To paraphrase the great Ric Flair, in order to be the team, you’ve got to beat the team. The team, in this case is the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. Not only are the Patriots gearing up for another run at the Lombardi Trophy, but fans of DFS and Fantasy Football everywhere are waiting with baited breath to find out what will happen to Tom Brady and his suspension. As of now, Brady is facing a four-game suspension for his Deflategate role but, many feel as if that suspension will either be reduced or overturned completely. That decision will go a long ways in determining the value of the entire New England offense, especially during the first four games of the 2015 NFL season.
Either way, you are going to be looking at drafting Brady quite often throughout the season. For the defending champs, the Pats have a rather soft schedule. In terms of their strength of schedule, most have New England as facing the eighth easiest schedule this season. That benefits many players on offense, starting with Brady. The former NFL MVP threw for 33 TD in 2014, compared to just 9 INT. With a full 16-game schedule, there is no reason to think that he can’t replicate those numbers in 2015. With a weaker schedule, although the AFC East is vastly improved on paper, Brady may even be able to surpass last season’s stats, provided he plays a full season. If he does miss any regular season time, Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start under center.
Behind Brady, things are a bit more unclear. LeGarrette Blount is listed as the No. 1 running back, but we all know that he will miss the first game of the regular season due to a a suspension that will not be overturned. After basically abandoning the Pittsburgh Steelers, Blount once again resurrected his career in New England, helping lead the Patriots to another Super Bowl. In five games with New England, Blount carried the ball 60 times for 281 rushing yards and 3 TD. Of course, any RB with the Patriots is always going to be part of a guessing game, as head coach Bill Belichick loves to play the matchups more than any other coach in the history of professional football. That means that players such as Travaris Cadet, James White, Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden could occasionally make for sneaky plays in one-week leagues.
At wide receiver, the position still leaves a bit to be desired. Julian Edelman is the likely No. 1 choice for fantasy football rosters, as he is going to see the most targets on a weekly basis. In 2014, Edelman had a total of 92 catches for 972 yards and 4 TD. He started 13 games last season. To show how much he came on as the season progressed, Edelman caught 73 passes for 786 yards and all 4 of his TDs during the final nine games of 2014. If he can stay healthy, which is going to be an issue due to how he plays the game, Edelman could catch 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards. A few more touchdowns would also help improve his value.
Brandon LaFell is the likely No. 2 pass-catcher in New England, as he had an up-and–down first year with the Pats. After a fairly slow start adjusting to the offense, LaFell caught 70 passes on 105 targets for 907 yards and 7 TD. Danny Amendola did very little once again throughout the regular season, but came up huge in the playoffs. I am guessing that his 2015 regular season will resemble more of his disappointing numbers than those he put up in the postseason. From a week-to-week basis, Aaron Dobson may be able to make a splash, depending on health and usage. Brandon Gibson, Brian Tyms and Josh Boyce are other receivers to keep an eye on throughout camp and into the exhibition season.
At tight end, we all know that the Patriots possess the No. 1 player at that position in all of football, both in terms of NFL and fantasy production. Rob Gronkowski took a while to become completely healthy to start the 2014 season but, once he got going, there was no stopping him. Not only did he play every single game in the regular season as throughout the playoffs but, Gronk had a total of 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 TD. That was with having done very little during the first quarter of the season. Just think what he can do in 2015 with a clean bill of health? Scott Chandler could also have a few decent games as the new No. 2 tight end, with Tim Wright out of the picture.
In the kicking game, Gostkowski always deserves to be one of the first kickers drafted throughout the season, as the Patriots should put up a lot of points, but also give him plenty of field goal opportunities. He has converted on 73-of-78 field goals over the past two seasons.
On a fantasy defense front, the Pats may take a bit of a step back in 2015. The defensive secondary is going to be a bit of a question mark with the loss of Darrell Revis. I think that they may do a decent job against the run, despite the loss of Vince Wilfork. If players such as Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo can return to full health, things will certainly look up a bit. If not, this is going to be a matchup-based unit at best.