In this season of wildly unpredictable football happenings, it figures that even the trade market brings us a bit of the unexpected.
On Monday, mere hours before the NFL’s trade deadline, the New England Patriots finally traded backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, sending him to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round draft pick. It’s a deal that, six months ago, would’ve been entirely predictable — practically expected.
Today, it’s a knee-buckling curveball, because the Patriots had already traded their other backup quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, on Sept. 2, while the 49ers had long been rumored a potential offseason suitor for free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins. It’s a significant development in fantasy, however, for Garoppolo and the 49ers’ receivers, as well as Tom Brady, to a certain degree.
Garoppolo presumably won’t pick up Kyle Shanahan’s playbook quickly enough to start, and perhaps not even serve in a backup capacity to C.J. Beathard, in time for Week 9, but Garoppolo will almost certainly supplant Beathard at the earliest point he can. Garoppolo provides the 49ers a significant upgrade, possessing a much more accurate arm than Beathard’s, which accounted for a 52.7 completion percentage in two starts and a large chunk of a third game this season, as well as an average of just 12.76 fantasy points in those three contests.
Small a sample as it may be, Garoppolo posted a 71.2 completion percentage, 8.4 yards per attempt, four touchdowns compared to zero interceptions and 36.34 fantasy points in his two career starts for the Patriots, those coming in Weeks 1 and 2 last season. Yes, he had more talent at his disposal than he’ll have immediately in San Francisco, but the game tape showed a quarterback with poise facing a tough Arizona Cardinals defense in his first career start (Week 1), as well as one ready to tear apart a weaker defense, such as that of the Miami Dolphins (Week 2).
Garoppolo’s new supporting cast probably won’t be strong enough to make him a QB1 in any remaining week this season, and it’ll keep him off the QB2 radar when he faces tougher defenses, as he will in Weeks 12 (Seattle Seahawks) and Week 16 (Jacksonville Jaguars). It’s also a negative that he’s jumping from one team that hasn’t yet had its bye to another — the 49ers’ bye arrives in Week 11 — and considering we’ve got nine weeks remaining in the regular season with 18 of the 32 teams with byes in the rear-view, that’s a noticeable, mathematical hit. It’s enough to make Garoppolo an instant pickup only in leagues of 12 teams or larger if you’re in need of a backup, though in two-quarterback leagues, get ready to open your FAAB wallet, as he’s much more likely to provide instant impact there.
The move should buoy Pierre Garcon’s WR2 value, while perhaps making Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle more attractive matchups plays, but another receiver who becomes interesting to watch during the Garoppolo era is slot man Trent Taylor. After all, during Garoppolo’s time with the Patriots, he seemed to lean more on — and had greater success throwing to — slot receivers like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, and the trio combined for an 87 percent catch rate working with Garoppolo in his aforementioned two starts. Taylor is easily worth a stash in dynasty formats.
Brady, meanwhile, now has a clear path to holding the Patriots’ starting job for however long he wants it, which is great news for dynasty owners despite the fact that he’s playing the 2017 season at the age of 40. The veteran hasn’t shown any sign of decline and might well still contribute at a high level as a 41-year-old.
As for the future, Garoppolo, like the aforementioned Cousins in Washington, heads into free agency after the season. There’s therefore no long-term guarantee, but this isn’t the type of move Shanahan and Co. would make if they didn’t believe in Garoppolo as their future under center. While Garoppolo isn’t necessarily a top-15 quarterback for the remainder of this year, next year he might well belong in that group (offseason additions, his adaptation to the playbook, as well as the schedule will factor in), making him a much more attractive dynasty-league add. With some of the game’s more notable names getting up there in years, I’d risk a top-15 quarterback price tag on Garoppolo if I wasn’t contending and was in position to speculate.
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