By Derek Guilford. Bill Belichick’s crew are back again this fall with their eye on another Super Bowl Championship, boasting an abundance of fantasy talent along the way. The Patriots fantasy preview is a good one.
Even with Tom Brady’s four-game Deflate Gate suspension to open the season, ‘Tom-terrific’ will still hold his annual QB1 spot throwing down huge numbers in an offense that’s sure to be pass heavy when he returns. Brady will frequently pass to his generational talent at tight end in Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, while he remains an injury concern, is healthy and poised for another monster campaign.
The Patriots added Martellus Bennett via trade to feature in two-tight end sets. At wide receiver, 2015 starters Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola remain. Edelman holds high value in PPR leagues as a candidate for 100+ targets/75 catches. The other fantasy pieces are LaGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, and James White at running back, and Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell at wide receiver, all of whom should chip in when called upon.
The Patriots boast one of the premiere fantasy defenses in the league even after trading pass rush specialist Chandler Jones. Linebackers Jamie Collins, Donte Hightower and Rob Ninkovich form one of the best linebacker cores in ‘The Shield.’ And, their secondary with safety Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler, and Logan Ryan have premiere potential written all over them.
What more can be said about Tom Brady? He put up another tremendous season in 2015, throwing for 4,770 yards and 36 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. He’s showing NO signs of slowing down at age 38 despite entering his seventeenth season as a pro. Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. Regardless, even if Brady must sit out a quartet of games, he is still in the upper-tier of fantasy quarterbacks (top five) you want on your team. Brady is a solid selection in round five or six of all fantasy drafts. Just handcuff him with a solid QB2 for the first four weeks of the season.
Jimmy Garoppolo will be a player to watch during Brady’s four-game ban to add as a backup if Brady or your QB starter goes down during the season. You shouldn’t be streaming Jimmy Garoppolo unless you drafted quarterback turns out to be a bust that soon in the season.
In the Patriots fantasy preview, Blount is sitting pretty as the Patriots main running back option after the Patriots didn’t address the position in the draft. LeGarrette Blount is fully healthy coming off a hip injury that cut short his 2015 season. He’ll get the lion’s share of red-zone touches. Free agent RB signee Donald Brown figures to add into the mix as does Dion Lewis and James White. But expect the Patriots backfield to play out with Blount leading the way in touches and touchdowns. Blount should easily boast a line of 200-plus carries, 1,000-plus yards and 7-plus touchdowns. His line should be better with Brady set to miss the first four games of the season.
Lewis tore his ACL last year and has been rehabbing his way back. Reports suggest he’s early and expected to be ready for Week 1. Dion Lewis was very productive putting up 622 total yards with four touchdowns in seven games before going down to injury. Lewis is an excellent complement to LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Lewis is a better grab in PPR leagues where he is being drafted in the fourth round as he could easily haul in 70 receptions. In standard leagues, you can select Lewis towards the eighth round. Lewis should be in line for 1,000 all-purpose yards if he can stay healthy.
White ended last season on a high note, drawing 16 targets and catching for 45 yards in the AFC Championship Game versus the Broncos. Due to the Bronco’s vaunted pass rush, Brady was forced to check down throughout. Don’t expect White to draw such attention and targets this season. He is behind LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis in the Patriots fantasy preview despite mixing in on third downs for passing down work. White will get first and second down carries occasionally as he mixed into the offense. But, he won’t get the bulk of the work unless one of the two bodies in front of him go down. White is worth monitoring on the waiver wire and snagging him if injuries hit the Pats backfield.
Bolden is more of the ‘scat back’ for the Patriots. He contributed in 15 games rushing for 207 yards on 63 catches but no touchdowns. Bolden hauled in 19 grabs for 180 yards and a pair of TDs, however. He is a depth option for this team and one that won’t stand out in fantasy. Expect similar numbers in 2016 unless Bolden is forced into full-time duty.
