Take notice here because Bill Belichick’s boys are one of fantasy football’s behemoths. The New England Patriots have ranked in the top ten in points per game going all the way back to 2004, a total of eight seasons. And with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels back in the mix, there’s a great reason to believe they will make it nine straight seasons.
Here are the guys in New England that you should have on your list come time to do the fantasy draft.
*Credit to Cold Stone Creamery for inspiring the categories for this set of fantasy previews. However, I cannot guarantee the fantasy players will live up to high expectations like their delicious ice cream does.
GOTTA HAVE THEM (Elite Category – These guys are must have for any fantasy team)
QB Tom Brady (2011 Finish: 3rd ranked QB, 22.0 points per game)
Brady has flourised with and without McDaniels, but the 2007 season was the holy-grail of Fantasy seasons. The Patriots scored 75 touchdowns, including a crazy-50 for Brady. Besides the tragic foot injury in 2008, Brady hasn’t looked back with 28 (2009), 36 (2010) and an awesome 39 touchdowns last season. With the signing of Brandon Lloyd whose familiar with McDaniels’ system in Denver/St. Louis and the signing of veteran running back Joseph Addai, the Patriots have only gained more weapons for Brady. I know Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Cam Newton will tempt a lot of people, but in reality, Brady should definitely be considered as the first quarterback taken in fantasy drafts due to his stone-cold consistency.
LOVE THEM (These guys are game-changers who are a breakout season or two from becoming elite)
TE Rob Gronkowski (2011 Finish: 1st ranked TE, 14.6 points per game)
Sure, Gronkowski could have been put in the above category, but I’m not necessarily ready to rank him as an elite tight end. Another year coming close to his record-breaking 17 touchdowns and he’ll be there. My only problem with the Gronk is the number of indicators to a slumping season; more weapons in New England, ankle surgery in the offseason and the ability of opposing teams to gameplan against the guy in red-zone. Gronkowski will surely be drafted too high considering his high risk-t0-award ratio.
WR Wes Welker (2011 Finish: 3rd ranked WR, 12.9 points per game)
Welker benefits immensely from the Patriots and Brady’s dink-and-dunk game. In a healthy season, he easily surpasses 100 catches and like-it-or-not is Brady’s number one option in New England’s potent offense. When opposing defenses plan to stop the Patriots’ two big tight-ends, they will most likely forget about the speedy Welker, which means some great benefits to any fantasy team who acquires his services. Plus, with the signing of Gronkowski to a lengthy contract, it appears Welker is on his way out and is essentially playing for a juicy free agency contract in 2012.
LIKE THEM (These guys are solid fantasy options who should help any fantasy team win)
WR Brandon Lloyd (2011 Finish: 25th ranked WR, 7.1 points per game)
Not since Randy Moss, have we seen a deep-threat receiver flourish in the Patriots’ offense. Lloyd will look to change that in 2012 after having a respectable season in St. Louis following his finish as Fantasy’s number one receiver in 2010. However, the key difference this time around is the fact that Lloyd will not see nearly as many targets as he has in the past due to the number of weapons in the offense. If Lloyd is available in the right round (middle to late), he could be a great value pick.
RB Stevan Ridley (2011 Finish: 57th ranked RB, 2.8 points per game)
Ridley appears to be the frontrunner for the starting back in a crowded backfield consisting of Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai. With BenJarvus Green Ellis’ departure to Cincinnati, there’s a legitimate reason to believe Ridley will have the same kind of role. New England is one of the best teams in the league at creating vulture touchdowns, which was always the achilles heal to Green Ellis’ fantasy seasons. I wouldn’t expect Ridley to be any better than a flex or bye week filler kind of player.
TE Aaron Hernandez (2011 Finish: 3rd ranked TE, 7.9 points per game)
There’s a lot of upside with a guy like Hernandez, especially considering the hype and attention that Gronkowski draws. How many people knew that Hernandez finished as the third ranked tight end in 2011? What’s nice about Aaron is his consistency at catching multiple passes (13 games with four or more catches). But, similar to Gronkowski, the pitfall of a guy like Hernandez is having too many weapons in New England. Someone’s going to get the points, but it’s really hard trying to figure out what guy that’s going to be.
OUT OF STOCK (These guys can not yet be counted on to bring greatness to a fantasy team)
RB Joseph Addai
WR Chad Ochocinco (UPDATE: released)
RB Shane Vereen
WR Jabar Gaffney
RB Danny Woodhead
WR Deion Branch
WR Julian Edelman
QB Ryan Mallett
WR Donte Stallworth
What do you think of the 2012 New England Patriots Fantasy Outlook? Did I miss anything or was it pretty spot on? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
More TSB Fantasy Team Previews:
Josh McDaniels (bleacherreport.com)
Tom Brady (theaustinreport.com)