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Tuesday, 23 July 2013 19:03

Fantasy Football Forecast: New England Patriots

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The New England Patriots have had a crazy offseason that started off with Wes Welker packing his bags and moving over to the Denver Broncos. This offense looks drastically different than it did a year ago, as four of Tom Brady’s top-5 receivers last year are no longer on the team, and the one remaining may be out for an undisclosed amount of time. With the additions of Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson, the Patriots receiving core is getting younger, and Pats Nation hopes that chemistry can be built quickly to keep this high powered offense just that. Below I’ll go into the new-look Patriots and how each starter can contribute to your Fantasy Football team this upcoming season.

Tom Brady – At the age of 35 and with his most reliable WR Wes Welker now gone, a lot of people believe Tom won’t be able to keep up his high level of play. Personally, I’m not worried. Tom Brady doesn’t need a high level receiver to be effective, and I consider Brady to be one of the few QB’s in the league that can work with anyone. Amendola is very capable of being a Welker-esque receiver if he stays healthy (yes, big if) and I have a hunch Dobson will be the vertical threat the Pats need him to be. Will the Pats lean on the run more? Will Brady take fewer risks? Will there be some communication issues with his receivers? Sure, but look at Peyton Manning last year who went into a new system coming off of surgery with an entirely new receiving core, and look at how that turned out. Brady’s options are by no means bad, they just aren’t as flashy as everyone is used to and that’s no reason to doubt one of the league’s best QBs. Brady will find a way to make it work, he always does.

Danny Amendola – I get it, the guy can’t stay healthy. His only full season (his sophomore season) yielded 683 yards and 3 TDs, nothing special. Guess what? Welker’s sophomore season yielded 687 yards and 1 TD. Why exactly can’t Amendola be better than Welker? He’s considered the same type of player, and faster. I understand injury is a big concern, but just because he’s had a bad injury bug the past two seasons doesn’t mean he can never be healthy. If this guy makes it a full season he’ll be a stud, a top-15, even top-10 fantasy WR. In standard leagues draft him as your WR2 and if you’re in a PPR league take him higher. I think Amendola can finish with a 1,100 yard, 7 TD, and 100 reception seas

Aaron Dobson – The wild card of this offense in my opinion. We don’t have much other than college highlights to go by, and like most of this offense, he is unproven. The Patriots have had solid drafts for the past two years and if that is any indication of how things go this year I can’t completely doubt Dobson’s skill. This is a very wait and see situation, so that’s the approach I advise for this fantasy season. In snake drafts take him towards the later rounds and in auction drafts spend $1 on him and stick along for the ride.

Michael Jenkins – I don’t really understand this move. Yes he’s a veteran and with the loss of Welker this locker room does need some veteran leadership other than Brady, but Jenkins doesn’t really bring a lot to the table to me. He’s an okay receiver at best, and I don’t think he’ll be a prominent part of the offense. In 9 seasons his best year was 2008 when he scored 3 TDs with 777 receiving yards. I don’t advise drafting Jenkins, as I don’t think he’ll have a consistent impact on the field other than a few catches here or there.

Rob Gronkowski – The Gronk has begun rehab work and we have no indication whether he’ll be ready for the start of the season or not. Regardless, he’s still arguably the best TE in the league and when he does return he’ll continue to be the unstoppable red-zone threat he’s been for the past 3 seasons. I don’t have any doubts regarding what he can bring to the table; it’s just a question of when he’ll return. In 11 games last year Gronk had 790 yards and 11 TDs. Gronk only needed 11 games to finish 2nd among TEs in fantasy scoring (Jimmy Graham didn’t finish too far ahead) and while his injuries may linger, there aren’t many offensive threats in this league as dominant as him.

Stevan Ridley – The biggest surprise of this offense last season was Steven Ridley. Finishing with 1,263 rushing yards and 12 TDs was much unexpected and with most of the receiving options from last year gone, it’s widely believed the Pats will lean on the running game more. If that holds true, you can expect an increase from the 290 carries (a Pats RB having 300+ carries??) he had last year. I think Ridley can finish with about the same amount of TDs as the Pats like to run when they’re at the goal line, but Ridley needs to make sure he stays out of Coach’s doghouse. Belichick does not play games with people who drop the ball (literally) and although Ridley only fumbled 4 times last season, that’s enough to make Bill lose faith in a player.

Shane Vereen – The guy waiting to clean up Ridley’s mistakes. Although Ridley is the #1 guy, Belichick isn’t the type to shy away from switching things up over the course of a game or season. Vereen only had 4 TDs last season, but he did gain 3 in the postseason against the Texans and his extended use in that game is more indicative of how I think his season could go this year. With Woodhead gone Vereen can and most likely will pick up most of those extra carries left behind, and he’s been able to show he’s a nice receiving option out of the backfield. This year will be the most field time Vereen has seen in his brief career and I expect him to make the most of them. Draft him as a handcuff for Ridley with the expectation that he’ll fill in as a decent Flex option for the season.

Stephen Gostkowski – Not much to say here. Gostkowski has been extremely consistent and due to the Pats’ offensive efficiency he’s normally in position to score, whether it’s a field goal or an extra point. Not only does he get ample opportunities, but he’s also very accurate, averaging 84.2% over her career. Gostkowski is my #1 Kicker going into this season, but never draft a kicker prior to the last round.

Patriots DST – The Pats will look to improve on last year’s defensive efforts by maintaining the staunch run defense they’ve grown into having. They were 9th in the league in giving up only 101 yards per game, but they need their defensive backs to pick it up. Giving up 271 passing yards per game was 29th in the league and is nothing to be proud about. Luckily for the defense they became very efficient at creating turnovers, causing 21 fumbles and 20 interceptions. Those 41 total turnovers put them 2nd in the league behind the Chicago Bears, and although it’s impossible to predict whether they can keep that up, I think it’s safe to say this defense is headed down the right track. The DST in total accrued 8 TDs, which is pretty good overall. I think this is a top-10 defense and I’d feel good about drafting this unit.

Any Patriots questions or concerns? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @CLNS_Marc and voice them there.