Fantasy Football: The fallout from Tom Brady's suspension


Fantasy Football: The fallout from Tom Brady's suspension

The NFL dropped the hammer on the New England Patriots and Tom Brady on Monday, suspending the star quarterback for the first four games of the season, fining the team $1 million and taking away a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017. 

Not only could Brady's absence have a big effect on the AFC but it raises a lot of questions in the world of Fantasy Football. 

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Here are some answers to those issues about the Patriots offense and how the team will fare over the first four weeks.

1. Is Jimmy Garoppolo now worth drafting and what does this do for Brady's stock?

The former EIU standout is absolutely on the fantasy radar now. The best news for the Patriots was that this ruling came down in May and not August. Bill Belichick now has a lot of time to prepare Garoppolo for the first four games of the season. In garbage time in 2014, Garoppolo performed well against the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears. Obviously, garbage time and crunch time are much different. But the rookie signal caller didn't look rattled. 

[MORE FANTASY: Top rookies to target in 2015

Let's also take a look at who Garoppolo will be facing (Patriots have a Bye Week 4):

Week 1 - PIT

Week 2 - @ BUF

Week 3 - JAX

Week 5 - @ DAL

Three of those four matchups are enticing for Garoppolo. The Steelers, Jaguars and Cowboys all finished 22nd or worst in total passing yards allowed in 2014. The Steelers defense didn't improve that much this offseason with the departures of Troy Polamalu and Dick LeBeau while the Jaguars likely won't make a dramatic jump up the rankings. The Cowboys could be better if their pass rush improves with Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence. The Bills matchup will be one to avoid for sure with Rex Ryan now in control and a dominant unit still in tact. 

[MORE: Four guys whose stock is falling after free agency, NFL Draft]

Garoppolo will probably be overdrafted in some leagues but target him in the later rounds as a spot starter if you decide to not build your team around a stud quarterback. As for Brady, he's still a Top-10 quarterback for the 2015 season. It'll hurt having him out for a few favorable matchups but there's no doubt he will come back with a vengeance and light the league on fire. Hey, if you end up picking Brady, it wouldn't be a bad idea to also snatch Garoppolo later.

2. Does this affect Rob Gronkowski's stock?

No. He's a beast on the field and shouldn't have trouble developing a connection with Garoppolo, who knows throwing to Gronk is his best chance at succeeding. As we mentioned in the last answer, the Patriots aren't facing any stout pass defenses (except for the Bills) so Gronkowski's value shouldn't be altered at all by the news. Draft him as you normally would this August. 

3. Does this mean the Patriots will run the ball more?

Potentially, but the Patriots have secretly become a running team over the past two years. They finished in the Top 10 in rushing yards in the league two out of the past three years. If Garoppolo struggles, New England could absolutely lean on a handful of running backs to carry the offense. 

[RELATED: Four guys whose stock is on the rise after free agency, NFL Draft]

But there's always an issue with Patriots and running backs: It's impossible to guess who will be the lead back. Remember Jonas Gray? He disappeared after his 200-yard, four touchdown performance. Will Brandon Bolden step up? Can LeGarrette Blount shoulder the load after his suspension is done? There's no real answers at running back for the Patriots so don't go digging for a New England running back to draft or pick up during Brady's absence. 

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”