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Tom Brady should set the record for most regular season touchdown passes to unique targets

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The Patriots quarterback has all the pieces in place to set a new league record.

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has thrown 456 regular season touchdown passes over the course of his career. While it would be a shock to join Peyton Manning (536) and Brett Favre (506) in the 500+ club this year- Drew Brees (465) is more likely to make it- Brady can still set a new passing touchdown NFL record.

Brady has completed a touchdown pass to 65 unique targets over the course of his career, which is the second-most all time. What makes Brady’s ranking so special is that he’s done it all with the Patriots and an endless rotation of new receivers.

The 50+ Unique Touchdown Target Club is led by journeyman QB Vinny Testaverde and his 70 unique targets. Most of the members are also journeymen or players with lengthy careers in two spots and include Steve DeBerg (6 teams, 62 targets), Brett Favre (4 teams, 61 targets), Drew Brees (2 teams, 57 targets), Fran Tarkenton (2 teams, 55 targets), Carson Palmer (3 teams, 55 targets), David Krieg (5 teams, 55 targets), Chris Chandler (7 teams, 54 targets), Brad Johnson (4 teams, 51 targets), and Boomer Esiason (3 teams, 50 targets). Peyton Manning doesn’t even belong to the club with just 49 unique targets, despite playing productively with two franchises for an extended period of time.

Dolphins QB Dan Marino (51 targets) joins Brady as the only quarterbacks I could find with 50+ unique touchdown targets while staying with the same franchise, a testament to their lengthy success.

Brady will need to connect with six new targets to set the new record and the team has the new talent to make that happen. Here’s my order of new receiving targets collecting unique touchdowns for Brady.

1. WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks is expected to be on the of top targets in the Patriots offense, so hopefully he can record a touchdown pass this year. He’s also offers the highest red zone catch rate of any receiver in the league (min. 20 targets).

2. TE Dwayne Allen. Allen has one of the most productive red zone threats, ranking second in red zone catch rate behind Cooks over the course of his career.

3. RB Rex Burkhead. Brady likes to find his running backs in space in the red zone because they usually are flexed into a mismatch versus a run-stuffing defensive front.

4. WR Phillip Dorsett. I don’t expect Dorsett to be a big part of the Patriots offense early in the season as he adjusts to the new playbook, but most Patriots receivers can finish the year with a touchdown reception just due to the nature of how Brady spreads the ball around. Five wide receivers recorded touchdowns for the Patriots in 2016, so Dorsett should find the end zone at some point.

5. TE Jacob Hollister. Hollister showed his receiving ability in the preseason and I wouldn’t be shocked if finished the year with a score. Even Matt Lengel snagged a touchdown in 2016.

6. RB Mike Gillislee. Gillislee is more of a runner than a receiver, but if he gets enough snaps on the goal line, it’s just a matter of time before the Patriots design a route for easy separation and a score.

7. FB James Develin. Develin has caught a postseason touchdown from Brady, but not a regular season one and that’s why he doesn’t count. Develin has seen four goal line passes from Brady over the years (twice each in 2014 and in 2016), with just one turning into a score (playoffs vs Colts in 2014). He should get another couple chances in 2017.

8. WR Matthew Slater. One can dream, right?

I see Brady finding Cooks, Allen, and Burkhead on touchdown passes in the first couple weeks of the season, with Dorsett, Hollister and Gillislee pushing Brady past Testaverder down the final stretch of the season once the offense kicks into high gear. We also can’t count out the Patriots adding another player in the middle of the season- injuries happen!- and that’s when the Matt Lengel- and Michael Floyd-type receiving touchdowns boost Brady’s unique targets.


Who will be the player that is Brady’s 71st unique touchdown recipient?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Dwayne Allen
    (24 votes)
  • 6%
    Rex Burkhead
    (64 votes)
  • 16%
    Brandin Cooks
    (155 votes)
  • 9%
    James Develin
    (89 votes)
  • 13%
    Phillip Dorsett
    (128 votes)
  • 10%
    Mike Gillislee
    (93 votes)
  • 20%
    Jacob Hollister
    (188 votes)
  • 8%
    Matthew Slater
    (74 votes)
  • 11%
    (106 votes)
921 votes total Vote Now