No quarterback in NFL history has been as dominant and successful as Tom Brady. Since joining the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000, he has led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowls — the last of which coming just last year. That 2018 season, however, was seen as a regression of sorts for Brady. While he still looked like his usual self in the clutch, his passing statistics went down across the board.
There is no reason for concern, however. After all, the Patriots’ 2018 season was marked by change at the turnover position: Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks left during the offseason; Julian Edelman opened the season suspended; Josh Gordon was in and ultimately out of the lineup; Rob Gronkowski was used more of a blocker than a receiver; Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett failed to elevate their game on a consistent basis.
Brady still was very good, and at his best he remained the gold standard in the NFL. Apparently, advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus sees it the same way heading into the new season: PFF’s Steve Palazzolo recently ranked the league’s quarterbacks and no other than the greatest of all time topped the rankings ahead of the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite taking a step back last season, Brady is still the highest-graded signal-caller in the NFL over the last few years. His stretch of play from 2015-17 is one of the best in the history of the game, as he graded at 96.7 overall during that period. Last year, he still ranked fourth in the league with a 90.6 overall grade, and he finished second in our accuracy charting. Brady’s body of work has him as the top quarterback heading into 2019 and last year’s regression put him more at his 2014 level where he was still one of the best in the league. Expect more of the same in 2019.
Palazzolo’s reasoning behind ranking Brady higher than any other passer in the NFL entering the new year is certainly sound; he was still very good last season and showed that he can deliver no matter the circumstances. And as was written, more of that should be expected in 2019. After all, the supporting cast surrounding the quarterback is looking very good at the moment and is filled with talent top-to-bottom.
Take the running back position, which is one of the deepest in the league with Sony Michel as the early-down back, Damien Harris as his backup, and James White and Rex Burkhead as the change-of-pace/up-tempo backs complementing them. Add fullback James Develin and you get yourself a pretty good ground attack. While the unit does not have the support of the league’s best blocking tight end anymore (Gronkowski) it still will challenge defenses on the ground and, given its versatility, the air.
Speaking of the passing game, the Patriots’ aerial attack looks as potent as it ever has on paper. While the unit lost a Hall of Fame talent as well as rotational pieces Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson, the likes of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Demaryius Thomas, among others, should not just help soften the blow of the offseason departures but could actually make up a deeper unit than last year’s.
Brady was already very good with 2018’s group, but his improved supporting cast — again, on paper that is — should help him at least maintain his levels of play this year even with some questions at left tackle (Isaiah Wynn is working his way back from a season-ending Achilles injury, but has looked very good so far). And, who knows, maybe we also get to see the Tom Brady that played at a historically high level between 2015 and 2017.
With the 42-year-old nothing seems impossible, which is exactly why he still sits atop the NFL’s quarterbacking mountaintop again as the new season approaches.