The knock on the NFL’s trade deadline has been a lack of meaningful trades compared to the deadline deals in the other major sports. Well, table that criticism until 2018, because the NFL’s hot stove has plenty of sizzle in 2017.
The biggest deadline blockbuster – at least as of this writing – saw the San Francisco 49ers acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots for a 2018 2nd round draft pick. The Patriots likely get an early second round pick (barring a miraculous midseason turnaround by the Niners), and likely aren’t done dealing. Rumors immediately began swirling that the Patriots would deal the pick for defensive help. New England will also be in the market for a backup quarterback to 40-year-old legend Tom Brady, so bookmark Dynasty Football Factory for instant news and reactions to the Patriots’ roster fluidity.
The San Francisco side of the trade is the real story, as head coach and offensive mastermind, Kyle Shanahan gets a young, polished quarterback to run his offense, in a similar system to the one he just left in New England. Garoppolo will be Shanahan’s third starting quarterback in his 9-game head coaching career (assuming Garoppolo is ready to start in Week 9 at home against Arizona); the 49ers began the season with Brian Hoyer as their starter but benched him in favor of rookie C.J. Beathard in Week 6. Beathard obviously failed his two-plus game audition, as San Francisco was willing to trade a draft pick in the mid-thirties to address the glaring need for a signal-caller. The move is relatively low-risk for the Niners though, as Garoppolo is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Shanahan and GM John Lynch can take an eight-game look at the young quarterback and decide if they want to spend some of their $90 million in cap space on an extension or apply the franchise tag and take another year to make a decision.
Garoppolo is largely unproven, though he was extremely effective in a small sample size, completing 59 passes for 496 yards and four touchdowns in two games while Brady served a suspension to begin the 2016 season. Head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have made some very mediocre passers look like the second coming of Brady over the years, but Garoppolo joins an equally potent, West Coast-style offense guided by Shanahan, who managed Matt Ryan to a career year and the Most Valuable Player award in 2016 as offensive coordinator of the Falcons. The transition should be seamless; Garoppolo will work from a similar playbook to the one he already knows, featuring lots of short-to-intermediate throws to “joker”-type offensive playmakers, primarily WR Pierre Garcon, RB Carlos Hyde, TE George Kittle and WR Marquise Goodwin for the remainder of the 2017 season.
After the Patriots pumped up the value on pedestrian quarterbacks like Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel, and Ryan Mallett, only to dump them on unsuspecting QB-needy teams (like flaming bags of dog you-know-what left on the porch), the concern is that Garoppolo could be the latest flaming poo bag, this time left for Shanahan and Lynch to stomp out. A little tea leaves reading tells a different story, however: the Cleveland Browns – a fellow AFC team – made a similar offer of an early 2017 2nd round pick, plus unspecified late round picks. The Patriots still wouldn’t part with Garoppolo, even for substantial draft capital. Now the defending champs let Garoppolo go to an NFC team at a discount, knowing that they will only have to compete with the former Brady protege every four years (unless the two teams meet in the Super Bowl). That should speak volumes for the regard Belichick has for Garoppolo’s abilities.
The fantasy impact changes very little for Garoppolo. In redraft leagues, he is only startable in deep superflex and 2QB leagues. The weapons at his disposal are uninspiring, and the schedule the rest of the season is treacherous, with matchups against top passing defenses including the Giants, the Seahawks, the Bears and the Jaguars still to come. Dynasty owners should stay the course and hold onto Garoppolo; the trade certainly expedites his viability, as Brady’s prolonged career is no longer the limiting factor, but his value won’t increase much in 2017. Half a season in Shanahan’s system, a full offseason and training camp, and $90 million in cap space to spend on offensive weapons will only improve Garoppolo’s chances of emerging in 2018 as a fantasy-relevant quarterback.