Who Should Fantasy Football Owners Target with Tom Brady Suspended?

Tom Brady

The long-awaited end to Deflategate is finally here and fantasy football owners can put it in the past. Tom Brady has accepted his four game suspension and will miss the first four weeks of the 2016 season. This news does not mean that you should avoid Brady in upcoming drafts. Prior to the suspension being made official he was going in the top of the 6th round. His ADP has already has already dropped to the bottom of the 6th round. Assuming it continues to fall he should provide nice value come draft day. Fantasy football is a weekly game and Brady can be a real difference maker down the stretch. So the question becomes which quarterbacks should you target for the first four weeks?

Ken Whisenhunt

Stephen Dunn – Getty Images

Philip Rivers | San Diego Chargers | QB11
(@Chiefs, Jaguars, @Colts, Saints)

I’m on the Philip Rivers bandwagon heading into the 2016 season and have driven that bandwagon for stretches. He has a ton of great things going in his favor including the return of Keenan Allen who was a monster prior to his injury. Rivers averaged 25 points per game with Allen in the lineup and saw his PPG drop to 16.75 after Allen got hurt. Clearly Allen can be a real difference maker and should catch well over 100 balls this season. They also brought in Travis Benjamin and James Jones to add receiver depth. Antonio Gates is still around and should catch touchdowns. San Diego also brought Ken Whisenhunt back as offensive coordinator. Rivers had his best season under Whisenhunt in 2013 including getting career highs in yards(4,478) and touchdowns(32). It was a season that saw Rivers finish as the 6th best fantasy quarterback.

The schedule sets up nicely for Rivers to start the season. Their Week 1 game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead is not ideal but can be managed. The next 3 games are very enticing including home games against the Jaguars and Saints. Last season New Orleans allowed the second most passing yards, while the Jaguars allowed the 4th most Week 3 they head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts Week 3. This could should set to be a shootout with the Colts poor pass defense that allowed the 9th most yards a season ago. Rivers also plays the Titans during the Patriots Week 9 bye week. Rivers does require more draft capital than the rest of the names on the list but is my favorite name on the list.

Tony Romo

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Tony Romo | Dallas Cowboys | QB13
(Giants, @Redskins, Bears, @49ers)

I’m buying the Tony Romo bounce back this season. There are a couple concerns surrounding him this season but if you are drafting Romo to fill in while Brady is out many of those fears are seemingly mitigated. Some may worry that Romo will get injured but prior to last season he only missed two games in the prior four seasons. It is also early enough where the risk is seemingly lower. The other concern is the addition of Ezekiel Elliott who many expect to get a heavy workload which is actually a plus for me. It should allow Romo to see less pressure and allow him to be more efficient. In 2014 when Demarco Murray had his massive season, Romo finished as the 7th best quarterback in standard scoring.

The Cowboys have a very appealing schedule to start the season against the Giants, Redskins, Bears and 49ers the first four weeks. The Giants allowed the most passing yards a season ago and were tied for the 5th most passing touchdowns allowed last year. They made moves in free agency and the draft to address this issue but assuming all the problems will be fixed for Week 1 is crazy. Washington made noise by bringing in Josh Norman during the offseason but he alone can’t fix a defense that allowed the 8th most passing yards and the ninth most passing touchdowns. The Redskins are an offense that should be able to produce a ton points setting up for a potentially high scoring affair. The Bears offense should be improved and their defense allowed the 5th most passing touchdowns a season ago. The 49ers allowed the 6th most passing yards and the 3rd best completion percentage a season ago. They also brought in Chip Kelly who will run an uptempo offense that will keep his defense on the field more often.

Romo is also a great player to pair with Brady because he Cowboys get the Cleveland Browns when the Patriots have their Week 9 bye week. A match-up that will have QB streamers and daily players salivating.

 

Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed

Patrick Semansky – AP

Kirk Cousins | Washington Redskins | QB14
(Steelers, Cowboys, @Giants, Browns)

Kirk Cousins made big strides a season ago especially over the second half of the season. Cousins finished as a top 10 option and killed it down the stretch with. He had 25 points in 5 of his last 8 games and had 20 or more points throughout the fantasy playoffs. He helped Jordan Reed become an elite tight end option. In addition to Reed, Cousins should have a nice array of weapons in 2016 including a healthy DeSean Jackson, old reliable Pierre Garcon and Josh Doctson who was brought in via the draft.

