Top 5 2013 Fantasy Football Players: New England Patriots

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Top 5 2013 Fantasy Players: New England Patriots

new england patriots
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

For years, fantasy owners have looked to the New England Patriots for the players they need to win to league championships. And why not? The team hasn’t ranked outside of the top 10 in total offense since 2006 (when they were 11th), and they haven’t ranked outside the top 10 in scoring offense since 2003. Last season, the Patriots led the NFL in both categories, and they had numerous players who were key cogs in championship-winning lineups everywhere.

However, there are some concerns that the offensive juggernaut in Foxboro could be headed for a decline. Tom Brady is now 36-years old, and he can’t play at an elite level forever (or so we think). This offseason, he lost his favorite target Wes Welker, as well as Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. To top it off, there are huge health questions around star tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the Pats have precious few experienced wideouts on the roster.

However, don’t let these concerns scare you away from drafting Patriots players early and often. The team has developed a very strong running game over the past couple of seasons, and there is certainly value to be had in the backfield. Brady may not be elite forever, but he still is right now, and he should be one of the top four or five quarterbacks off the board in every draft.

Figuring out who Brady will throw to is a whole different story, but that doesn’t mean owners should avoid the Patriots' passing game altogether. There is a good amount of young talent in New England, and Brady has made a fantasy star out of many an unknown receiver before.

As always, be aware of your league’s depth and scoring format, and adjust the values of the following players accordingly. With this team, pay attention to which receivers are getting reps in the preseason games, and you might just be able to find yourself a fantasy sleeper who will turn into a star.

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5. Aaron Dobson

dobson
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots drafted wide receiver Aaron Dobson in the second round this April, and he will be given every opportunity to start and be the team’s no. 1 outside receiving threat. Dobson is big and very fast, and he has incredible hands to go with his elite athleticism.

Relying on rookie receivers is always risky, and Dobson was certainly not the most productive receiver ever in college. However, the reality is that there is no one on the roster at wide receiver with his upside, and if he is even close to ready, there is absolutely no reason for the Patriots not to start him.

Dobson will have to earn Brady’s trust and prove his worth, but there is a good chance he emerges as New England’s best deep threat. He is a sleeper pick and one who may struggle early on, but owners who stick with him could be rewarded with big production down the stretch.

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4. Danny Amendola

amendola
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pats signed Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams to replace the departed Welker, and he will step in and fill the slot role that made Welker one of the top receivers around for the last six years. The risk with Amendola is health, as he has been very injury-prone and only appeared in 12 games over the last two seasons.

When healthy, Amendola is essentially a Welker clone, providing precise route running, good hands, toughness and after-the-catch playmaking. If he can stay on the field, Amendola could easily have 100 receptions this season.

If he is healthy, Amendola is a solid WR2 in just about every league. If not, then your guess is as good as mine. One thing to keep in mind with Amendola is that his value goes through the roof in PPR leagues, and owners in such formats will want to target him early.

4 of 6

3. Rob Gronkowski

gronkowski
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The man they call Gronk may be the toughest player to rank in all of fantasy. His 2011 season was one of the most dominant ever by a tight end, and if he can match that production, he is a late first or early second-round pick regardless of format.

The issue with Gronkowski of course, is health. He has had six surgeries on three different injuries over the past few seasons, and his status for the beginning of the season is very much in question. Given his history and playing style, one has to think it is likely he will pick up another injury at some point in the season, even it’s only a minor one.

If you could guarantee health, than Gronk would be a top pick. Of course, that is impossible, so owners must weigh the risk of injury when deciding where to draft. Some owners are risk-takers and will grab him early. Personally, that is not my style and I would strongly recommend waiting until at least the fourth or fifth round to make a move for Gronk. The injury risk is just too high.

5 of 6

2. Stevan Ridley

ridley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Stevan Ridley enjoyed a breakout season last year, rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns after winning the role as the Patriots’ featured back in camp. He comes into the season this year without facing a serious challenge for his carries, and he should be a second-round pick in most leagues.

There is really no reason to think that Ridley won’t have a repeat of last season, as the Patriots have shown more commitment to the run in recent seasons. With some questions in the passing game, Ridley could actually be in for even more work. If he has any downside, it is that he is a non-factor in the passing game. However, he doesn’t have serious competition for carries or a touchdown vulture behind him.

Keep in mind that there is a good chance that Ridley’s touchdown numbers could drop a little, as repeating double-digit TDs is very difficult. Fantasy owners should always be wary of Bill Belichick, but it is unlikely that he'll make a change that hurts Ridley’s value. Ridley is low RB1 or high RB2, and he is a very safe and solid pick.

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1. Tom Brady

brady
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Even at 36-years old, Tom Brady continues to remind everyone why he is a Hall of Fame-level quarterback. Last season, he threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns to go with just eight interceptions. A nice bonus with Brady is that the Patriots love using him on QB sneaks at the goal line, and he posted four rushing touchdowns last season. He is just about as good as it gets at the quarterback position.

The concern with Brady this season is mostly his receiving corps. As discussed earlier, he lost three key players, and the rest of his pass catchers are either inexperienced or injury prone. However, Brady has been extremely successful with a cast of unknowns many times before, so don’t let that scare you.

