You know what they say about first impressions? Well, New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson may be our latest proof that first impressions might be juuuust a little flawed in making overreaching judgments.
On the very first drive of his career, Dobson, who sat out last week with a hamstring injury, began making good on all of his massive hype coming into training camp.
Lining up shrouded a bit from the view of the New York Jets secondary on 3rd-and-2, Dobson ran his designed wheel route on the play-action fake from Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback faked a toss to running back Stevan Ridley. The Green (and White) Sea parted as seemingly every New York defender bit on the deceptive action.
That left Dobson running upfield covered by the ghost of Darrelle Revis.
Brady lofted a pass over the fooled secondary to Dobson, who scored the first and what will probably be the easiest touchdown of his entire career.
It was the only touchdown the Patriots would score in their ugly 13-10 win at Gillette Stadium.
From a fantasy perspective, Dobson's touchdown is exactly the type of thing that gets owners into a tizzy. It's a name we've all heard before, doing something we all hoped he would. It's 9.9 points on the fantasy board—except in non-factional leagues, which should have been abolished as part of the New Deal.
As you might expect, the Dobson Discombobulation Corollary was in full effect. Seriously, go look for yourself. Then I suggest stocking up on canned goods. The typical fantasy football owner makes Liz Honey seem sane by comparison.
Now here is where I throw you all in a cold shower.
Dobson's touchdown was all the things previously stated, but it was also unrepeatable. An inebriated Tim Tebow could have accurately lofted that ball for a touchdown; there was even a bit of a jump in Brady's throw for good measure. When measuring fantasy football value, that touchdown is exactly the type you don't ever want to pay any mind to; it holds no long-term weight.
Unsurprisingly, Dobson's opening snap also turned out to be an anomaly. He finished the game with a relatively nondescript three receptions for 56 yards. He seems to have pushed ahead of fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins on the New England hierarchy, getting 10 targets to Thompkins' seven.
I'm not so sure that's a good thing.
As the contest wore on, let's just say the relationship between Brady and Dobson frayed. The young receiver struggled with route combinations and reads in particular. Facing a 3rd-and-14, Brady uncorked a beautiful pass that went deep into Jets territory and right onto the fingertips of Dobson, who subsequently bobbled and dropped the pass.
Dropping a ball goes over about as well as flatulence in an elevator with Brady and Bill Belichick; Dobson didn't necessarily do himself favors there. But the real expression of frustration from Brady came on the next drive.
After connecting with Thompkins on a 38-yard shot down the field, the Patriots had a chance from inside the Jets' red zone.
Set up with a 3rd-and-5, Dobson was wide-open up the seam for another easy touchdown. Brady threw the ball expecting Dobson to stop on his option route, but the former Marshall standout kept going toward the corner.
The pass hit Dobson's feet. Brady screamed in a combination of anger and horror. It wasn't what you would call a fun situation.
If you want to look at the positives, it's at least notable that on one of the few times Brady decided to stretch the field, it went to his rookie wideout. Dobson was chosen because of his immense physical gifts. He's a big, strong kid who runs fluid routes and at times seems to be gliding. It's the same formula the Patriots once used to revive Randy Moss' career.
Could Dobson, after a couple weeks of intense film-room sessions and seasoning, become the Patriots' top deep threat and an every-week flex option? Absolutely.
Here's the thing: Anything is possible with this Patriots offense.
We know as much about this Patriots receiving corps through two weeks of the season as we did in late July. Rob Gronkowski's injury still looms large. Most folks assume he'll come riding in on a white horse to save the day next week or in two Sundays, but two defenses now have limited Brady almost entirely to short strikes. Gronk's lanes aren't going to be as big as they once were.
A player's relevance or lack thereof in the Patriots offense is a constantly fluid situation. The real answer won't come until this team finds a modicum of health.
Gronkowski's forearm and back and Danny Amendola's hamstring are two of the most critical injuries in all of football right now. Their ability to get back into the lineup and be effective will probably be the difference between Super Bowl contention and a transition year.
You saw a bit of that Thursday night.
Even Zach Sudfeld, the undrafted free agent who was supposed to be Gronk Lite until he came back, was out Thursday night. Sudfeld suffered a hamstring injury of his own in Week 1 and wasn't available to catch Brady passes.
Instead, Mr. Bundchen threw to a cast of characters that likely made him envious of Geno Smith—a damning statement if there ever was one. Michael Hoomanawanui, whose hands are made of granite, started at tight end.
The name most folks will come away touting is Julian Edelman. A week after a seven-catch, 79-yard, two-touchdown outing in Buffalo, the do-everything slot receiver added another 13 grabs and 78 yards. He's been the replacement in the slot whenever Wes Welker was out over the years and will cover for Amendola. In point-per-reception leagues, Edelman is a must-add.
As for Dobson, the outlook is simple: I have no idea. No one really has an idea. If you have the room on your bench and want a high-upside guy to feel out rather than Aging Steady Veteran X, go right ahead and add him.
But just as it's possible that Dobson becomes Brady's go-to deep threat, it's equally likely that he's irrelevant in a couple weeks.
The Patriots' receiving situation is too murky at this point. In a way, you can draw similarities between Brady and Drew Brees in New Orleans. You start your stars (Gronkowski when he returns and Edelman in PPR leagues) and chalk everyone else as a bye-week replacement.
Aaron Dobson isn't a star. And his performance Thursday night did nothing to make me think he'll be one anytime soon.
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