QB Tom Brady (New England)
8/7/12: I’m moving Brady’s production up a little with Brandon Lloyd dominating in camp. Tom Brady was 346 for 470 (73.6%) for 4420 yards (9.4 YPA), 39 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions when throwing to Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez. Throwing to everyone else, he was 131 of 216 (60.6%), 1719 yards (8.0 YPA), 7 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions (the rest were throw aways and other non-targets). Brandon Lloyd will undoubtedly help, as will the presence of Josh McDaniels.
Tom Brady threw for 5235 yards last year on the strength of 611 passing attempts, but he’s only twice gone over 580 attempts in a season and the Patriots should have a better defense next year. I also think his 8.5 YPA from last year is unsustainable as he’s only gone over 8 twice in his career. The other time he did that was 2007, when Josh McDaniels was his offensive coordinator.
McDaniels is back, but Brady is also aging, turning 35 in August. He had noticeably diminished arm strength in 2011 and completed just 16 passes that went further than 20 yards in the air. He has a strong receiving corps, but I like Brees and Stafford a little bit more because of how much their offenses pass. They won’t have to average more than 8 YPA to approach 5000 yards.
Projection: 4730 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 50 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (332 pts standard/408 pts in 6 pt TD leagues)
RB Stevan Ridley (New England)
8/7/12: Of the Patriots two 2nd year backs, Stevan Ridley has been the most impressive. He looks poised to take over almost the entirety of BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ old work load (410 carries in the last 2 seasons), leaving Vereen as most a change of pace back. He’s much more explosive than BJGE too and could have double digit touchdowns on this explosive offense.
7/26/12: Joseph Addai was cut. Move Ridley up slightly.
It’s always tough to know what Belichick is going to do with his backs. As it stands, it sounds like Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will fairly evenly split the early down carries and Woodhead will stay in his very specific role as a pass catching/3rd down back. Ridley and BenJarvus Green Ellis combined for 268 carries last year. Ridley and Vereen should split those carries this year with Ridley probably being the lead back. Ridley has the most value in fantasy leagues because he’ll probably be the lead back and the goal line back. Bill Belichick is known to be a very frustrating coach for Fantasy Football owners, however.
Projection: 180 carries 850 rushing yards 9 total touchdowns 14 catches 100 receiving yards (149 pts standard/163 pts PPR)
RB Shane Vereen (New England)
8/7/12: While Ridley is impressing in Training Camp, Vereen is struggling to distance himself from undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Bolden. He’s not worth a whole lot in fantasy circles, except as a handcuff to Ridley.
7/26/12: Joseph Addai was cut. Move Vereen up slightly.
Vereen will get a good amount of carries. Remember, he was actually a 2nd round pick in 2011, whereas Ridley was just a 3rd round pick. However, Ridley averaged 5.1 YPC last year and Vereen averaged just 3.8. Ridley should get more carries and the goal line carries, but there’s some sleeper value with Vereen if you can get him late.
Projection: 100 carries 410 rushing yards 3 total touchdowns 18 catches 140 receiving yards (73 pts standard/91 pts PPR)
RB Danny Woodhead (New England)
Woodhead is probably the easiest New England back to project. He had 77 carries last year in a very specialized role and he should continue in that exact role this year. He may get a few more carries because Kevin Faulk is gone, but he could still have to contend with Joseph Addai. He’s got a career 5.1 YPC and should catch closer to the 34 passes he caught in 2010 than the 18 he caught in 2010, but he’s still got very limited fantasy football value.
Projection: 80 carries 400 rushing yards 3 total touchdowns 25 catches 250 receiving yards (83 pts/108 pts standard)
WR Wes Welker (New England)
8/7/12: Brandon Lloyd should have a strong year, which will eat at the aging Welker’s targets. He doesn’t average a lot of YPC or score a lot of touchdowns. He’s mostly a volume receiver, who ranked 2nd in the league in targets this season, and he should see a smaller volume of targets this season. Tom Brady is good, but he’s not good enough for Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez ALL to have their normal levels of production at the same time.
Welker had a career year last year, but wasn’t quite as good down the stretch. After surpassing 100 yards 4 times in his first 5 games, he only had 4 more 100 yard games, including the playoffs, and after scoring 5 times in his first 4 games, he scored just 5 times the rest of the way, including playoffs. He’s getting older and he has a ton of competition for receptions, so it’s likely he regresses to his 2007-2009 self, which is still very good, but not elite in fantasy.
Projection: 100 catches 1040 receiving yards 5 receiving touchdowns (134 pts standard/234 pts PPR)
WR Brandon Lloyd (New England)
8/7/12: Brandon Lloyd is reportedly dominating in Patriots Training Camp. He’s their best deep threat since Randy Moss gave a shit and he is obviously very comfortable in Josh McDaniels’ system. Remember, this guy led the league in receiving two years ago. He won’t do that because the Patriots just have too many options, but he could easily go for over 1000 yards receiving.
Before McDaniels was fired as Head Coach in Denver in 2010, Lloyd caught 60 passes for 1153 yards and 9 touchdowns in 12 games with Kyle Orton as his quarterback. In 2011, he was traded to St. Louis, where McDaniels was the offensive coordinator. He caught 51 passes for 683 yards and 5 touchdowns in 11 games with an injured Sam Bradford, AJ Feeley, and Kellen Clemens at quarterback. In the last 2 years, he has 111 catches for 1836 yards and 14 touchdowns in 23 games with McDaniels.
Over 16 games, that’s 77 catches for 1277 yards and 10 touchdowns. With Kyle Orton, AJ Feeley, Kellen Clemens, and an injured Sam Bradford throwing him the football. Now he has Tom Brady throwing him the football. However, he’s also got a ton of competition for balls around him. Welker and Gronkowski should both go over 1000 yards again, so I’d be surprised if Lloyd did so as well. 3 1000 yard receivers on one team is unheard of, even for the Patriots. He’ll still have a good season.
Projection: 65 catches 1000 receiving yards 9 receiving touchdowns (154 pts standard/219 pts PPR)
TE Rob Gronkowski (New England)
8/7/12: Same thing with Welker. Welker, Gronkowski, and Lloyd could all have 1000 yard seasons, but it’s unlikely that any of the 3 will have much more than that.
Gronkowski should also lose some production to Brandon Lloyd and I like Jimmy Graham more than him in fantasy, but he’ll still have a fantastic season. He caught 90 passes for 1327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. That’s insane.
Projection: 72 catches 1070 receiving yards 11 receiving touchdowns (173 pts standard/245 pts PPR)
TE Aaron Hernandez (New England)
8/7/12: My previous projections for Hernandez, who is reportedly dominating in Training Camp, were too low. He’ll take a statistical hit with Lloyd coming in too, but not a huge one. Remember, he’s never played a full 16 game season either, playing 14 a piece in his first 2 seasons, so if he does that, he could have a career high in yardage. He’s also being used as a fullback and could get you yardage on the ground. He had 45 yards on 5 carries last year in the regular season and then rushed for 61 yards on 5 carries in the playoffs against the Broncos. He could surpass 100 yards rushing.
This might seem a little low for Hernandez. However, the Patriots added a ton of wide receivers this offseason. They ran more two-tight end sets in passing situations than any team in the league last year. With guys like Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney coming in, that number should go down. Whereas Gronkowski’s production will be hurt because he’ll have more competition for balls, Hernandez figures to actually see the field less.
Projection: 65 catches 800 receiving yards 7 total touchdowns 100 rushing yards (132 pts standard/197 pts PPR)