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While some are talking themselves into Matt Jones there is question marks about what his value could be in 2016. If he falters it could be a lot of Cousins with the ball in his hands. It would also mean more Chris Thompson who is a fantastic passing down back. They face the Giants and Steelers who allowed the first and third most passing yards a season ago. They also play the Browns who allowed the 8th most passing yards in 2015. The Steelers, Giants and Cowboys, the other team the Redskins play in their first four games should all have dynamic offenses. This should force the Redskins to throw the ball early and often, even more reason to love Cousins for the first four weeks.

Unfortunately Washington has a Week 9 bye week like the Patriots, so you will have to move on from Cousins when Brady returns. This isn’t the worst thing in the world as it will give you roster flexibility and there should be plenty of options to stream come Week 9 including Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Alex Smith or the other names on this list.

Deeper League Finds

Jay Cutler

Mike DiNovo – USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler | Chicago Bears | QB25
(@Texans, Eagles, @Cowboys, Lions)

Nobody ever wants to use Jay Cutler but that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful especially if you need four weeks of fill in production. He has two talented wide receivers who can make big plays in Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. He also has Zach Miller, a field stretching tight end that many including myself are touting as a player that could provide value on draft day.

A season ago in four point per passing touchdown scoring Cutler had 20 plus points in eight of his 15 games with three of those games coming without Alshon Jeffery. He has a schedule to start off the season with that could set him up nicely for a strong 2016. He faces a Texans team that could be without J.J. Watt who recently had back surgery in Week 1. Week 2 Cutler faces an Eagles defense that allowed the second most passing touchdowns and fifth most passing yards. It’s also a team in transition that has an offense with low expectations. Cutler should have plenty of opportunities to throw ball especially early. The Bears defense is a work in progress as well so a Bears blowout seems unlikely. Week 3 brings a return trip to Texas to face a Cowboys defense that allowed 8th best completion percentage. It’s also a team that should have a much better offense that will force Cutler to throw the ball constantly.

Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco

ROB CARR – GETTY IMAGES

Joe Flacco | Baltimore Ravens | QB27
(Bills, @Browns, @Jaguars, Raiders)

If you are in a deep league or want to wait until your last pick Joe Flacco may be your guy. There are big questions about who may emerge from the Ravens receiving core but Flacco should benefit no matter who emerges. Kamar Aiken should see plenty of targets and flourish in this offense. Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith have question marks but have the talent to be productive weapons. Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, and Dennis Pitta could all get work and help the Ravens offense be productive. Their running back core is chalked full of viable pass catchers including Kenneth Dixon, Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen.

A season ago the Ravens were an offense that attempted the most a season ago. Marc Trestman is still there giving fantasy owners little reason to worry about the amount of pass attempts the Ravens should have in 2016.

His schedule isn’t a cakewalk but is far from treacherous. All four offenses should be able to move the ball and score points against this Ravens team and would force the Ravens to chuck the all over the field. The Raiders, Browns and Jaguars were all in top 10 for fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The Bills employ a ball control offense but were still middle of pack for fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. He also gets a game against the Steelers in Week 9 where Flacco tends to play well. IN 2014 he had 469 passing yards and 4 touchdowns in two games against Pittsburgh. He didn’t do quite as well in 2015 with 189 yards and a touchdown. That was an ugly Thursday night game where the Justin Forsett ran for 150 yards and Mike Vick played quarterback for the Steelers.

Tom Brady is likely to play like a man on a mission this season once he returns for Week 5 which will also coincidentally be the return of Josh Gordon. He has weapons in Rob Gronkowski, healthy Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis. They also brought in Martellus Bennett during the offseason. Brady could be a real difference maker down the stretch. Pssttt… and if you don’t want to pay Brady’s current price these guys can be QB1s this season.

For more Fantasy Football coverage check out Fake Pigskin’s Angle of Pursuit podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

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