FOXBOROUGH – It is that time of the year again. Back to school supplies are beginning to line the shelves of every local store. The heat is heavy and sweltering. And football is right around the corner! The pre-season is underway for some teams and training camp has been in full swing. With the arrival of every new football season comes a new season of fantasy football, as well. And just as happens with every year, the New England Patriots have a lot of talent that could be well-suited to your fantasy team when you eventually conduct your draft.
Obviously, there is no top-tier Patriots player in fantasy anymore, now that tight end Rob Gronkowski has retired, but there are still some great players to pick up if you are planning to conduct a snake draft for your league.
For example, if you are in a point-per-reception league, then wide receiver Julian Edelman is a borderline top thirty player to pick up. If you decide to go running back heavy (or splash on a big tight end early) in the first rounds of the fantasy draft, then Edelman could be an excellent pick-up as your second wide receiver. If you go wide receiver heavy, then Edelman will make for an infallible flex player. As Tom Brady's favorite target, Edelman will see a lot of love coming his way.
Without Gronk, Edelman's nearest competition will be rookie wideout N'Keal Harry. Obviously, Harry could be a great late round option, too, if you have enough bench depth, but rookie wide receivers are so unpredictable. Demaryius Thomas, Benjamin Watson, and Cameron Meredith could experience a lot of injury trouble and will not likely register in most standard sized fantasy leagues.
As for Brady himself, he is definitely a mid-range quarterback in fantasy. He's one of the best to have in real football, but his fantasy stats are emblematic of his selfless, team-first attitude. Brady will make for a BYE week fill-in for most leagues. If Josh Gordon is reinstated from suspension, however, then Brady definitely becomes a second-tier fantasy quarterback.
Instead, the Patriots' running back crew might be the strongest asset. Sony Michel is worth consideration in standard leagues as a second running back because of the Patriots' reliance on him in last year's playoffs. The running corps of New England has always been unpredictable, but Michel is the closest thing the Patriots have had to a run-first bell cow since Laurence Maroney (LeGarrette Blount was more of a bruiser). And for PPR leagues, James White is a no-brainer flex option.
Sneakily, though, I will say that the Patriots defense might be an excellent pick-up in later rounds. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski will undoubtedly wind up rostered, but the Patriots defense has grown in estimation since last year's fantasy draft season. With the league's best secondary and an impeccable group of linebackers, the Patriots will harness a schedule that has six games in the AFC East and, in my estimates, become one of fantasy's best defenses.
Best of luck with your fantasy seasons!