When New England Patriots QB Tom Brady hit rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell for a 56-yard touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers it marked the 63rd different player to catch a touchdown from Brady in the regular season. Only journeyman QB Vinny Testaverde has thrown touchdowns to more unique receivers over the course of his career (70!).
Brady ranked ahead of QB Brett Favre (61) prior to the game and broke his tie with QB Steve DeBerg (62). What makes Brady so special is the fact that he’s accomplished this feat with the same franchise, meaning he’s survived multiple rounds of personnel turnover.
Testaverde played for 7 teams over the course of his 21-year career, so of course he was going to connect with a large number of different receivers. DeBerg played for 6 teams over 18 seasons. Favre played for four teams over 20 years.
All of Brady’s touchdowns have come with the Patriots. TE Rob Gronkowski leads the way with 67 touchdowns, while WR Randy Moss (39 touchdowns), WR Wes Welker (34), WR Deion Branch (24), and WR Julian Edelman (23) round out the top five.
Brady won’t match Testaverde’s record this year and he probably won’t come close. While non-offensive skill players could always pull a Mike Vrabel for a red zone score, the number of likely players without a touchdown reception on the roster is fairly limited.
Here are my rankings for players on the current active roster to record their first regular season touchdown pass from Brady in 2016.
4. RB D.J. Foster
Foster is receiving a red shirt season and won’t see the active roster unless James White and Brandon Bolden both suffer injuries. It’s difficult to envision any other time that Foster and Brady will be on the field at the same time this season.
3. WR Matthew Slater
Slater only plays on offense in two different scenarios: kneel downs at the end of the game and random deep shots that have no chance of ever being completed. Slater has 1 reception for 46 yards in his nine seasons with the Patriots. Brady has found his deep ball this year with WR Chris Hogan, so maybe Slater has a shot.
2. TE Matthew Lengel
Lengel has just joined the team and he played a few snaps while TE Rob Gronkowski was inactive against the 49ers with a chest injury. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Lengel received a red zone target in the coming weeks, especially if opposing defenses focus all their attention on Gronkowski and TE Martellus Bennett, leaving the 6’8 Lengel free for a jump ball.
1. FB James Develin
Develin’s only touchdown reception from Brady came in the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts so he doesn’t currently count for Brady’s total. I’m actually shocked that Brady hasn’t already hit Develin on a Spider 2 Y Banana call on the goal line.