Fantasy Football Spotlight: New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots continue to have one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Last year, they ranked No. 2 in total yards and No. 3 in points per game with 32.1. The passing attack has been the driving force behind their top offense, and this year it will be again.
With such a dynamic offense, it’s no surprise that the Patriots may be the team that has the most active players on fantasy rosters in 2012. Here’s a look at the Patriots studs, standouts and remaining fantasy relevant players.
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Brady was fourth in passing TDs in 2011 with 39 and second in yards with 5,325. In 2012, he will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the Pats in 2007, when Tom Brady had his best statistical production and New England went 16-0 in the regular season.
This year, the Patriots' offense will have something that the 2007 offense had but last year’s lacked—a vertical outside threat. The addition of Brandon Lloyd means Brady could have a season similar to his stellar 2007. While 50 TDs is a bit extreme, 40-45 is likely and that would put him in contention to be the No. 1 fantasy QB of 2012.
Gronkowski was the No. 15 overall fantasy scorer and led all TEs with 1,327 yards and 18 total TDs. He led all receivers and set the NFL record for TEs with 17 receiving TDs. He was miles ahead of the competition. In standard scoring he tallied 233 fantasy points. Jimmy Graham was the second highest scoring TE with 187 points in standard scoring.
Gronk will be hard-pressed to produce 18 TDs again. But the matchup nightmare should have no trouble reaching double digits, grabbing 80-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards in what will likely be the top performance of any TE in 2012.
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Welker led the NFL in receptions two out of the last three seasons with 122 in 2011 and 123 in 2009. While his traditionally high number of targets (172 in 2011) may fall a bit with the addition of Brandon Lloyd, the production of Welker should still put him in the top-10 of fantasy scoring WRs.
In the past, he has been a top-five fantasy WR, which would qualify him as a stud. But Welker’s career high TDs is only nine and there are a number of young WRs ready to bust out in 2012 including A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Percy Harvin. To be a top-five receiver in 2012 it will take about 1,200 yards and 10 TDs. Welker may get the yards, but 10 TDs is unlikely in this offense that features two TEs as major red-zone threats.
Despite switching teams midseason, Lloyd had 70 receptions for 966 yards and 5 TDs in 2011. In his huge season in 2010 with the Broncos he tallied 11 TDs and 1,448 receiving yards (which led all WRs).
Lloyd’s output for 2012 should fall somewhere between those last two seasons.
Hernandez is a bit overlooked in a Patriots' offense that is led by Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. He was quietly the third most productive fantasy TE in 2011.
Hernandez racked up 910 yards receiving and seven TDs in 2011. He caught six TDs in his 2010 rookie season.
The Patriots will continue to use Hernandez in a variety of ways as they can capitalize on having him and Gronk on the field at the same time. Hernandez even took some snaps at RB in the postseason for Bill Belicheck and the Pats.
Top-five TE production from this young star will be there.
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The second-year back from LSU rushed for 5.1 yards per carry in his rookie season while seeing limited action behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With the departure of Green-Ellis to the Cincinnati Bengals, Ridley steps into the starter’s role with competition from Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai for carries.
Gostkowski is arguably the No. 2 fantasy kicker for 2012 after David Akers. He was the No. 3 scoring kicker in 2011. As New England scores a lot of TDs, Gostkowski is a lock to give owners some production every week. He only attempted two field goals of 50-plus yards in 2011 (1-2) but he was 9-of-11 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards.