With the start of the NFL Season quickly approaching with teams heading to Training Camp, we will begin to look at teams from a Fantasy Football standpoint.
Coming off a 12-4 season and a trip to the AFC Championship game, the New England Patriots headed into the off-season with a huge question. Will they resign Wes Welker and if they don’t how do they replace him? Well back in March the first question was answered and they didn’t. The second part of the question was answered with the signing of Danny Amendola and seemingly moving Aaron Hernandez to the slot, with a hopefully healthy Jake Ballard into his spot on the line.
Rob Gronkowski‘s broken forearm didn’t heal as the Patriots and he would hope, after having multiple surgeries to clear up infections, and then stunning people with a precautionary trip back under the knife to clean up his back.
The biggest shock of the off-season happened in mid June when Aaron Hernandez was being investigated in relation to a homicide and then a week later charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.
The Patriots have done a good job since in distancing themselves from the former TE that wore #81, and the players are trying to remove the the distraction. But let’s look at the depth chart and try to help you with your fantasy drafts.
Tom Brady is still a top 3 NFL QB, brain wise. This season will most likely not prove to be the past 3 years of Brady, fantasy wise. I believe you can still pencil him in for 3500+ yards, 30 TD’s and less than 8 interceptions. but in saying that most of those will come post October 1st. Getting Gronkowski healthy hopefully by then, acclimating Amendola to the offense to fill the Welker role. The questions in the passing game, may be relieved by the emergence of the running game last season.
Stevan Ridley isn’t a 350+ carry back, but he is a guy who should be able to carry rock 250-300 times and score you 10 TD’s and gain you over 1100 yards. A good 2nd back or 1st in a deeper league. Shane Vereen proved he could catch the ball on swing routes and you saw that in two memorable catches against the New York Jets in the now infamous “Buttfumble” game and against Houston in the Divisional Round. If he shows the durability to carry the ball 150+ times and catch 50 passes, the Patriots offense should be fine and in position to win a sort of strengthened AFC East, and make a run into the Playoffs.
When it comes to Rob Gronkowski’s fantasy outlook, it all depends on when he makes his way back onto the field. With the Patriots first two games coming within 5 days of each other against the Bills and Jets, expect Gronk to be back onto the field anytime after week 3. If he plays in 12+ games, you can pencil in #87 for 800+ yards and 10+ TD’s. The Patriots TE’s won’t have the same dynamic effect as it has had since 2010, but with Gronk, Ballard, Hooman, and Daniel Fells. expect the Patriots TE’s as a whole to have 100+ receptions, 1500+ yards and 15 TD’s.
Patriots WR’s since Randy Moss haven’t been down the field threats. The biggest question there is, Can they find a way to replace Wes Welker’s sure hands on 3rd and medium. If Amendola can produce at 75% of Welker’s production, that’s good for nearly 90 catches and 900 yards. A healthy Julian Edelman can be counted on for 50 catches and 600 yards. the Patriots have waited a long time to see if drafting Edelman can prove to be a productive WR. With the acquisition of Leon Washington, Edelman will not have to handle the kick return duties. Aaron Dobson and Michael Jenkins are tough to call fantasy wise, because of as you’ve seen in the past, if #12 doesn’t trust throwing them the ball, they won’t see it too often.
Where should you draft the Patriots?
Tom Brady 4th or 5th Round
Stevan Ridley 8th-12th Round
Shane Vereen 16th-20th Round
Rob Gronkowski 10th-14th round
Danny Amendola after the 15th Round
Julian Edelman free agent pickup
Stephen Gostkowski top 5 K