NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
Usually I’ll leave the Fantasy content to the experts, like our friends over at 2 Mugs, but with so many targets for Tom Brady this season I think the Patriots deserve their own Fantasy preview.
I’ll break it down by position.
Last Year’s Stats: 5235 yards, 39 TDs, 12 INTs, 109 yards rushing, 3 rushing TDs
This Year’s Projection: 5100 yards, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 30 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD
Brady would have had a record setting season last year if not for that pesky Drew Brees. I can’t see Brady regressing much this year after he’s added even more impressive targets to his arsenal. Last season proved that in the current NFL structure, it’s no longer rare to pass for 5000+ yards. If Brady stays healthy, he should have no problem eclipsing that mark again in 2012.
Brady added another 100 yards on the ground last season to go along with three TDs. I see Brady regressing to his own personal mean on the ground this season, especially since the Patriots running game has looked good thus far in training camp.
Last Year’s Stats: 441 yards, 1 rushing TDs, 3 receptions, 13 yards receiving, 0 receiving TDs
This Year’s Projection: 850 yards, 10 rushing TDs, 5 receptions, 45 yards receiving, 1 receiving TD
Last Year’s Stats: 351 yards, 1 rushing TD, 18 receptions, 157 yards receiving, 0 receiving TDs
This Year’s Projection: 450 yards, 2 rushing TDs, 18 receptions, 145 yards receiving, 1 receiving TD
Last Year’s Stats: 57 yards, 1 rushing TD, 0 receptions
This Year’s Projection: 300 yards, 2 rushing TDs, 15 receptions, 130 yards receiving, 1 receiving TDs
Last year the Patriots gained 1764 yards on the ground, but their bellcow, BenJarvus Green-Ellis left for Cincinnati. Ridley should pick up most of the slack left by the Lawfirm, but I’m not expecting a thousand yard season. Vereen and Woodhead will get a lot of opportunities, and should be in on most passing downs. The Pats RBs racked up 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which they may come close to again. While Ridley’s yardage numbers may not be gaudy, his TDs could. Green-Ellis had 11 rushing touchdowns last season, and Ridley should be playing that role in 2012.
Woodhead will have to hold off Vereen for the third down role since both players have similar skill sets. If Vereen vaults over Woodhead, he could be just as valuable as Ridley with his combined value on the ground and through the air.
Last Year’s Stats: 122 receptions, 1569 yards, 9 TDs, 30 rushing yards
This Year’s Projection: 100 receptions, 1100 yards, 6 TDs
Last Year’s Stats: 70 receptions, 966 yards, 5 TDs
This Year’s Projection: 60 receptions, 950 yards, 7 TDs
Last Year’s Stats: 68 receptions, 947 yards, 5 TDs
This Year’s Projection: 35 receptions, 450 yards, 4 TDs
The Patriots have come a long way from last year when their top three WRs were Welker, Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco. I’ve seen some tempered expectations out there for Gaffney, but it’s obvious from what I’ve seen at training camp that Gaffney will be a big part of this offense. Gaffney has improved his receiving yardage every year since 2006 when he first joined the Patriots, which I expect to come to an end in 2012. If Gaffney improves on his 947 yards from 2011 though that means that something went very wrong in the Patriots offense. I expect something much closer to how Gaffney performed for the Patriots in 2007 and 2008.
Welker would be hard pressed to live up to last year’s season as well. He had career highs in both receiving yardage and touchdowns. With the Patriots possibly preparing to move on from the star WR after this year, it might be smart to start putting some of the load on other targets. I’d still expect Welker to have a big year.
Lloyd is the wild card here. He could completely go off if he and Brady find a distinct connection, or he may turn into the brat that he’s been in other locker rooms and be out of here by week 7. Personally, I expect the former out of Lloyd this season, and while he may not pile up the receptions, he will be the chief deep target for the Pats.
Last Year’s Stats: 90 receptions, 1327 yards, 17 TDs, 2 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
This Year’s Projection: 80 receptions, 1150 yards, 12 TDs
Last Year’s Stats: 79 receptions, 910 yards, 7 TDs, 45 rushing yards
This Year’s Projection: 75 receptions, 1000 yards, 8 TDs, 150 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Like Welker, it will be tough for Gronkowski to improve on his record setting performance last year, especially while recovering from his late season ankle injury. The ball will be spread out a little more and while it will still be an extremely impressive season for a TE, it won’t be off the charts.
The one Patriots target I expect to increase in production is Hernandez. He looks like the best Patriots receiver right now in training camp, and I’m sure we’ll see him used in a number of different ways again this year. The Patriots began using him out of the backfield more as the season progressed and I would love to see more of that. He must work with the Patriots running back coaches to get his 6-2 frame down when he’s carrying the ball out of the backfield though to avoid injury. If Hernandez stays healthy, the sky is the limit.
Brandon Bolden, RB – As much as we expect the starting RB job to go to Ridley, anything can happen with Belichick and the Patriots. Bolden has looked great in training camp, especially with his hands and he’s just the kind of RB that Belichick loves to use. If anyone goes down with an injury, especially Ridley, watch out for Bolden.
Julian Edelman, WR – Edelman looks like a new man in Patriots camp so far. The former QB looks like he’s made the full transition to WR in his 4th season in the NFL. One of the most elusive players on the Patriots, he could go for a few big plays if given the opportunity. If a Patriots WR goes down and the Patriots keep just five WRs like I’ve predicted, Edelman could see a big role.
Daniel Fells, TE – The Patriots seem compelled to keep a third or even fourth tight end on their roster this season, and it makes you wonder what kind of role they may use for Fells once he gets healthy. If Aaron Hernandez can claim himself as a WR when it comes time for him to get a new contract, they may use him there even more this season and let Fells take the reigns on the 2nd TE spot.