Fears of a fantasy letdown by "Tom Terrific" becoming a memory
If last night was any indication of what to expect from the New England Patriots then I have a few observations:
Tom Brady is going to have another monster season. In 2007 under offensive Josh McDaniels, Brady threw for 4,806 yards and an NFL record 50 passing TD's while having just 8 interceptions. In 2012 with McDaniels back as offensive coordinator after stints with Denver and St. Louis, Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 TD's, and 8 interceptions. After a near complete revamping of his WR corps, the loss of his top TE (Rob Gronkowski) to back and arm surgeries for an undetermined amount of time, and the release of talented yet extremely troubled Aaron Hernandez, many were speculating that this could be the end of the line for Brady's time as an elite fantasy football QB. He certainly looks anything but done through 2 preseason games. I stated before in this blog that the timing between a QB and his WR's was one of the primary reasons to watch preseason football games. In the case of Brady and the Patriots, it was one of the specific situations I was going to watch for this since Julian Edelman (not counting special teamer 6th WR Matt Slater) is the only holdover at WR from last year. How is Brady getting along without Wes Welker? Are all the comparisons to style of game with Danny Amendola warranted? Would the young WR's like Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce earn Brady's trust and make a legitimate push to being a starter, making veterans free agent acquisitions Michael Jenkins, Lavelle Hawkins, and Donald Jones expendable? Guess so as none of those veterans are still on the team. Brady looks like he wants to prove that he is the one who has made each of the WR's he's had to throw to over the years look great, not vice-versa. Another 4,800 yards and 35+ TD's are certainly attainable. Does anyone even remember the knee scare from just a few days ago? A distant memory after last night.
Zach Sudfeld is the best fantasy football sleeper TE for the start of the regular season. While I don't know if Gronkowski is going to avoid the PUP list to start the season and not miss the first 6 games, it seems likely he's going to miss at least 1 or 2 regular season games. Sudfeld has gone from undrafted rookie OTA standout, to training camp favorite, blowing by the veteran TE's the Patriots have on the roster. Sudfeld could be a real surprise early in the season as a fantasy TE1 and I think is worth riding the train for however long it lasts. Who knows? Maybe even when Gronkowski gets back, Sudfeld coexists with him as a viable fantasy option just like the Gronk/Hernandez combo was.
As long as he stays healthy, Danny Amendola is going to be a borderline #1 fantasy WR in non-ppr leagues and a strong fantasy WR1 in those that do award points per reception. Amendola has been everything advertised and the only thing that remains to be seen is whether he can avoid the injuries that have plagued him the last 2 seasons.
While undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins appears to have the lead on second round pick Aaron Dobson as a starting WR opposite Amendola, I think the two rookies will have similar stats in 2013. Thompkins is winning out right now because of better route running, but Dobson is going to really excel on those deeper patterns because of superior speed. Because of his spot with the starting unit currently, Thompkins is the better WR to draft, but Dobson is also worthy of a late round flier as well for potential. As for Julian Edelman, he's unlikely to really step in and have much of an impactful fantasy role.
Stevan Ridley is going to be a fantasy RB1 in 2013. Shane Vereen is going to challenge to be an every week fantasy RB2 in non-ppr formats and a very good RB2 in those leagues with ppr. Ridley is a lock for 16+ carries every week and will handle the majority of goal line work. Vereen is likely going to have only 5-8 carries each week, but likely to catch at least 3 passes on a regular basis. Vereen just makes plays with the ball in his hands, so getting it to him 8-10 times every game stands to be a reasonable expectation from the Patriots.
We're only through 2 preseason games with the Patriots, but so far, everything I've seen has reaffirmed my faith in their viability to put several high quality fantasy options out there for us in 2013.