2013 New England Patriots: Examining the Remaining Offensive Options
The New England Patriots have had a complete overhaul of their offense during the offseason. Tom Brady is practically staring at a brand-new team. Of Brady's 634 targets last season, 75.2 percent were to players who aren't with the Patriots any more.
That's a staggering number.
Even though they lost some players, there's still a lot of talent left on this team. We've seen No. 12 produce at a high level with lesser talent.
Can you count on that talent when drafting your fantasy football team this season? It's time to take a look at the weapons on offense for the Patriots.
Danny Amendola, WR
The Patriots lost one of their biggest contributors over the last six years when Wes Welker signed with Denver. But New England doesn't mind. They could have signed Welker back if they really wanted to.
Instead, they opted to sign former Rams receiver Danny Amendola.
Amendola has worked the slot position for the Rams over the last four seasons and has had success when healthy. The problem is that he has been unable to stay healthy. He played in all 16 games in 2010—catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns.
His 85 receptions caught people's attention, but he wasn't able to follow up his performance the following year because he suffered a season ending injury after playing just one game. He returned to the field in 2012 and made headlines when he caught 15 passes for 160 yards in Week 2 against the Redskins.
Amendola played well in 2012, but he missed five games with different injuries. When he's at full strength, he is the perfect slot receiver. He can catch the ball well and move the chains. If he can remain healthy for the entire year, it wouldn't be crazy to see a 100-reception season for Amendola.
Amendola's biggest problem throughout his career has been the lack of touchdown receptions. His career high in a season is three. If he's able to improve on that, he'll be an attractive option beyond just PPR leagues.
Aaron Dobson, WR
Aaron Dobson is an interesting option in fantasy football this year. He's a promising prospect coming out of Marshall, a Conference USA school, and now he's playing with Tom Brady. This 6'3" receiver was selected by New England in the second round because he brings a lot of promise.
His numbers at Marshall aren't anything that will blow anybody away, but his size makes him stand out. He's going to be a project for the Patriots to work with, so it's unclear how he will do during his rookie season.
Last year, there was a similar player in Brian Quick (Rams) who had a lot of raw ability, but his small-school status made it difficult for him to adjust to the pros in his first year.
If Dobson can learn the playbook and develop chemistry with Brady, he'll be worth a grab late in drafts. If he struggles to learn the playbook, he could end up posting a small stat line like Quick did last season.
Besides Amendola, Dobson provides the most upside out of the Patriots wide receivers. He could finish with numbers similar to Brandon Lloyd last season (74 receptions, 911 yards and six touchdowns).
Donald Jones, WR
The Patriots signed former Bills wide receiver Donald Jones this offseason to help strengthen their depth at the position. Jones has 88 receptions for 887 yards and six touchdowns in 35 career games.
A lot of his success has come against New England. Last season, he had 90 yards—including a 68-yard touchdown in their first meeting, six receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in the rematch. In 2011, he grabbed five balls for 101 yards in the Bills 34-31 victory.
Perhaps it was that success that led the Patriots to sign the 25-year-old. His ability to make big plays makes him a great role player for New England this season. He can take over the role that has been filled by Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth in years past.
He may not be a reliable option on a week-to-week basis, but he can have some big games this season. He has three years of experience over rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, and he is still relatively young. He's also worked his way from an undrafted free agent to a functional receiver.
The upside on Jones is limited, but he's someone who can be a good bye-week filler. He may not be the sexiest pick, but he's not the worst option.
Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce and Michael Jenkins, WR
Edelman is a well-known name, but he really hasn't done that much with New England. Last season, he caught just 21 passes for 235 yards. He could be useful if Danny Amendola misses time with injury (which is possible given his history), but until then, he's not worth owning in fantasy.
Boyce is another receiver whose skills are best served in the slot position. He has average height for a receiver, but he makes up for that in quickness and agility. New England selected Boyce in the fourth round of this year's draft, so it's unclear how much playing time he'll get as a rookie.
Jenkins is a veteran receiver the Patriots brought in, but he may not make the roster when everything is said and done. At 31 years old, Jenkins isn't likely to be a player who the Patriots think highly of heading into the 2013 season.
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Rob Gronkowski will either be the biggest steal in your fantasy football draft, or he'll cause headaches all season long. It's a dilemma fantasy owners face when they're forming their teams on draft day.
Do you take the stud tight end who is almost guaranteed 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns? Or do you stay away because his health issues just aren't worth it?
A fully healthy Gronk would be a no-brainer pick in fantasy. When he played a full season as the starter in 2011, he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns (he even had one rushing touchdown). Those numbers are impossible to get anywhere else at the tight end position other than Jimmy Graham.
On the flip side, Gronkowski may start the season on the PUP list and could have reoccurring issues from the five surgeries he has had in the last year.
The lack of other top-notch receiving options for Tom Brady makes Gronkowski an even more attractive option. He'll be sure to receive a lot of attention if he gets back to full form. Even an 80 percent Gronkowski would be better than most of the Patriots' other options.
Jake Ballard, TE
Jake Ballard looked like he had a promising future with the New York Giants when he caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. Then he tore his ACL in Super Bowl XLVI, which caused the Giants to eventually lose him.
The Giants expected to have Ballard clear waivers so they could place him on injured reserve, but the Patriots claimed him instead.
Ballard spent the entire 2012 season on the PUP list for New England as he recovered from his injury. He may not be fully recovered even after a year off. Boston.com writer Zuri Berry described Ballard as "rigid."
Still, Ballard finds himself in an interesting position. He's suddenly the backup tight end in a prolific offense, and the guy in front of him is coming off five surgeries. If Ballard can get healthy and in shape during training camp, he could establish a big role in New England in 2013.
Ballard could realistically be a 700-yard type of tight end this year playing behind Gronkowski. This is assuming that he recovers fully and is able to grasp the offense.
Zach Sudfeld, TE
Zach Sudfeld is an intriguing option for the Patriots. The 6'7" tight end went undrafted, but due to injuries at the tight end position, he's been able to work out with Tom Brady in minicamp.
It's odd because Sudfeld missed most of his college years with injuries, and now he's taking over for injured players.
Sudfeld is making the most out of his opportunity and has impressed in OTAs and minicamp. However, it's unlikely he'll be a big contributor this season. He went undrafted for a reason. Still, he's a guy to keep an eye on throughout training camp and the preseason.