At league age 40, Tom Brady continues to defy odds and father
time by delivering elite fantasy numbers at a time in his life
when most quarterbacks are playing golf. In just 12 games in a
suspension shortened season, Brady threw 28 touchdowns and only
two interceptions, as the Patriots went on to win the Lombardi
Trophy in dramatic fashion over the Atlanta Falcons.
Brady is the consensus No.2 quarterback behind only Aaron Rodgers,
but could certainly finish the season with the most fantasy points
considering the cache of weapons he possesses in both the passing
and running game. Often praised for the amount of success he has
achieved in his career without elite level receivers, no other
quarterback in the NFL boast more surrounding skill position talent
than No.12 in 2017.
Although the first ballot Hall of Famer is performing at a level
never seen before for an age 40 QB, he will eventually lose his
skills and the drop off could be steep like the final years of
greats like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. But the upside of
owning a top quarterback that produces consistent top 5 points
makes Brady worth the risk.
The Patriots signed Mike Gillislee from division foe Buffalo
after letting LeGarrette Blount and his 18 rushing touchdowns
leave for Philadelphia via free agency. Gillislee’s skill
set on short yardage and goal line carries reportedly impressed
Bill Belichick so much in defensive meetings that he wanted to
make him a Patriot in 2017.
Although often considered a bruising back with average speed,
Gillislee averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry in each of
his two seasons with Buffalo, including a 12-carry, 85-yard game
against the Patriots in Week 8 that included a rushing touchdown.
On a negative note, the fact that the Patriots boast a backfield
with four running backs that could see the field in any game situation
negates Gillislee’s value and will prohibit him from likely
finishing as a RB1 in fantasy. But when it comes to goal line
carries, no other team since 2012 has more one-yard to go carries
than New England and Gillislee appears to be the primary player
for those lucrative plays.
The main receiving back in the New England passing game, White
finished 2016 with 60 catches for 551 yards and five touchdowns.
His role appears to be clearly defined heading into 2017, but
as is always the case with Bill Belichick teams, expecting a certain
amount of volume for a running back is an exercise in futility.
White’s extensive usage in the Super Bowl is often cited
as a reason to think he may see more action in the 2017 regular
season. But that narrative is flawed due to the fact that the
Patriots were down for most of the game and an injury to Dion
Lewis gave White exclusive work in the backfield on passing downs.
White is more of a target in PPR leagues and can typically be
had early in Round 10.
A special teams ace who flashed some talent last season in spot
play for the Cincinnati Bengals, Burkhead joins the crowded Patriot
backfield along with Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis, James White,
James Develin, D.J. Foster, and of course, Brandon Bolden.
Despite having only 97 career carries, Burkhead owns somewhat
of a cult following with fantasy analysts, with the hope that
the former Nebraska Cornhusker will emerge as the every down back
for Bill Belichick. The more likely scenario is Burkhead will
continue to be a fixture on special teams and work in periodically
at running back depending on the matchup. He’s worth a dart
throw late in the double-digit rounds of your draft.
As Tom Brady’s favorite and most trusted wide receiver
over the past four seasons, Julian Edelman quietly posted an impressive
98/1106/3 season in 2016, ranking him 16th in PPR leagues. Although
he finished the year with a career best 160 targets in 16 games,
his pedestrian three receiving touchdowns somewhat limited his
value in standard leagues.
The addition of Brandin Cooks via trade over the off-season will
likely result in Edelman receiving fewer targets in 2017, as it
would not make much sense for the Patriots to give up a first
round pick for a wideout, only to not use him. But Brady is still
going to look to his safety valve early and often, and Edelman
will likely once again post close to 1000 receiving yards if he
can stay healthy in 2017.
In the history of the NFL, no other wide receiver has been blessed
to play with two different first ballot hall of fame quarterbacks
like Brandin Cooks, who left New Orleans after two seasons catching
passes from Drew Brees to move to New England and work with Tom
At just 24 years of age, the former first round selection from
Oregon State owns consecutive 1100-yard seasons, with 20 career
receiving touchdowns. As a member of the Patriots, Cooks joins
a crowded receiving corps dominated by a tight end in Rob Gronkowski
who commands a significant percentage of targets each game and
a coach who is not afraid to employ game plans that could limit
Cooks’ targets from one week to the next.
Fantasy owners want to own a piece of the New England offense
because it is potent and the Patriots will put up one of the highest
point totals in the league this season. The problem is predicting
when and to whom the points will be distributed to, making Cooks
a less desirable option compared to other wide receivers taken
in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Cooks has the ceiling of
a WR1 but given the all the mouths to feed in New England, his
likely output will look more like a WR2.
Despite playing in only eight regular season games in 2016 (six
full games), Rob Gronkowski finished the season with 540 receiving
yards and three touchdowns. He posted double digit fantasy points
in all but one of those six games, including seven catches for
162 yards and a touchdown Week 6 against the Bengals.
When healthy, Gronk is the biggest difference maker in fantasy
football, and his ability to outperform everyone at his position
makes him one of the most valuable players in the game. The problem
is that he has only played in one 16-game season since joining
the league in 2010, and it is almost a certainty that he will
miss at least a few games this year.
The other issue with taking Gronk in the second round is the
opportunity cost of passing on No.1 running back and wide receiving
options for a player as volatile as Gronkowski. But if he plays
at least ten games in 2017, he is all but guaranteed double digit
touchdowns and 1000 yards.