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Fantasy Sports Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football: Making Sense of New England Patriots

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots can be one of the most maddening teams for fantasy owners. As a team, the Patriots are: ninth in total yards per game, 13th in passing yards per game, tenth in rushing yards per game and seventh in points per game; the Patriots are one of the ten best offenses in football and that should lead to plenty of fantasy points from their players. For some reason that just isn’t the case though. Here are all of New England’s main skill players and where they rank among their respective positions in terms of fantasy points:

Tom Brady- 14th

Stevan Ridley- 20th

Brandon Bolden- 49th

LeGarrette Blount- 52nd

Shane Vereen- 60th

Julian Edelman- 32nd

Aaron Dobson- 40th

Kenbrell Thompkins- 45th

Danny Amendola- 75th

Rob Gronkowski- 16th

As you can see, the Patriots highest ranking running back this season has been Stevan Ridley and he sits 20th among all NFL running backs in total fantasy points. How can it be that the Patriots are 10th in rushing yards per game and fourth in total rushing touchdowns but not have a running back ranked higher than 20th? It’s because no team has shared the rock quite like the Patriots have this season. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to have four running backs rank inside the top 60 in terms of total fantasy points and only five other teams even have three running backs inside the top 60.

There have been eight games this season where Ridley has not carried the ball at least 15 times. Here’s how the carries were split in those eight games among the Patriots other backs:

Week                              Bolden                              Vereen                              Blount

1                                           0                                        14                                        7

3                                           3                                        IR                                       14

4                                           6                                        IR                                        9

5                                           5                                        IR                                        12

7                                           8                                        IR                                        1

8                                           8                                        IR                                        11

11                                         0                                          1                                         10

12                                        13                                       10                                         2

If Ridley isn’t on the field, the Patriots look to use either Bolden or Blount as their primary rusher while Vereen maintains his own, very unique, role that we’ll discuss in a bit. Bolden rushed the ball 13 times in Week 12 while Blount only carried the ball twice but in Week 11 Blount carried the ball 10 times while Bolden got none. Ridley is siginificantly more talented than either Bolden and Blount and if you knew he was going to get the ball 15 times he’d be a sure must start any week but due to his fumbling issues (he’s lost the ball now in three straight games) the Patriots are likely to turn to a running back by committee approach. With no clear lead back it’d be wise to leave Ridley, Bolden and Blount out of your lineup this weekend.

The Patriots receivers though should not be started with the same confidence. The Patriots have had a different wide receiver lead them in fantasy points for three straight games and there have been two games since Week 7 (when Gronk made his debut) that no Patriots receiver scored more than six fantasy points. The Patriots are moving the ball through the air but it’s proving to be rather difficult to predict which wide receivers are going to get the ball; there are only two reliable pass catchers in the Patriots offense and neither of them play receiver.

Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen are the only two Patriots outside of Brady you should be starting this week. Outside of Week 8 — where he dropped a touchdown — Gronk has had double digit fantasy points in every game he’s played in this season and telling somebody they should start Gronk is some of the easier advice you can give. Vereen may not be as obvious of a start but I believe he’s equally as safe of one. Vereen has been back for two games now and he caught eight passes in each of those contests and is one of the few offensive weapons on the Patriots offense with a defined role that induces fantasy scoring. The Patriots absolutely love passing the ball to Vereen out of the backfield: he’s averaging 11.5 targets per game this season and no other running back is even in double digits and he is the only Patriot running back guaranteed a decent number of snaps.

The Patriots may have one of the premier offenses in football, outside of Brady, Gronk and Vereen though it may be wise to leave their players on your bench.