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Fantasy impact of Tom Brady's four-game suspension

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It's nearly certain that Tom Brady won't play in the first four games of the 2016 season.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition by Brady to rehear his Deflategate suspension case. This means the only option left for the Patriots quarterback is to request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear his appeal. According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rappoport, it's likely that Brady takes this final step, but it's also extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court actually hears the case.

Back in April, Gabe Feldman, Director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, joined NFL Network to discuss the situation. He explained that it's rare that the Supreme Court would hear a case like Brady's, and that it is "much more likely than not that Tom Brady ends up serving (his) four-game suspension."

So, back to the heart of the matter -- what does this mean for fantasy? We're right back where we were last July when Brady's initial suspension was upheld, and Tom Terrific became a tremendous draft value. Brady finished second at his position in 2015 with 343.7 fantasy points, and has only finished outside the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks once (2013, 14th) since 2009. If the suspension stands, Brady's ADP (average draft position), which is currently hovering in Round 5 on NFL.com is certain to fall into the double digit rounds in redraft leagues, presenting a massive opportunity.

Brady operates an offense loaded with weapons that is catered to his current skillset. As a result, he averaged over 21 fantasy points per game in 2015, despite missing Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman for portions of the season. Once he returns in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, he should be able to pick up right where he left off. This is by no means an exact science here, but even if you take away 84 points from Brady's 2015 totals, he still would have finished as the QB16. His game-to-game value will be an advantage once he returns to action. Owners who snag Brady late can easily double-down with another late-round signal-caller to ride for the first month, or stream the position.

Three options to circle as four-game stopgaps (at least) are Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler. Each quarterback has multiple games against the NFC East, which struggled against the pass in 2015, while Cutler gets to take on the Detroit Lions (second-most fantasy points allowed to the position in 2015) on his home turf and Manning gets the New Orleans Saints (whom he threw six touchdowns against last year) in MetLife Stadium. Cutler will also have the benefit of a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White in his offense -- something he never had a season ago, and Cousins could ride the wave he caught late last season to early-season success in 2016 against a forgiving schedule. All three of these passers will likely carry late-round ADPs as well.

Early streaming candidates to consider could be Marcus Mariota in Weeks 2 and 3 (at DET, vs. OAK) and Brock Osweiler in Weeks 1 and 4 (vs. CHI, vs. TEN). But we'll better be able to figure out these options closer to the season, as a lot could change once training camp gets underway in late July.

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Lastly, let's discuss the impact Brady's ban will have on the rest of his offense. Jimmy Garoppolo, heir to the handsome quarterback throne, will start under center for the first four games for the Pats. While the team has faith in Garoppolo, he's never started a regular season game and has only attempted 31 passes in regular season action (completing 20 of them for 188 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions). As a result, Gronkowski, Edelman and the whole gang will take a slight hit in value, but not enough to merit dropping them down much in drafts. If Dion Lewis makes it all the way back from his ACL tear last season, he could see more work in the passing game to help keep the pressure off Garoppolo, and we should expect a bit more of an overall commitment to the ground game (though good luck guessing which back that will be). Mostly though, this ban isn't a reason for fantasy owners to panic on the rest of the Patriots offense.

So there you have it. Like a bad rash, Deflategate has returned to irritate the football populous once again. The silver-lining, though, is that Tom Brady now becomes a draft value, and could be a league-winning pick for those who scoop him up in the later rounds. Meanwhile, his talented supporting cast might take a slight hit in production the first few weeks, but once Brady returns in Week 5, the "revenge" tour he was on in 2015 just booked a whole new set of venues in which to perform in 2016.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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