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End to Brady suspension a game-changer for NFL fantasy football

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Tom Brady: 'You Do the Best You Can Do'


Tom Brady is back, and for plenty of fantasy football fans his return marks a dramatic shift in strategy. The New England Patriots star quarterback will suit up this Thursday for his team's season opener, after U.S. District Judge Richard Berman threw out the National Football League's four-game suspension against him in the now notorious "Deflategate" case.

The development is a game-changer in the league – and for the millions of fantasy football fanatics across the country, especially those who put their money behind Brady in early drafts.

SEE ALSO: Brady wants to move on from 'Deflategate'

Last year an estimated 41 million people played in fantasy football leagues, most wagering upwards of $100 for the season. In fantasy football, participants create virtual teams by "drafting" existing players from the NFL. Each week a fan's team goes head-to-head with another in the league, and the score is based on the real-life, statistical performance of the people on the fan's squad.

For many leagues, drafting wraps up this week, although, depending on a league's rules, a fan may be able to trade players throughout the season.

In general, fantasy football team owners receive points each week when their players do something right (for instance, a wide receiver catching a pass for a touchdown) and lose points when they do something wrong (such as a quarterback throwing an interception).

For some fantasy football fans, the allure of drafting Brady, the Super Bowl XLIX most valuable player, outweighed concerns about his potential four-game suspension.

LONG SHOT

"There's always your stats guy; there's always your fan guy," said Zack Jones, editor in chief of SportsbookReview.com, a sports analytics and commentary site. "And there's always the guy who wants to go for the long shot."

Stuart Green, a 10-year fantasy veteran, said he did not pick up Brady - but his 13-year-old son grabbed him in the seventh round of one of the numerous leagues he participates in, in a draft held prior to the Berman ruling.

"He now thinks he's a genius," quipped Green, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan and senior vice president of strategic accounts at Symphony Health in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.

"We all were just kind of staring at (Brady's name) on the board wondering if anyone was going to do it," said Todd Wachtel, an attorney in New Jersey who has wagered $265 this season. Eventually, Brady went in the ninth round of his 10-person draft.

"I have two friends who drafted Tom in the third round (in separate drafts), and they could not be happier," said Jason Jepson, a vice president of a public relations agency in Austin, Texas, whose eight-person league has a total of $2,000 on the line. "They are celebrating as their friends berated them."

GAME CHANGER

Brandon Marianne Lee, founder of Her Fantasy Football, a fantasy ranking and analysis site, and an analyst for fantasy site FanDuel, said Brady's return to the field could have repercussions for the players around him.

"The biggest impact is on wide receivers," Lee said, noting that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman's value from a fantasy prospective has increased dramatically. Wide receivers working with a top-tier quarterback are likely to be more productive than those working with a backup, even a good one.

Experts say fantasy fans would be wise to look at how Brady's week-one status affects the rest of his team. With a reliable quarterback active for week one, Patriots receivers could catch more passes and, subsequently, pick up more fantasy points.

"(The ruling) moved Brady up, obviously," noted KC Joyner, a senior ESPN NFL & Fantasy Football Insider and analytics expert. But "it helps the guys around him."

For example, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski is now a top-five draft pick, Joyner said.

'WHO IS LAUGHING NOW?'

While Brady will return to Gillette Stadium this week, the "Deflategate" saga is far from over.

See photos from the 'Deflategate' saga:

23 PHOTOS
Deflategate scandal - Tom Brady - Bill Belichick - Patriots - Football - NFL
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End to Brady suspension a game-changer for NFL fantasy football
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 31: Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots leaves federal court after contesting his four game suspension with the NFL on August 31, 2015 in New York City. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman had required NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady to be present in court when the NFL and NFL Players Association reconvened their dispute over Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension. The two sides failed to reach an agreement to their seven-month standoff. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots participates in warmups prior to a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 22, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves federal court after appealing the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves the Federal District Courthouse August 12, 2015 in New York. Brady and NFL. Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady met with Judge Richard M. Berman who questioned both sides about Bradys four-game suspension for his role in the 'deflate-gate' scandal after the NFL decided Brady was aware that the balls were deflated in the first half of the Super Bowl final in January 2015. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 28: A fan taunts Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots as he takes the field during their preseason NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 28, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 13: A fan holds a 'Free Brady' sign in the crowd referencing Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on August 13, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A group of people wearing 'Deflategate' hats wait outside federal court during a conference meeting between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Berman seems intent on getting a settlement of a dispute over Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated game balls -- in what's come to be known as Deflategate. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24: Ryan Desilets and Jon Harmon both from Milford, Massachusetts, show support for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the 'Free Tom Brady' rally at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The rally was held in protest of Brady's four game suspension for his role in the 'deflategate' scandal. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PHOENIX - JANUARY 27: The annual 'Media Day' for the Super Bowl was held at the US Airways Arena in downtown Phoenix. Players and coaches from first the New England Patriots, then the Seattle Seahawks, spent over an hour taking questions from the media. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looked unusually upbeat as he listened to a question. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Behind the scenes: Making the Super Bowl XLIX footballs! #SB49 đź“·: Rick Osentoski/AP
Making of the @SuperBowl XLIX footballs [PHOTOS]: http://t.co/qayPQfqt0A #SB49 http://t.co/0dQRKYgClH
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 26: A fan holds a sign referencing 'deflate-gate,' the under inflation of footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship game, during the New England Patriots Send-Off Rally at City Hall Plaza on January 26, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots will face the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XLIX on Sunday. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18: Umpire Carl Paganelli #124 holds a ball on the field after a play during the 2015 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It was reported on January 19, 20015 that the league is looking into the apparent use of deflated footballs by the New England Patriots during their game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 and Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with the vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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After the judge overturned Brady's suspension, the NFL appealed the ruling. If successful, the NFL would have the power to reinstate Brady's suspension. And it remains unclear whether this could affect the 2015 season – and fantasy football.

Jamie O'Grady, an attorney and the editor of The Cauldron, a sports news and analysis site, said, "no one knows" the timeline for the appeals process. "The league doesn't necessarily want to litigate this in the near term because they want to focus on the season," O'Grady says.

For Lori Jung, a public relations specialist with firm Hudson West, who put up $150 for her 10-person league, that risk was too great.

"I picked up starters," Jung said. "I don't like to take any kind of gamble." Jung's strategy means that – barring a last-minute injury or personal conduct issue – every player she drafted will be on the field in week one.

Even so, Brady went in the second round of her draft – and the person who drafted him took a fair share of jeering for the move.

"But who's laughing now, right?"

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