but the Tom Brady era in New England is over. The 43-year-old quarterback has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady's 20 seasons with the Patriots resulted in 74,571 passing yards, 563 total touchdowns and, most importantly, 14 top-12 fantasy campaigns. Despite the overall success, which included six Super Bowl rings, Brady hasn't been much of a fantasy force in recent seasons. Believe it or not, The Pharaoh has finished 12th or worse among quarterbacks in fantasy points three of the past four seasons. That's despite finishing top 10 in pass attempts and passing yards during each of those campaigns. Brady offers little as a rusher (46 rushing yards per season over the past decade) and his efficiency was the worst of his career in 2019, having completed only 61% of his passes while averaging 6.6 yards per pass attempt and posting a 53.7 QBR. Brady has finished with the league's fifth-worst off-target rate each of the past two seasons, despite ranking in the lower half of the league in average depth of throw both years. His 24 passing touchdowns in 2019 were his fewest in a season since his injury-shortened 2008 campaign.
Despite the rough season, there is reason for optimism that he can jump back into the back-end QB1 discussion in 2020. For starters, part of his 2019 struggles were related to a weak group of pass-catching options. That won't be an issue in Tampa Bay. Mike Evans (67-1,157-8 receiving line in 2019) and Chris Godwin (86-1,333-9) form what is arguably the league's best wide receiver duo, whereas 33-year-old Julian Edelman and running back James White were easily Brady's top two targets in 2019. Brady will also go from Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse to O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end. Running back is a work in progress, but the Buccaneers are strong bets to make an impact addition to go along with Ronald Jones II.
Brady will be moving from a high-volume, pass-first New England scheme to a high-volume, pass-first offense under Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich. Arians likes to go vertical, as his offenses have posted a 10.2 average depth of throw in his 108 games as a head coach since 2012. That's the highest aDOT among head coaches during the span (min. 2,000 attempts). Brady's predecessor, Jameis Winston, paced the NFL in passing attempts and yards, and was second with 33 passing touchdowns and a 10.5 aDOT last season. Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger have also had fantasy success in Arians' offenses over the past decade-plus.
Brady isn't likely to be particularly costly on draft day, and there's reason to believe he can get back into the top-10 mix while playing in the warmth of NFC South stadiums. Consider him a borderline QB1. Though both Evans and Godwin are certainly still solid WR1 targets, they are strong bets for a drop in per-game production with game scripts likely to be better this season; the Tampa Bay defense is improved, and Brady doesn't throw nearly as many interceptions as Winston (eight last season compared to 30 for Winston). Howard, meanwhile, will be an interesting post-hype sleeper and very much a fine late-round flier.
Tom Brady's early 2020 projection: 366-for-590, 4,474 yards, 29 TDs, 10 INTs