Notoriously one of the most challenging franchises to get actionable information from, 2014 is shaping up no different in terms of projecting the New England Patriots fantasy value for 2014. With many positions on the depth chart unclear, and the relative workloads for each player to be determined what should drafters do with the perennial contenders?
There has been a lot of positive propaganda in camp around players at all skill positions, and the challenge is trying to weed through the camp talk and determine which players will engage in what roles for the team this coming season.
Will Aaron Dobson indeed draw starters reps on the outside? What role will be played by free agent acquisition Brandon LaFell? Who is doing the early down running for New England? All legitimate questions, but all challenging to answer as well.
Let’s take a look at the offseason rhetoric surrounding each player and endeavor to make some assessments with an eye toward finding draft day value in your fantasy leagues:
- Tom Brady is another year older, but has looked sharp so far through camp and preseason games. The general consensus is that Brady should improve on last year’s QB13 outing with the offense looking healthier, more comfortable and generally more talented. His strong close to 2013 is a good indicator as well.
- Rob Gronkowski is a good bet to play in Week 1. Unless of course he isn’t. This one is hard to peg at this stage, as the team would be well served to ensure Gronkowski is fully healthy before he takes the field. At this point though, the prognosis is better than it was last season and he remains one of the elite TEs in the game when he is on the field.
- Aaron Dobson got his offseason off to a slow start while recovering from foot surgery but is the consensus choice to start opposite Danny Amendola with Julian Edelman largely manning the slot. Amendola, meanwhile, has been impressive in camp again.
- Sophomore Kenbrell Thompkins has looked good as well, and should factor into the team’s receiver rotation. At this point, it seems that he’ll do more damage in the real game than in fantasy circles, though.
- Julian Edelman is coming off a career year, but the prevailing wisdom suggests a significant decrease in targets. The word is that Edelman has been Brady’s ‘go to guy‘ in camp and the two did play 21/21 offensive snaps together in the team’s 2nd preseason game. Still, an 80 catch campaign is much more likely than a return to 100.
- Another in a long list of names at the position, Brandon LaFell has drawn rave reviews from Brady in camp. He is a veteran with size, a combination that the Patriots sorely missed last year and don’t explicitly have on the roster in 2014 either. Still, LaFell has been long on promise throughout his career and has never topped 700 yards receiving or scored more than 5 touchdowns.
- Stevan Ridley still fumbles, and may be doing so right out of a job. Particularly with James White earning his stripes in camp. If nothing else, White figures to factor into the pass game. With that said, assuming Ridley retains goal line work he should be a solid RB3/flex play… if he can hang onto the ball. White has drawn a number of first string opportunities, but does still reside behind Ridley and Vereen in the pecking order to date.
- Shane Vereen is the safest bet of any New England back, likely to assume the role we all projected for him heading into last season though he’ll need to maintain some first and second down reps (holding off White, largely) if he is going to justify an early selection.
In general, when approaching a team with this much uncertainty the best approach may be to avoid the team for fantasy purposes. Certainly, you’ll want to avoid players coming off a career year (i.e. Edelman) as it looks like the ball will be spread in a lot of different directions this year and it will be hard to find value relative to last year’s stats. The others represent risk/reward plays, Gronkowski, Amendola and Dobson because of concerns over injury and the backs because knowing ow their respective roles will play out during the season is all but impossible.
FF Calculator helps us break down the ADP trends by position:
In terms of drafting, truly it may make sense to avoid the depth chart issue at the skill positions altogether. This team is going to win a lot of football games again this season, and they’ll score a lot of points along the way but that desn’t necessarily mean they will have any standout performers. At WR and RB particularly, they look like a team who will spread the ball around a fair bit. That suits their offense just fine, but it doesn’t suit fantasy football relevance.
I like Brady to perform well relative to his draft stock coming off a down year. With little to no cost, you could do worse than fliers on Dobson, Amendola or LaFell with one or more of them likely to catch on in fantasy circles before the year is out. The same can be said for James White who comes on the cheap, but I’d avoid Ridley and perhaps Vereen given the uncertainty of their relative workloads along with their mid round price tag.
Want to see where you can draft New England’s fantasy talent? Try FantasyPros Draft Wizard and mock in minutes.