Rob Gronkowski did his typical All-World tight end ‘thing’ last season, throwing down 1,176 yards receiving, 11 TDs on 72 catches. Gronkowski stayed healthy, playing in 15 games. Even though he is the undeniable best tight end today, Gronkowski has battled his fair share of injuries in the past. As long as he can stay on the field, expect Rob Gronkowski to go late in the first round and put up 1,200-plus yards, 10-plus TDs, and 75-plus receptions, even with new TE Martellus Bennett now in the fold.
Bennett came over via trade from the Bears, giving the Patriots the great one-two tight end combination they’ve been looking for since 2013. Like Rob Gronkowski, “Marty B” is a mammoth target at 6-foot-6-inches, 273 pounds. Bennett has never won a title, so he’s on a mission with the Patriots to achieve it in his ninth season as a pro. Plus, this is a contract year for Bennett. In 2015, he put up a modest 439 yards and 3 TDs for the Bears. Expect a bump in those numbers around the 650-750 range and 5 TDs. Bennett’s Patriots fantasy preview sees Bennett dancing with TE1 status at some point this season.
Another rehabilitating Patriots playmaker, Julian Edelman is coming off two foot surgeries this offseason, but is expected to be ready for training camp. Edelman disappointed last year with only 693 receiving yards, but hauled in a career-high 7 touchdowns. His fantasy prospects are a little darker this year with the competition around him, so don’t jump to draft him in the early rounds. He projects better as a WR3 this season.
The oft-injured Danny Amendola is coming back from knee and ankle injuries suffered in 2015. Amendola had his best year since joining the Pats, snagging 65 receptions for 648 yards and 3 TDs. Not only will Amendola be battling the big TEs and Julian Edelman for targets, but will battle new-comer, former Bills wide receiver Chris Hogan for targets too. Amendola is an injury risk. He should start the season on fantasy waiver wires.
The Patriots brought Chris Hogan over from the Bills on a 3-year, $12 million deal. He’s earned the nickname “7-11” because he’s always open. Hogan is a great fit in the Patriots scheme because he is silky smooth, runs great routes, and a heady player that will analyze the Patriots playbook. Chris Hogan was a lacrosse player in college before having to earn a spot on the Dolphins and Giants practice squads. Then, he had to work hard to carve out a niche and earn a spot on the Bills roster. Hogan is a self-made man and a diligent hard worker that the Patriots love. Chris Hogan could produce better numbers than his 36 catches, 450 yards, and 2 touchdowns in 2015. Monitor his offseason as the Patriots like him. Hogan is a sleeper in the Patriots fantasy preview.
Martin signed a two-year extension with the Patriots practically guaranteeing him a roster spot for 2016. He is more of a lower-end role player in this offense, so don’t expect fantasy fireworks. Martin posted 24 grabs for 269 yards and 2 TDs for the nine games he was active last year. Martin is only worth a roster spot if some players in front of him go down. Otherwise, Martin will start the season on fantasy waiver wires.
Going on 33 years of age, the Patriots are Nate Washington’s fourth team in his 11 NFL seasons. Washington is more of a role player at this point in his career. But, the Patriots badly need his outside receiver playmaking ability with their surplus of slot wide-outs. Nate Washington hauled in 47 balls for 658 yards and four TDs last year for the Texans. Monitor his offseason as he still must earn a roster spot.
Only four rookie wide receivers have caught over twenty balls while on the Patriots: Deion Branch (43 in 2002); Julian Edelman (37 in 2009); Aaron Dobson (37 in 2013); and, Kenbrell Thompkins (32 in 2013). Clearly, it takes time for receivers to earn the trust needed to get the attention it takes and to learn the playbook to do well in the offense. Malcolm Mitchell brings that outside, downfield receiver with home-run speed and youth at the position they desperately needed. Mitchell will be a fantasy player in time, but likely not this season.
Patriots Fantasy Preview