This is an installment of a weekly presentation of each NFL team’s top fantasy players by position. Check out our analysis on the Miami Dolphins.
With these articles you will find a player from each key position to target in fantasy football. The lists will consist as to why they are chosen as the top player for their respective positions and teams, players poised to breakout or as sleepers, 2pt specialists and a new format based off of individual defensive players.
The New England Patriots (12-4 record & first in the AFC East) started the season a little rocky, and Tom Brady’s play had people calling him washed up. Then, the team started to heat up at the right time, and Tom Brady had put himself into the MVP race. The biggest addition to the Patriots did not come during the offseason, but in the middle of the season. After some controversial problems with Pittsburgh, LeGarrette Blount was dropped mid-season. The Patriots came in and swooped up Blount, who played a key role to their Super Bowl run, with his ground and pound running ability. The soon to be Super Bowl champions cruised through the playoffs, on their way to facing the defending champion, Seattle Seahawks. One of the best finishes in Super Bowl history, Malcolm Butler had the game sealing interception in the end zone. The Patriots overcame doubt with their additions of Darrelle Revis, Brandon LaFell, Brandon Browner and LaGarrette Blount, all helped play vital roles in the team’s Super Bowl run.
QB Tom Brady/ Jimmy Garoppolo: With the “Deflategate” four game suspension looming over Brady, Garoppolo is the starter and fantasy relevant for the first four weeks. I would not roster Garoppolo for his four games, he should not be able to do what Brady can with the lack of weapons on offense (not including Gronk & Edelman). When Brady returns, as a fantasy owner, swoop him up, because he will be back with a vengeance. If he is available and you do not have a top six or seven quarterback, go get Brady and stash him on your bench until he returns.
TE Rob Gronkowski: Not only is “Gronk” the best tight end in the league when healthy, he is one of the best overall players in the entire league. With his blend of size, speed and physicality, Gronk plays the game like people wish they could, effortlessly. The number one fantasy tight end, Gronk was a big question mark last season after coming off of knee and elbow surgeries. As one of two tight ends with over 1,000 yards, Gronk also had 12 touchdowns, he was also the 40th ranked fantasy player. This season, with the Brady suspension, I expect Gronk to see plenty of targets and for him to be the safety valve for Jimmy Garoppolo. Gronk should be drafted as one of top 15 overall players in drafts, and do not be afraid to spend some money in auction leagues.
WR Julian Edelman: Everyone expected the Patriots to struggle when they lost Wes Welker, but they might have gotten better with Edelman stepping into Welker’s shoes. Edelman brings more playmaking ability than Welker, and he also is one of the league’s top punt returners. Sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, he should be ready in time for opening weekend. If he is, Edelman will be one of the safety valves for second year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Edelman should continue to lead the team in targets and be second to only “Gronk” in yards and receiving touchdowns. His draft stock may be on the decline with the loss of Brady, but expect him to be a hot commodity when Brady does return.
RB LaGarrette Blount: Blount was one of the key pieces to the Patriots Super Bowl run last season. With a one game suspension, Blount will have every opportunity to be the lead back once he returns. With Brady’s four game suspension, expect the Patriots offense to rely heavily on Blount with Garoppolo as the starter. Blount has the chance to be a top 15 fantasy back this season, and for him to push for eight to 10 touchdowns.
WR Reggie Wayne: The future hall of fame receiver, comes over to the Patriots after spending 14 seasons in Indianapolis, Wayne looks to end his career in a Patriots uniform. Wayne, who was just signed over a week ago is already running with the first team, and should see some significant playing time this season. With Brandon LaFell likely headed to the PUP to start the season, Wayne should have every opportunity to be a factor for the Patriots. Keep an eye on Wayne, especially when Brady returns from his suspension.
