Fantasy Tour Around the NFL, Part I: The New England Patriots

Over the next few weeks I’ll be going through the 32 teams in the NFL to isolate the current status of their top fantasy-relevant players. First up on our (imaginary) road trip around the U.S. is Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the home of the New England Patriots.

2010 Team Stats:

Rushing Att./Yards/TDs: 454/1,973/19

Passing Att./Yards/TDs/INTs: 507/3,847/37/5

Defense/Sp. Teams Sacks/Turnovers/TDs: 36/36/9

Quarterbacks:

Tom Brady

2010 MVP, Tom Brady, is New England's Blue-Chipper

Tom Brady: Brady, the reigning NFL MVP, obviously owns the position in New England. He’s also the only true blue-chipper in Foxborough fantasy-wise, having scored third among quarterbacks in most formats in 2010. I see him going somewhere late in the second round in 2011, but he’ll probably see a drop in fantasy production, simply because it’s hard to do what he did last year. His fantasy score was built on a league-leading 36 touchdowns passing, and a freakish league-low of 4 interceptions.

Brian Hoyer / Ryan Mallett: It’s always fun to have the backup New England quarterback in the back of your mind. Matt Cassel took over in ’08 and showed that he could put up some decent numbers. If Brady falls, I see Hoyer taking over at first, but the later into the season we get, the more likely Mallett is to be the immediate replacement. Mallett certainly has the arm to be an NFL quarterback, but his off-field issues could point to Belichick seeing him as more of a project than a plug-n-play QB.

Running Backs

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Green-Ellis led the Patriots in 2010 with 1,008 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. It was his first season as the number one back (thanks to Laurence Maroney being traded to Denver, and Fred Taylor being consistently injured). He was used mostly as a short-yardage back in 2008 (his rookie season), and scored 5 touchdowns. In 2009 he didn’t feature much in the offense at all, recording just 114 yards from 26 attempts as part of New England’s running back committee. He’s a restricted free agent this offseason, but he’ll probably be re-signed. With the addition of two backs in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft, BJGE took a reasonably sizeable fantasy hit. He’ll hold his starting spot, but I think Coach Bill is trying to lean more on a committee based approach in 2011.

Danny Woodhead

Danny Woodhead is... five foot something...

Danny Woodhead: After being cut by the Jets and picked up by the Patriots in Week 3, Woodhead became New Englands ‘change-of-pace’ back, and compiled 131 touches for 926 combined yards and 6 touchdowns. At 5’8″ and 195 lbs., he’s a true committee running back, and will probably not see an increase in production in 2011. I don’t think, however, that he will be immediately replaced in his role as a third down change of pace, even with the addition of two backs in the draft.

Shane Vereen: Vereen was picked by the Pats in Round 2 this year, and is a good back in space who can also squeeze through a hole if he needs to. He’s not particularly ‘smash mouth’, but if put in the right position he can be a true home-run hitter. He’ll start off as part of the committee, but could certainly evolve into a bigger role in the future.

Stevan Ridley: Ridley was picked in the third round, and was the first player New England took off the board after Vereen. I see him as a really great addition to the team, but only as a key solidifier of their Running Back by Committee format. He gives the running game solid depth, but unless Vereen and Green-Ellis were limited, I doubt he’d be much of a fantasy option.

Fred Taylor: In his two years in New England, Taylor has played in just 13 games; missing most (if not all) of the other 19 games due to injury. His contract ends this offseason, and at 35, don’t look for his production to ever increase. He’ll probably retire this offseason anyway.

Kevin Faulk: Another player whose contract ends now who’ll probably retire before the next football season (whenever that may be), Faulk went on IR after he injured his knee in week 2 of the 2010 season. When his role was well filled by Danny Woodhead, it seemed like perhaps the final nail in the coffin of Faulk’s fine career.

Sammy Morris: The last of New England’s over-30 free agents this offseason, Morris is more-or-less a fullback. He gathered 20 carries for 56 yards last season, and he’ll turn 34 this season. Not fantasy-relevant.

Wide Receivers

Deion Branch: I feel like Branch, 31, still probably has a couple more seasons in him at about 2010’s productivity. That’s 48 catches for 706 yards and 5 scores. He did play a lot of snaps this year, however, and he’d move to number three in the New England depth chart at receiver if there was a new number one receiver added in free agency.

Wes Welker: The absence of Randy Moss affected Welker’s production in 2010, and it looks like his production will continue to be affected until New England ends up with a proper number-one receiver again. In the first four games of the season (while Randy Moss was a Patriot), Welker caught 26 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns. Without Moss, Welker’s yardage didn’t drop (he finished with 848 yards on the season) but his touchdowns did (he finished with just 7 – 4 in his last 12 games). Basically, Welker got less consistent without Moss, and it’s hurt his fantasy value.

Brandon Tate

Second-year receiver Brandon Tate added to his fantasy value with two kickoff-return touchdowns early in the season.

Brandon Tate: Tate is entering his third year in the New England system, and if a number one receiver is to emerge from within the Patriots, it’ll most likely be Tate. When he was picked by the Pats in round 3 of the 2009 Draft, he had missed the last half of his final college season with a knee injury. It was speculated that, without the injury (which also kept him off the field for the majority of his rookie season), Tate may have been a first-round pick. His production in 2010 still wasn’t close to being decent fantasy-wise (24 receptions, 432 yards and 3 scores), but was lifted slightly by 2 kickoff return scores in the first few weeks of the season. Tate is just 23.

Taylor Price: If Tate isn’t the receiver to emerge from the Patriots this season, it’ll be Price. The Pats spent a fourth-round draft pick on Price in 2010, but he had just 3 receptions for 41 yards on the season, and only played in the final (meaningless) game. He wasn’t injured at any point (that we know of).

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski: Of the two 2010 tight end rookies for the Patriots, Gronkowski probably still has more to show and more to build on in his career. Gronk had almost as many catches and yards as Hernandez, but was more of a goal-line target, with 10 receiving touchdowns. He’ll likely maintain his role as a goal-line receiver, and could well increase his open-field pass catching ability as well. He’ll see more snaps as his blocking ability improves, too.

Aaron Hernandez: In 2010, Hernandez had much the same role that he had in Florida, and he played with the same athleticism. Unfortunately, due to his style of play I don’t think there’s great opportunities for growth in his skillset, so you’re not likely to see many results a huge amount better than his 2010 performance.

Defense/Special Teams

New England’s defense and special teams scored 9 touchdowns in 2010 (that’s high). But their 36 sacks was a little low to be elite. However, this is a very young group that will have a lot of directions to grow in over this offseason. If they can acquire a pass rush, don’t be surprised in 2011 to see the Patriots’ defense carrying them in games where the offense struggles, similar to in their championship 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.


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4 Responses to “Fantasy Tour Around the NFL, Part I: The New England Patriots”

  1. […] the NFL, reviewing each team’s fantasy stars and their situations heading into the offseason. Check out the first article – The New England Patriots – here. Tagged with: Fantasy […]

  2. AC Slater says:

    Taylor Price was a 4th round pick just saying.

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