His age is no concern either, as he hasn’t shown even the slightest sign of decline in his play. You can safely expect another season with around 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns, making him a surefire top-five fantasy QB. Brady is one of the best, and don’t expect that to change this season.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google

1 of 6

Top 5 2013 Fantasy Players: New England Patriots

new england patriots
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

For years, fantasy owners have looked to the New England Patriots for the players they need to win to league championships. And why not? The team hasn’t ranked outside of the top 10 in total offense since 2006 (when they were 11th), and they haven’t ranked outside the top 10 in scoring offense since 2003. Last season, the Patriots led the NFL in both categories, and they had numerous players who were key cogs in championship-winning lineups everywhere.

However, there are some concerns that the offensive juggernaut in Foxboro could be headed for a decline. Tom Brady is now 36-years old, and he can’t play at an elite level forever (or so we think). This offseason, he lost his favorite target Wes Welker, as well as Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. To top it off, there are huge health questions around star tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the Pats have precious few experienced wideouts on the roster.

However, don’t let these concerns scare you away from drafting Patriots players early and often. The team has developed a very strong running game over the past couple of seasons, and there is certainly value to be had in the backfield. Brady may not be elite forever, but he still is right now, and he should be one of the top four or five quarterbacks off the board in every draft.

Figuring out who Brady will throw to is a whole different story, but that doesn’t mean owners should avoid the Patriots' passing game altogether. There is a good amount of young talent in New England, and Brady has made a fantasy star out of many an unknown receiver before.

As always, be aware of your league’s depth and scoring format, and adjust the values of the following players accordingly. With this team, pay attention to which receivers are getting reps in the preseason games, and you might just be able to find yourself a fantasy sleeper who will turn into a star.

2 of 6

5. Aaron Dobson

dobson
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots drafted wide receiver Aaron Dobson in the second round this April, and he will be given every opportunity to start and be the team’s no. 1 outside receiving threat. Dobson is big and very fast, and he has incredible hands to go with his elite athleticism.

Relying on rookie receivers is always risky, and Dobson was certainly not the most productive receiver ever in college. However, the reality is that there is no one on the roster at wide receiver with his upside, and if he is even close to ready, there is absolutely no reason for the Patriots not to start him.

Dobson will have to earn Brady’s trust and prove his worth, but there is a good chance he emerges as New England’s best deep threat. He is a sleeper pick and one who may struggle early on, but owners who stick with him could be rewarded with big production down the stretch.

3 of 6

4. Danny Amendola

amendola
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pats signed Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams to replace the departed Welker, and he will step in and fill the slot role that made Welker one of the top receivers around for the last six years. The risk with Amendola is health, as he has been very injury-prone and only appeared in 12 games over the last two seasons.

When healthy, Amendola is essentially a Welker clone, providing precise route running, good hands, toughness and after-the-catch playmaking. If he can stay on the field, Amendola could easily have 100 receptions this season.

If he is healthy, Amendola is a solid WR2 in just about every league. If not, then your guess is as good as mine. One thing to keep in mind with Amendola is that his value goes through the roof in PPR leagues, and owners in such formats will want to target him early.

4 of 6

3. Rob Gronkowski

gronkowski
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The man they call Gronk may be the toughest player to rank in all of fantasy. His 2011 season was one of the most dominant ever by a tight end, and if he can match that production, he is a late first or early second-round pick regardless of format.

The issue with Gronkowski of course, is health. He has had six surgeries on three different injuries over the past few seasons, and his status for the beginning of the season is very much in question. Given his history and playing style, one has to think it is likely he will pick up another injury at some point in the season, even it’s only a minor one.

If you could guarantee health, than Gronk would be a top pick. Of course, that is impossible, so owners must weigh the risk of injury when deciding where to draft. Some owners are risk-takers and will grab him early. Personally, that is not my style and I would strongly recommend waiting until at least the fourth or fifth round to make a move for Gronk. The injury risk is just too high.

5 of 6

2. Stevan Ridley

ridley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Stevan Ridley enjoyed a breakout season last year, rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns after winning the role as the Patriots’ featured back in camp. He comes into the season this year without facing a serious challenge for his carries, and he should be a second-round pick in most leagues.

There is really no reason to think that Ridley won’t have a repeat of last season, as the Patriots have shown more commitment to the run in recent seasons. With some questions in the passing game, Ridley could actually be in for even more work. If he has any downside, it is that he is a non-factor in the passing game. However, he doesn’t have serious competition for carries or a touchdown vulture behind him.

Keep in mind that there is a good chance that Ridley’s touchdown numbers could drop a little, as repeating double-digit TDs is very difficult. Fantasy owners should always be wary of Bill Belichick, but it is unlikely that he'll make a change that hurts Ridley’s value. Ridley is low RB1 or high RB2, and he is a very safe and solid pick.

6 of 6

1. Tom Brady

brady
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Even at 36-years old, Tom Brady continues to remind everyone why he is a Hall of Fame-level quarterback. Last season, he threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns to go with just eight interceptions. A nice bonus with Brady is that the Patriots love using him on QB sneaks at the goal line, and he posted four rushing touchdowns last season. He is just about as good as it gets at the quarterback position.

The concern with Brady this season is mostly his receiving corps. As discussed earlier, he lost three key players, and the rest of his pass catchers are either inexperienced or injury prone. However, Brady has been extremely successful with a cast of unknowns many times before, so don’t let that scare you.

His age is no concern either, as he hasn’t shown even the slightest sign of decline in his play. You can safely expect another season with around 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns, making him a surefire top-five fantasy QB. Brady is one of the best, and don’t expect that to change this season.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google


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