LB Jamie Collins: In just his second season in the league, Collins proved to be the Patriots biggest playmaker. All over the field, Collins posted 115 total tackles, eight for loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. As the number eight ranked fantasy linebacker, Collins is only getting better. In terms of production and playmaking ability, I would put Collins in the same category as the likes of Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, and CJ Mosley. I would put him as one of the must have defensive players in all IDP formats, and I fully expect him to be a top five linebacker.
DE Rob Ninkovich: Ninkovich might be one of the most underrated defensive players the last five years. As the ninth ranked fantasy d-lineman, Ninkovich posted 11 tackles for loss, eight sacks and one defensive touchdown. I expect some of his statistics to dip a bit with the loss of Vince Wilfork, but I fullt expect him to still be around the top 10 defensive lineman.
DE Chandler Jones: Even after playing in just 10 games, Jones still managed to rank 27th for fantasy defensive lineman. With six sacks and two forced fumbles, I can only imagine what those numbers might have been had he played the entire regular season. Jones is an athletic freak who is excellent against both the pass and the run. This season, if he can stay healthy, Jones should catapult himself into the top 10-15 for d-lineman in fantasy and IDP formats.
S Devin McCourty: Most people would not consider McCourty a sleeper on the football field, but in terms of fantasy value, last season was a disappointing one. Failing to be in the top 50 for fantasy defensive backs, McCourty’s value is unquestioned in real life, but for fantasy he needs to regain his turnover prowess. I expect him to be in better positions for turnovers this season, and to be all over the field for the Patriots.
CB Malcolm Butler: The Super Bowl hero, Butler was an unknown rookie free agent last season, who worked his way up the depth chart. Doing so, he found himself in the position to make one of the best plays in Super Bowl history. Fast forward to the 2015 season, Butler finds himself as one of the starters at corner, with the departures of Revis and Browner. I expect Butler to be one of the hidden gems throughout the season for the Patriots, and for him to be a sleeper in IDP fantasy formats.
K Stephen Gostkowski: The number one fantasy kicker last season, Gostkowski was nearly perfect in his field goal attempts. Comverting 35 of 37 field goals and all 51 of his extra points, Gostkowski has been one of the most consistent kickers in the league since he took over the kicking duties almost 10 years ago. Continue to draft him as the number one kicker until he proves otherwise.
2Pt Specialist: With the extra point line being pushed back to the 15 yard line teams might consider going for two after touchdowns this coming season. Some of the key players to look for the Patriots to rely on in these situations are star tight end Rob Gronkowski. The All-Pro tight end is a matchup nightmare all over the field, especially in the red zone where he can take advantage of his height and body control. Lastly, LaGarrette Blount, who is one of the best short yardage backs in the league, and is a proven commodity in the red zone. Those are the key players for the Patriots in the red zone and potential two point plays.
Rookie Impact: As rookies go, the Patriots do not have any incoming rookies who are expected to play meaningful minutes. The only rookies to keep an eye on this season are incoming fifth round pick, long snapper Joe Cardona out of Navy, who is expected to be the team’s starting snapper. Then, there is first round pick, defensive tackle out of Texas, Malcolm Brown. Brown, has an uphill battle for playing time, sitting behind Alan Branch and Dominque Easley. In terms of the future, Brown is a guy who brings potential and playmaking ability. Lastly, rookie free agent receiver Chris Harper out of Cal. Harper is leading the team in receiving this preseason, and has an outright chance of making the team. If he does not make the team, expect him to be on someone’s 53 man roster this season.
The Patriots have had a very controversial offseason. The team and future hall of fame quarterback, Tom Brady have been dealing with the after effects of Deflategate. With the league still deciding on whether or not to uphold Brady’s four game suspension, the team is preparing for second year quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo to be the starter. The defending Super Bowl champions also had key offseason losses, with Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Browner, Shane Vereen and suspensions from Blount and Brady, the Patriots are in for a challenging season. At this point, I will never doubt the Patriots, especially with Brady still at the helm. Although the Bills and the Dolphins improved in the offseason, until one of them can dethrone the Patriots, I still consider them the team to beat in the AFC East.
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