Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.
That statement will be tough to argue against after his New England Patriots took out the Atlanta Falcons during a thrilling comeback in Super Bowl LI, giving Brady more Super Bowl wins (five) than Joe Montana (four), Terry Bradshaw (four) and every other quarterback in the league. Ever. Brady also has more postseason starts (34), postseason wins (24) and Super Bowl starts (seven) than all others at the position. Not bad for that skinny kid out of Michigan who fell to the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Anyway, Brady isn't done in his quest to add even more rings to his already impressive collection, and he'll do it at what most football fans would politely describe as an extended age. That's right, Brady will turn 40 in August. That raises the question ... can Tom be terrific at an age when so many other quarterbacks before him have fallen off of a statistical cliff?
To find out, let's look back at some historical data. Since 1979, a quarterback at age 38 or older has finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at the position seven times. That's not a lot. The lone players to do it include Brady (2015), Peyton Manning (2014), Brett Favre (2007, 2009) and Warren Moon (1994, 1995, 1997). Brady would have also done it this past season based on his impressive point-per-game average (21.5), but he missed four games due to a suspension.
Here's another interesting stat: Just five quarterbacks have ever scored 200-plus fantasy points in a single season at the age of 38, including Brady (2015), Manning (2014), Favre (2007), Moon (1994) and new Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (2009). That list shrinks down to a mere two players if we look at quarterbacks who have reached the 200-point mark at the age of 39 (Brady - 2016, Moon - 1995).
Now, let's take a look at how quarterbacks have fared at the age of 40.
Favre has scored the most points in a season (284.6), which he accomplished on the strength of his 33 touchdown passes in 2009. Just 15 other quarterbacks have played at the age of 40 since 1961, and not one of them reached the 100-point mark. Matt Hasselbeck came the closest in 2015, when he scored 91.1 points in eight games as the starter in Indianapolis. After that, we get into names like Vinny Testaverde, Sonny Jurgensen and Vince Evans. Moon would have hit the 100-point mark at 40 in 1996, but he missed eight games. Overall, that's a short list over decades of statistical research.
So, is Brady doomed to suffer the same fate as his fellow "fogies?"
Fantasy skeptics could point to the quick disintegration of Manning from superstar to waiver-wire fodder in their concern over a 40-year-old Brady. The future Hall of Famer threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns and ranked fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks at 38, but fell to 34th at the position with just nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions at the age of 39. If it can happen to Manning, who is regarded as the greatest fantasy quarterback ever, it can happen to Brady, right?
Well, grab a bowl of avocado ice cream while I explain the reasons Brady's extended age shouldn't keep him from putting up big numbers again in 2017.
First, the Manning comparison isn't a good one because we started to see cracks in his statistical armor at the end of the 2014 campaign. While dealing with a torn quadriceps muscle, the veteran threw for just three touchdowns with six interceptions in his final four regular-season starts. He also looked like he was losing his fastball, to use a baseball term, and that loss of arm strength and accuracy was a major concern for owners. Due to his horrid finish, Manning was also considered a potential bust candidate for some fantasy analysts (myself included) heading into 2015.
On the flip side, Brady has shown no signs of slowing down. Hell, he's gotten better.
He has averaged 296-plus passing yards in three of his last five seasons, and his interceptions have decreased in each of the last four. What's more, his point averages have actually increased since 2013. In 2016, Aaron Rodgers (23.5 PPG) and Matt Ryan (21.6 PPG) were the lone quarterbacks with a better average than Brady (21.5 PPG). Had he not missed four games, Brady would have also projected to throw for 4,700-plus yards for the second straight campaign ... and most of it would have come without Rob Gronkowski.
Not bad for an "old man."
There's also no real concern over his physical deterioration, because Brady takes care of his himself off the field. Even his diet, which is shall we say "strict," seems to have helped him endure. And unlike Manning, any decrease in arm strength hasn't mattered because that's not his game. The Patriots pass attack doesn't use the vertical attack much anymore, leaving Brady to throw shorter to mid-range passes that often times let his teammates make plays in space. How many times have we seen someone like Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis or James White catch a short pass from the veteran and rack up those ever important yards after the catch? We've seen it a lot.
Brady also plays a position that has seen its fantasy point totals soar. There were 25 quarterbacks who scored 200-plus fantasy points this past season, which is the most ever. We also saw 18 signal-callers reach the 250-point mark. That total has more than doubled since 2010. Collectively, quarterbacks scored 8,311 fantasy points, which ranks as the second-most in a single season.
Fantasy football is often unpredictable, so it's possible that Brady could fall victim to the same fate as some other quarterbacks his age. But for a man with his resume and an arrow that has now pointed upward for three straight seasons, it's hard to see a scenario where the durable Brady doesn't continue to defy the odds (and Father Time) and remain an elite fantasy quarterback in 2017.
He might just pass Manning as the greatest fantasy football quarterback of all time.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!