New England Patriots - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
Last year nine teams had three or more fantasy starters in the top 60 and it is likely that it’ll continue to be that way in 2014. This series: Dressed for Success, will look at NFL teams going into 2014 to find teams that have assembled the right players to be a treasure trove of fantasy studs.
The team I am really excited about is New England, which finished the season ranking in the lower half of fantasy output at 19th. But three reasons I am high on drafting players on the Patriots going into next season are: 1) continuity at the starting positions; 2) an improved defense; 3) high risk and reward based on health players.
Last year was a first for many of the offensive starters on the Patriots; first year in the NFL for rookie WRs, first year for Edelman being the number one receiver, first year for Brady to be without Welker or Hernandez, first year without either starting TE available at the beginning of the season. Another year in this system will help the highly lauded WRs move the Patriots offense, which was unusually poor last year, gaining nearly 600 less yards in 2013 than in 2012. This team’s offense brought the recent up-tempo offense to the league a few years back and there’s every reason to believe that’s where Josh McDaniel’s wants to lead this offense in 2014.
Another reason for optimism is the team’s defense. The team’s defense started getting bitten by the injury bug early in the season, leaving opposing offenses on the field throughout the season. But with most two major free agent signings on defense, two stout corners, which had been a perennially weak position for the team, the Patriots should see a jump in converting three and outs. I am also convinced that Brandon LaFell is actually being brought in to be a corner, but I don’t have any proof of that. The Patriots defense could be a value pick with many owners and analysts overvaluing Brandon Browner’s four-game suspension at the beginning of the season and the rise of defenses in the NFC West and South. Bottom line is don’t be afraid to wait and get this defense that finished 12th on the season in standard scoring and will likely causing way more three and outs. Three and outs lead to the offense getting the chance to run up the score, which we know Belichick isn’t afraid to do.
The final reason I’m high on these players are because the Patriots are looking unsexy in fantasy this year and will all be available at points in the draft where the risk is lower and the chance of reward is high. Last year, Danny Amendola’s ADP was 49.53 (according to CBS Sports), which in light of his injury risk was unjustifiably high. With plenty of fantasy owners getting burned last year, expect his ADP to drop plenty now. But as with DeSean Jackson last year, picking up Danny Amendola in the 8th round or later has potential to be an ADP victory. Danny managed three 100 yard games while only playing in 12, so the potential is there. I wouldn’t move him earlier than the seventh or eighth round in standard scoring though because historically, he has trouble finding the end zone. But then again, historically his QBs were Marc Bulger, rookie Sam Bradford, and third year Sam Bradford.
Another player that will see his ADP fall is Stevan Ridley, who soared to an ADP of 23.75 in 2013. In light of the Patriots being a true Running-Back-by-Committee (when a group of running backs wear onesies together, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be a committee) and Ridley’s characteristically poorly timed fumbles, his ADP should be lower than borderline second round pick. But the Patriots did score the 2nd most running TDs in the league last season, first the year before, and Ridley continued to produce the most yards of all Patriots RBs. If I see Ridley slip past the third round in a standard league, I would take him. He might even make you a fan of onesies.
The two other health risk-and-reward players on the Patriots are Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski. Both players missed most of the regular season with injuries; Vereen breaking his wrist and Gronkowski recovering from back surgery and subsequently took a shoulder to the knee.
This Bill Belichick gif pretty much sums up the reaction of Gronkowski Fantasy owners last year
The risks with Gronkowski are real; he hasn’t played a full season since 2011. But whatever health voodoo curse he is afflicted with hasn’t prevented him from producing three double digit TD seasons even in limited play. If Gronkowski could play a full or even two thirds of a season and replicates his prior production, he would be a great value after the third round.
Going into 2014, Gronkowski is still rehabbing from surgery and there is no estimate on when he will return. Everything indicates this offseason will be a repeat of waiting on Gronkowski. If Gronkowski started playing in the preseason, I would start drafting him in the late second-third round, but if he is likely to miss a couple of games in the beginning of the season, I would wait until he fell to the 5th round. If someone in your league auto-drafts Gronkowski and is impatient about not having Gronk for a number of games, be sure send him some trade requests.
Being down a starter for any portion of the fantasy season can be hard to overcome, so if you draft Gronkowski, all your other draft picks should be starters. But, if I were to take a chance on any injury-prone player, I’d take a chance on Gronkowski.
Shane Vereen has been injured every season in some way. Last season was supposed to be his break out season and his first game had every indication of a breakout, getting 101 rushing yards on 14 rushes, seven catches and 58 receiving yards. But after breaking his wrist and returning in November, he never rushed more than 10 times in a game.
A year removed from his injury and with a less crowded backfield, he has sleeper potential if enough fantasy owners pass on him due to his injury history. His value in PPR versus standard is huge; he averaged 6 catches a game in 2013. He has the potential to be the 2013 Danny Woodhead of 2014, who finished as the 19th best RB in standard. He runs a terrific wheel route and gets plenty of red zone looks.
It’s an exciting time to be drafting the Patriots, who performed uncharacteristically poorly in 2013. The Patriots players will reward fantasy owners who are willing to draft these players and not let them slide too far.
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