Fantasy Projections for the New England Patriots' Top Offensive Stars
If you're drafting someone on the New England Patriots not named Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., fantasy football owners need to proceed with caution.
Bill Belichick doesn't care about doling out consistent playing time. He doesn't care about fairness. He only seems to care about matching up the right player for the right situation, no matter if you are in the playoffs against your brother-in-law or not.
To clear up the waters, here are my statistical projections for each Patriot likely to be drafted and—assuming a 12-person league—where I think they should be drafted.
Tom Brady: 398 completions, 5,088 yards, 37 touchdowns
While Brady may start slow—Aaron Dobson and Rob Gronkowski are coming back from injury—the New England Patriots offense should be hitting its stride as the fantasy football season really heats up in Week 13 and beyond.
Assuming healthy bodies at all positions—a tough assumption to make unfortunately—Brady has a surfeit of talent surrounding him. Shane Vereen, Gronkowski and the combination of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the slot makes three matchup problems that can be deployed all over the field.
Add in a revamped offensive line and two young quarterbacks pushing him, and this could be one of Brady's better years.
Stevan Ridley: 209 carries, 948 yards, eight touchdowns
As pictured above, Ridley needs to hold on to the ball to be able to hold on to the starting job. Nipping at his heels will be Shane Vereen and rookie James White, both of whom would serve better as a complementary back.
If Ridley—like Adrian Peterson—can overcome his fumbling issues and earn Bill Belichick's trust, he could be a top fantasy option at running back.
Shane Vereen: 85 carries, 406 yards, two touchdowns / 64 receptions, 678 yards, three touchdowns
Like Ridley, Vereen has had problems hanging on to his job. With the latter, it has been his inability to stay healthy. After missing half the season in 2013 with a wrist injury and with White waiting in the wings, Vereen needs to show he can finish a full season.
Much of Vereen's production will come in the passing game. If an opponent has linebackers that excel in coverage, his numbers could suffer. I don't think you can count on Vereen to be a weekly starter for your fantasy team.
Rob Gronkowski: 55 receptions, 855 yards, nine touchdowns
I wouldn't be surprised if the New England Patriots brought back Gronkowski in a very slow manner. They have shown that they can win regular-season games without him, but they need a full-strength Gronkowski to win the Super Bowl.
If you're willing to be patient, Gronkowski's production will be as absurd as always. Even if he has lost a step with his knee injury, his size and strength will get him looks inside the 20-yard line. As long as he plays 10-plus games, he'll be worth a top-50 selection.
Julian Edelman: 77 receptions, 845 yards, six touchdowns
Some regression to the mean is probable here after a 100-catch, 1,000-yard breakout performance in 2013. It could have more to do with the parts surrounding him, though, than his own skills.
A healthy Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson would mean fewer opportunities for Edelman. However, those three aren't the most reliable when it comes to their health. Edelman is a safe choice in the middle rounds who could surprise on the upside if injuries sweeten his situation.
Danny Amendola: 68 receptions, 811 yards, five touchdowns
A healthy Amendola—not Edelman—was once the recipient of Tom Brady's gaze in pressure situations, racking up 10 catches in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately, a torn groin sapped his explosiveness and held him back the rest of the season.
If he can regain his strength in 2014, Amendola could steal some targets from his fellow receivers. Like Edelman, Amendola should be a consistent producer that has some room to grow if other receivers fall by the wayside.
Aaron Dobson: 56 receptions, 904 yards, seven touchdowns
Speaking of upside, Dobson has a chance to be a top-10 receiver in the NFL. To get there, though, he'll need to be healthy. A lingering foot injury could potentially be a problem if he is unable to build chemistry with Brady this offseason.
Like with Rob Gronkowski, if you can afford to be patient, Dobson presents a great value in the second half of the draft. Look for an explosive second half of the season for this second-year player.
Stephen Gostkowski: 38 field goals, 61 extra points
Unless you're drafting the mythical Gus, kickers really shouldn't get picked until the last couple of rounds. If you're going to break that mold, however, Gostkowski is a good bet.
Gostkowski is astoundingly accurate—86 percent over his career—and the New England Patriots offense gives him plenty of opportunities. You'll probably have to overpay, but Gostkowski won't disappoint.