This is not going to be a fantasy sports column. There are already enough guys making predictions with much better crunched numbers than I have for something that ultimately is still a crapshoot. But if you’re like me, you try to draft the best fantasy team in the most rational way possible… but you still want to have a few of the Pats on your team.
I got to thinking about this because I was at a fantasy draft last night with a bunch of guys who had watched football forever but not played fantasy all that much, so the draft was going a in many different directions, as you might expect. Kickers and defenses were drafted as early as the 6th round, and a guy took Reggie Bush in the 8th round because “He’s Reggie Bush.” But the most interesting thing was that QBs were flying off the board in the first 2.5 rounds. After Aaron Rodgers went 10th (understandably), that opened the floodgates, and Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck went 12th, 14th, and 15th respectively. That Manning and especially Brees went before Luck tells you something about the league. But then it got even more crazy with the signal callers. Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Matt freakin Ryan went 17, 21, and 22.
At this point, I knew I had to get a QBs, and all of the great ones and some of the good ones were gone. So what did I do? Draft Tom Brady 25th, of course. i have no regrets. He may have been ranked 116th overall according to ESPN, but the way I look at it, since the league isn’t too serious, I can put loyalty over rationality and then still try to win the league.
Oh, and I had taken Gronk 5th overall. Forgot to mention that.
So let me break down where should draft the Patriots in a fantasy draft and what you can expect from them this season. I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible, but I’m not sure how well that will work. (I’m assuming standard settings 10 team ESPN league.)
Rob Gronkowski: Ranking: 12
Gronk represents the hardest prediction other than Brady. I drafted Gronk 5th overall partly because I’m a homer, but partly because I had actual reasoning. The way I look at it, Gronk would be ranked higher if not for the injury risk that is a definite factor. But if he does get injured for a huge chunk of the season, aren’t you screwed anyway? In that case, why not draft him where you would assming 16 games of full health?
Gronk had 1124 yards and 12 receiving TDs last year, and he might even be able to improve on the yards. He had 1327 in 2011, and while that might be a little high, remember that he and Brady weren’t on the same page for the first 4 games last year. In fact, Gronk’s best stretch of those first 4 may have been with Jimmy Garopppolo in the blowout of the Chiefs game nightmare. So I wouldn’t worry too much about Gronk with Jimmy if Judge Berman sides with Team Evil in court, and Brady and Gronk will be on the same page whenever they first play together this season, since Gronk isn’t coming off 2 injury riddled seasons like he was last year, decreasing his snap count a ton. Gronk is easily worthy of a Top 10 pick if you think about him and his injury risk the way that I do, but I totally understand if you don’t.
Julian Edelman: Ranking: 35
I love Jules, but this one might be too high. Edelman is probably going to have 90+ catches yet again for right around 100 yards for the 3rd season in a row, but it’s hard to see him going much beyond that. If Edelman is your 2nd WR and you need a safe guy to go with a stud like Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, or Odell Beckham Jr., then I get it, but most people won’t be drafting their 2nd WR in the 4th round anyway. I’d rather wait on Golden Tate if you want a different safe play, or Sammy Watkins or Davante Adams if you want to take more of a risk, which would be my play. Watkins is a stud who’s only going to get better, and even though Tyrod Taylor is the QB, the Bills defense and LeSean McCoy should put the team in the red zone enough to have TD potential. And anyone who plays WR in Green Bay produces, and Adams will get more looks with Jordy Nelson out. Edelman around 35 isn’t bad, but I’d probably pass unless it’s in the 40s and you really need a receiver.
LeGarrette Blount: Ranking: 64
Blount is another understandable pick at his spot, but I’d probably pass simply because trying to predict how Bill Belichick will use his running backs each week is a worthless exercise. The 64th spot is in the 7th round, and you’re probably looking for a flex or maybe your first bench player here, but I’d be far more comfortable with Blount as a bye week fill in than a normal starter. At this spot, I’d rather take former Patriot Shane Vereen who’s going about a round lower and will probably provide about the same value.
Brandon LaFell: Ranking: Ambiguious for now, doesn’t matter
Stay away until we know more about his injury. Maybe take him in the final few rounds of the draft just to have him, but it might be a better idea just to let him go. There’s a chance he misses 6 games on the PUP list, and he’s not good enough otherwise to justify waiting for that.
Tom Brady: Ranking: 116
DRAFT. First of all, I think that Brady will beat the suspension, and that instantly shoots him way higher than 116. Even if he doesn’t, you can fill in those 4 games with someone else. Quarterback is so deep in fantasy this year, which is part of the reason that you should wait for Brady. I took Philip Rivers in my league, whom I highly recommend because his bye week is after Week 5 (Brady with the suspension won’t play until Week 6 because of the Week 4 bye) and becasue his early schedule is so easy. i also considered Matt Stafford or Colin Kaepernick, but they have harder schedules. Tony Romo is another good option, and you should definitely make sure you get another good, capable QB with Brady if you take him, and Rivers and Romo are my guys. Cam Newton is also a good one, but his bye week is 5, so you’d have to find some stiff to play for a week and hope to get lucky with matchups.
But Brady is gonna light the NFL on fire this year because of how pissed he’ll be about the suspension, and he was already the 8th best fantasy QB last year after the Chiefs debacle. Even if he’s just 8th for 12 games this year, that’s worth drafting in the 7th of 8th round of the draft.
Jonas Gray, Jimmy Garoppolo, Scott Chandler, Danny Amendola
Only draft in really deep leagues. Gray will be in the same boat as Blount, I don’t trust Garoppolo more than a guy like Rivers or Romo or even Kaepernick for those first 4 games except for the inevitable Jacksonville walkover in Week 3, Chandler might get some touchdowns like Tim Wright, but they’ll be too hard to predict, and Amendola is Amendola. At least he can apparently perform in the playoffs.
Defenses are a crapshoot. Anyone who doesn’t just play the matchup game with defenses is kidding themselves, unless they reach for a defense like the Seahawks, in which case they’ve reached for a defense. Draft the Pats defense because it will make you happy.
He’s often the 1st kicker off the board, and you shouldn’t be the one to take him unless it’s the final 2-3 rounds of the draft and you have no one else in mind. Sure, he’s a sure thing, but he’s still a kicker, and those guys don’t win you fantasy leagues.
Again, draft Tom Brady. That’s the point of this post.