Fantasy owners lose Brady for the season; Welker's value takes a hit

The world of fantasy football took an enormous hit this weekend, as Tom Brady sustained a severe left knee injury that will force him to miss the rest of the season.

Last season's fantasy hero, Brady threw for over 4,800 yards and recorded 52 total touchdowns in what was one of the greatest seasons of all time. Those numbers made him a first-round selection in most drafts.

Of course, owners who took him now wish that decision had been different.

Matt Cassel, who hasn't started a football game since high school, is now the leader of one of the most prolific offenses to ever grace the gridiron. He didn't look bad in Brady's absence against the Kansas City Chiefs, throwing for 152 yards and one touchdown in a 17-10 win.

But fantasy owners shouldn't expect Cassel to be the next Brady and come from behind an injured starter to make a significant impact. In fact, I see him as more of a matchup-based starter in leagues with 12-plus teams.

Furthermore, I'd expect coach Bill Belichick to run the ball far more than he did last season.

That's good news for Laurence Maroney on the surface, but keep in mind that Sammy Morris had more touches in the opener. If Morris is a free agent in your league, it's a good idea to add him now. He won't be a consistent point producer, but Morris will share the workload with Maroney and LaMont Jordan the remainder of the season.

The devastating loss of Brady is also bad news for Randy Moss, Wes Welker and any other receiver in a Patriots uniform.

Moss should still be active week in and week out, but he's destined to have more than his share of mediocre stat lines. He wasn't going to reach his spectacular 2007 totals even with Brady under center, but now he'll be luck to post 1,300 yards and 12-14 touchdowns.

The receiver who's value takes the most significant hit, however, has to be Welker.

The Texas Tech product finished last season with 112 receptions, 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns. But with Cassel under center, he has virtually no chance to duplicate those totals. If I had Welker on my roster, I'd see him as more of a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy wideout (closer to a No. 3) for the rest of the season.

Some might see that as a little drastic based on his draft value. But take into consideration that Brett Favre, who threw for 4,155 yards last season, didn't even produce two 1,000-yard wideouts.

Donald Driver led the Green Bay Packers with barely over a 1,000 yards (1,048), while Greg Jennings was second with 920 yards.

If Favre can post those numbers and not have two 1,000-yard receivers, do you really think Cassel can do it?

Brady's ailment not only affects this season, but it will also alter drafts next year as well. Whether you're a running back or a quarterback, serious knee injuries can take well over a year to recover, both mentally and physically.

So despite being a first-round pick in most drafts this year, Brady might not even be a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2009.

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