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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Team Talk: New England Patriots

By Adam Filadelfo (@Frostt24)

Moving over to the AFC East again, let's take a look at the defending division champions, the New England Patriots. With all the weapons and talent the Patriots supposedly had heading into the 2013 season, not too many Patriots players came through for fantasy owners. There were a few that contributed last season and quite a few that are expected to contribute in 2014. Let's take a look.

Tom Brady- Brady had his worst fantasy season since 2008 and that was because he missed the entire season with a torn ACL. Whether it was regression on Brady's part or the lack of dependable receivers, Brady let fantasy owners down big time. He only averaged less than 20 fantasy points per game but should have a better 2014 if the receivers around him step up.

Stevan Ridley- Ridley wasn't dependable each week for fantasy owners simply because he was in Bill Belichick's dog house due to fumbling issues. When Ridley was active for the Patriots, it was still difficult to trust him since the Patriots used multiple running backs at any given time. He averaged nine fantasy points per game which was second behind Shane Vereen for the team lead. This season may get a little more crowded with the addition of James White. The writing could be on the wall for Ridley this season if he can't hold onto the ball.

Shane Vereen- Vereen could have ended the 2013 season with much better numbers had he not missed eight games with a wrist injury. When healthy, Vereen averaged double digit fantasy points and was a monster in PPR formats. There's plenty of reasons to be optimistic regarding Shane Vereen in 2014 provided he doesn't miss half of the season again. His job should be safe since he is a weapon out of the backfield and the other backs New England currently have are not.

Brandon Bolden- Bolden looked good in a few games he played in with the absence of Shane Vereen but provided no value at all once Vereen returned from his injury. Bolden was used more out of the backfield as a receiver and averaged six fantasy points per game which isn't very useful considering he was supposed to occupy the role of Shane Vereen and catch passes. Heading into 2014, Bolden probably doesn't hold much value again.

James White- The fourth round rookie out of Wisconsin will probably be buried on the depth chart at least until preseason games start but could play an important role when the season starts. Ridley's fumbling issues are well known and James White can easily get the lead back job knowing Belichick will not put up with Ridley coughing up the ball consistently. White's college numbers weren't bad at all as he rushed for over 4,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in his four years at Wisconsin. White could be a sleeper heading into the 2014 season but New England running backs are so hard to trust on a week to week basis.

Danny Amendola- Quite possibly the biggest fantasy bust of the 2013 season, Amendola played in 12 games and only managed 54 receptions and 633 yards to go with just two touchdowns. He averaged just over six fantasy points per game in a role where he was expected to flourish with Welker gone. Even when Amendola was healthy, he provided little fantasy value and could be on his way out of New England with another disappointing season.

Aaron Dobson- Dobson played in 11 games in 2013 and like Amendola, provided little fantasy value in his rookie season. He did average more fantasy points on a per game basis than Amendola and could be poised to take the next step in his second season.

Josh Boyce- Another useless fantasy player in 2013, Boyce participated in just six games and provided absolutely no fantasy value whatsoever. Maybe Boyce can take the next step in 2014, but until he proves he can make plays on a consistent basis, fantasy owners will quickly forget who he is if they even know at this point.

Kenbrell Thompkins- One of the few bright spots at the wide receiver position for the Patriots in 2013, Thompkins at least showed he can provide fantasy owners with some value. He finished last season with 32 catches for 466 yards and four scores. He barely broke six fantasy points per game but again, at least he showed fantasy owners he's worth looking at in later rounds of their fantasy drafts.

Brandon LaFell- Coming over from Carolina, LaFell just couldn't take the next step for fantasy owners. LaFell finished with 49 receptions for 627 yards and would have been the  second leading receiver for the Patriots in 2013 behind Julian Edelman. Fantasy owners are expecting Brandon LaFell to finally reach his potential now that he's catching passes from Tom Brady.

Julian Edelman- Edelman was the Patriots leading receiver in 2013 and considering he almost didn't make the team to start the season, that's pretty impressive. Edelman took over Wes Welker's role when the Patriots were planning on having Amendola for that. Edelman finished last season with over 100 catches and over 1,000 yards. He will be a mid round draft pick in 2014 and in PPR formats, should be a beast again. Even if the other receivers take steps forward, Edelman will still be fantasy relevant since Brady trusts him and the two of them have some chemistry together. Expect another productive season from Julian Edelman in 2014.

Rob Gronkowski- Any guesses as to which body part Gronk has surgery on next? A healthy Gronk means big things for one of the two best tight ends in fantasy football and in the seven games Gronk did play in last season, he averaged almost 12 fantasy points per game. Gronk will be the second tight end off fantasy boards in 2014 but he is still difficult to trust since he's always hurt. As of now, it looks like Gronk is on track to start the season. Provided he doesn't need another surgery between now and September.

D/ST- While many fantasy owners may tend to shy away from the Patriots defense, they always seem to come up with turnovers and that obviously produces fantasy points. Most owners are scared off due to the fact the Patriots defense tends to have a bend but don't break mentality. They give up a ton of yards and a lot of points and that costs fantasy owners points. 2014 may bring a different approach when it comes to choosing a fantasy defense. With the additions to the secondary in Revis and Brandon Browner, plus the defensive line having stud playmakers like Mayo Jamie Collins, Hightower and Chandler Jones with another season user their belts, the Patriots defense may surprise some fantasy owners this year.