Fantasy Focus

For better or worse, “DeflateGate” coverage has consumed our lives and sporting news for the better part of the last six months. No matter what your stance on the entire quagmire or where you live (it’s been unbearable in New England thanks for asking), you are forced to care about Tom Brady’s appeal because it has massive fantasy impact. 

As it stands today the future Hall of Fame quarterback is suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season, which means he will effectively miss the first five weeks of the season because of where New England’s bye week falls (Week 4). If Brady’s suspension is overturned or even reduced, it will significantly impact his fantasy stock. He is currently being selected as the 12th quarterback off the board in fantasy drafts, according to the average draft position (ADP) data on

In shallow leagues, Brady is pretty much an afterthought. Both Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill are being selected ahead of him and given his current ADP, he is likely the last starting quarterback off the board in standard 12-team leagues. If his suspension is reduced following the appeal process, it’s hard to imagine that his fantasy stock won’t rise substantially, making him an elite option once again. 

Advanced Sports Logic’s stellar projection system, “The Machine” projects that Brady as the 6th-best quarterback in fantasy on a points-per-game basis, ahead of stalwarts like Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and everyone’s favorite “sleeper” Tannehill. Brady’s per-game production (if you can live with five weeks of replacement level production) makes him one of the most valuable fantasy quarterbacks to target in drafts this upcoming season.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss (the best in the business for a reason folks), “there is no set timetable” for when a decision will be made in regards to Brady’s appeal process, which began with a hearing with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this week at the NFL offices in New York. Brady is already a tremendous value. If his suspension is reduced at all, he becomes an even better investment.    

Here are the rest of the hottest headlines from the rest of the AFC this week. Next week, we will dive into the key fantasy updates from the NFC.

Buffalo Bills – New city, same old problem for Rex Ryan. The quarterback situation remains a mystery in Buffalo and is likely to remain that way until the start of training camp. The favorite to regain the starting job is the incumbent, E.J. Manuel, who lasted just four games before being benched in favor of veteran Kyle Orton last season. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News wrote earlier this week that Manuel “might be a bit more decisive and better with his recognition than he has been the past two years, but he still seems capable of making the killer mistake at the least opportune time.“ It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s much less harsh than the observations he had regarding offseason import Matt Cassel.

Surprisingly, “The Machine” projects Cassel as the Bills probable starting signal caller and he grades out as the systems 30th ranked quarterback. Cassel may only be a waiver wire option in two-quarterback leagues, but the interesting name is Manuel. If he does take this job away from Cassel, he won’t be on most fantasy owners radars coming into draft day, which could make him a decent value in the late rounds.

New York Jets – If you were counting on Stevan Ridley as a surprise late round sleeper, it might be time to reconsider. The fifth-year running back has shown flashes of brilliance (and a propensity to put the ball on the turf) in the past, but coming off a major knee injury, reports out of New York indicate that it is likely that the former LSU product will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which would keep him out for the first six weeks of the season. Somehow he is still being drafted as the 60th running back off the board in fantasy drafts this summer, which proves that some fantasy owners still believe. Sadly, I’m not one of them.    

Miami Dolphins – It’s no secret that Ryan Tannehill is primed for another impressive fantasy season with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling the shots. After the Dolphins significantly upgraded his weapons this offseason, bringing in DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, Jordan Cameron, ESPN’s James Walker believes that Miami will improve greatly in the red zone.

“I think you saw some really good things down in the red zone,” said Miami head coach Joe Philbin. “Like I said, we spent a lot of time down there this offseason. We’ve worked on the chemistry between him and the receivers and conceptually we’ve added a couple things that are slightly different and then reinforced other things.”

The Machine projects Tannehill as the 9th-best option at the quarterback position this season, which is exactly where he is going off the board in terms of average draft position. He won’t be a bargain, but it’s looking like the former Aggie is a virtual lock to finish near the top of the position given how high his floor is relative to some of the other options fantasy owners are choosing from.  Look for Tannehill in fantasy news.

Jacksonville Jaguars – According to ESPN’s Mike DiRocci, sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson was a sensation to behold at Jaguars OTA’s last week. Robinson was off to a stellar rookie campaign catching 48 passes for 548 yards and a pair of touchdowns before a stress fracture in his foot ended his season prematurely.

The Machine is confident that barring injury, Robinson will finish the upcoming season as a top-40 fantasy wide receiver, which would make him a mid-round selection in most snake drafts. Unless you were paying close attention last year, you may have forgotten about Robinson, who is currently going as the 27th wide receiver off the board, according to average draft position data.

San Diego Chargers – Offensive coordinator Frank Reich hasn’t given up on tight end Ladarius Green just yet. “I'd be shocked if he didn't have his most productive year,” Reich told Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune last week. There are a variety of factors, which could have influenced Green’s lack of production a year ago, when he caught just 19 passes for 226 yards. Regardless of the reason, he wasn’t worth owning in most leagues.

We hear these types of stories, the “best shape of his life” ones, out of every offseason program around the league, but rarely do they come to fruition once the leaves start to change color. The Machine doesn’t foresee a breakout coming for Green either, who is somehow being drafted as the 21st tight end off the board in average draft position. The fourth year tight end barely cracks the top 30 on The Machine’s projections. If you’re looking for a sleeper at tight end, take a flier on Jared Cook instead. He ranks 16th in The Machine’s projections, but is currently being selected as the 33rd tight end off the board, if he’s even being drafted at all.