Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell Post-Week 8 Fantasy Advice

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2015

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots carries the ball as he scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New England Patriots machine continued humming Thursday during a 36-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins, and any fantasy owners who were relying on Tom Brady’s weapons were rewarded.

Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis combined for four touchdown catches, and Brady threw for a borderline-ridiculous 356 yards and four scores without a single turnover. The Dolphins never had a chance, and neither did fantasy owners who were facing multiple Patriots.

While Brandon LaFell was quiet compared to his teammates, plenty of Patriots receivers put up big numbers. Here is a look at the final tallies and some reactions for each:

Rob Gronkowski's Week 8 Stats
CatchesReceiving YardsTouchdownsTargetsFantasy Points
61131917.3
NFL.com standard scoring

Opposing defenses can’t guard Gronkowski. He is too physical for most safeties and cornerbacks, at 6’6” and 265 pounds, and too athletic for most linebackers. He can also beat defenses with his speed up the seam.

The tight end demonstrated his combination of speed, shiftiness and power Thursday on his touchdown catch, as the NFL highlighted:

Gronkowski is one of the most lethal fantasy football weapons in the league because the tight end spot is not deep like running back and wide receiver are. He already has four games with more than 100 receiving yards on the year and boasts seven touchdown catches in seven contests.

He is as close to a sure thing as there is in fantasy circles, especially with Brady locking in on him as his favorite target in New England's pass-happy offense. Gronkowski is a must-start superstar.

Julian Edelman's Week 8 Stats
CatchesReceiving YardsTouchdownsTargetsFantasy Points
7812920.1
NFL.com standard scoring

If Gronkowski is Brady’s top target, Edelman is a close second. Both saw nine targets Thursday, which is a testament to Brady’s ability to spread the ball around and keep various pass-catchers (and fantasy owners) happy every week.

This was an encouraging bounce-back effort from Edelman after he had only 104 combined receiving yards over the past two weeks. He is still averaging more than 83 yards and an enticing 10.7 targets per game on the season, even with two mediocre efforts, and often takes advantage of single coverage when defenders focus on Gronkowski.

What’s more, Edelman has six touchdowns in seven games, which shows Brady is consistently looking for him to beat defenders from the slot in the red zone. That is what he did Thursday, as the NFL noted:

Edelman is tailor-made for this offense thanks to his ability to turn short passes into big gains with shiftiness and a willingness to go over the middle. Brady is targeting him double-digit times per game this season, which is a recipe for fantasy domination every week. Edelman is another must-start Patriots pass-catcher.

Brandon LaFell's Week 8 Stats
CatchesReceiving YardsTouchdownsTargetsFantasy Points
447074.7
NFL.com standard scoring

Fantasy owners who were relying on LaFell have to be discouraged when looking at his numbers compared to Edelman’s and Gronkowski’s. However, there are plenty of receiving yards to go around moving forward, with Brady throwing more than 41 times per game this season.

The question is whether LaFell, Danny Amendola or Lewis will pick up targets as the third option. Lewis played that role Thursday with 93 receiving yards out of the backfield on nine targets, and he has been an impressive playmaker with 349 receiving yards in six games. Elsewhere, Amendola posted 191 receiving yards over the previous two weeks before Thursday’s disappointing effort (one catch for 11 yards).

LaFell was a major part of the offense last season with 953 receiving yards, but he has to prove himself in 2015 with so many weapons surrounding him. He dealt with injuries earlier in the year, and the game against the Dolphins was only his second of the season. He does have 15 targets in those two contests, so Brady is at least looking his way.

Based on last year’s production and Brady’s willingness to involve LaFell in the offense, the LSU product is worth keeping on your roster. But don’t start him until he consistently puts up better numbers.

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