Brady impressive in preseason opener; McFadden stars for Raiders

Wow.

That's what fantasy leaguers everywhere were thinking while Tom Brady shredded the Philadelphia Eagles in his first game action since last September. He completed 10-of-15 passes for 100 yards and threw for two touchdowns while playing the majority of the first half. His lone blemish was an under-thrown pass that went for an interception.

Brady didn't look limited or hindered at all in his return from a reconstructed knee, even scrambling for three yards to convert a third-and-1. The performance left us virtually drooling over his potential in an offense that should score a ton of points this season.

In fact, at the time it was hard not to envision a scenario where Brady would at least duplicate the 4,806 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes he recorded during what was a record-breaking 2007 season.

He really looked that good.

Before we get too excited, though, fantasy leaguers need to remember that expecting that level of production in consecutive seasons is asking a lot. Even from someone like Brady, who at times seems superhuman on the football field. Brady, who is already being drafted in the first round on average (11.33 ADP) in NFL.com leagues, would have to do something that's never been done before at the NFL level -- throw for 40-plus touchdowns two seasons in a row.

A mere four signal-callers (Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Kurt Warner) have hit the 40-touchdown mark in a single season. The first three (Manning, Marino, Warner) all saw a monster drop in touchdown passes in their next full season. In fact, the trio averaged a 20-touchdown decrease. Since Brady missed just about all of 2008, this season will be his next after his 50 scores in 2007. So, if you're expecting Brady to post another 50 touchdown passes (or even 40 for that matter), history is not on your side.

Still, Brady's ADP is almost certain to rise in drafts all over the globe.

In fact, there are going to be those fantasy enthusiasts out there (many of whom are Patriot fans) who will now think Brady is worth as much as a top-five pick in standard leagues that reward six points for touchdown passes. After all, why take a chance on a running back with one year of success like Matt Forte, Michael Turner or Chris Johnson, when you can land the best fantasy quarterback on the planet?

That sort of decision seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

Well, I'm not ready to even call Brady the best fantasy quarterback in the league. Not yet, not after just one half of one preseason game. There's still a signal-caller in New Orleans named Drew Brees, who threw for over 5,000 yards last season (something Brady has never accomplished) and has averaged just under 30 touchdown passes the past three seasons. That's just three fewer than Brady has averaged in his last three full seasons, and that includes his 50-touchdown explosion.

Furthermore, Brees has averaged 4,637 passing yards over his last three seasons with the Saints. That's an average of close to 500 more yards than Brady (4,148) in his last three full years. You can argue that Brees had better weapons than Brady in that time frame, but outside of Marques Colston who did the Saintsreally have at the wide receiver position? David Patten? Devery Henderson? An over-the-hill Joe Horn?

As a stubborn fantasy football traditionalist, I'm still taking a running back in the first round and waiting to take a quarterback until the middle rounds.

I'm not a Brady hater, either, not at all. In fact, sign me up for his life -- a rich, good-looking NFL quarterback with tons of money who's married to Gisele Bundchen. Talk about a fantasy! But I still think Brees is more than in the conversation when we talk about the best quarterback in fantasy football. What's more, there's a lot of value at the quarterback position after the third and fourth round, and I'd hate to go into the season without at least one featured runner.

Speaking of runners, LeSean "Shady" McCoy looked mighty good against Brady and the Patriots.

The rookie out of Pittsburgh rushed for 55 yards on 10 caries and added two receptions for 12 yards. He ran hard between the tackles, showed some burst out of the line of scrimmage and was easily the Eagles most impressive offensive weapon.

Brian Westbrook, who turns 30 before the start of the season, is expected to be back in action in time for Week 1 and remains atop the depth chart. But because of his age and the fact that he's had two offseason surgeries, Westbrook is anything but a lock to remain healthy.

That makes McCoy a must-have handcuff back for owners who draft Westbrook. Overall, McCoy warrants middle-round consideration in seasonal leagues. He'll be a surefire first rounder in dynasty leagues, as Westbrook's time as the featured back for coach Andy Reid could be coming to and end as soon as the 2010 season.

News and notes

  • » Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been found not guilty of misdemeanor battery in Atlanta. The case stemmed from an argument with his ex-girlfriend at Marshall's condominium, which occurred last March. The veteran wideout, who is expected to return to practice soon after missing work with a sore hip, is no longer in danger of missing time due to a league-imposed suspension. Consider him a borderline No. 1 fantasy wideout.
  • » Fantasy leaguers looking for a potential sleeper should look no further than Chaz Schilens. He hauled in five passes for 52 yards in a win over the Cowboys and had a strong rapport with JaMarcus Russell. Schilens' teammate, Darren McFadden, was impressive as well. He posted 63 yards on four carries and showed some serious burst out of the box. McFadden could turn into one of this season's better draft values.
  • » Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith returned to practice on Friday, just days after sustaining what looked to be a serious shoulder ailment. He was held out of team work to avoid contact with his teammates, but Smith did catch balls and participate in individual drills. Barring some sort of unforseen setback, Smith will be fine for the start of the regular season and will remain a top-five wideout in fantasy circles.
  • » The Buffalo News is reporting that despite his three-game suspension to start the regular season, Marshawn Lynch is still seeing the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense in training camp. That could be an indication that Fred Jackson won't see much work once Lynch returns to the field in Week 4 (Oct. 4 at Miami). Still, you almost have to take Jackson as a handcuff if you take Lynch on Draft Day.
  • » According to NFL.com senior writer Jason LaCanfora, Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford are in a "dead heat" in their battle for the top spot on the Lions' depth chart. While early reports had Culpepper as the favorite to win the job to open the season, Stafford's strong play in training camp has made this a fierce competition. Of course, the eventual winner of this battle will have little value in most seasonal drafts.

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section below or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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