With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots were one of the league’s best offensive teams again in 2009. While it was expected the team would generate significant yards in the passing game, the team’s ability to effectively run the ball came as a surprise.
Despite lacking a featured runner and having injury problems at the position, the Patriots were a very solid twelfth in the league in rushing. Laurence Maroney came back strong after a disappointing year in 2008 and showcased the ability to be the team’s lead runner. Fumbling kept him on the bench at times but he played well enough to warrant consideration as a sleeper pick.
Although the Patriots figure to be solid on offense in 2010, there are more risks than in seasons past…
Left tackle Matt Light appeared to be a player in decline last year, the tight end position is a major question mark and most significantly, slot wide receiver Wes Welker, the league’s best at the position, is coming off a serious knee injury that occurred late in 2009. Of course, the possibility of a Randy Moss blow up remains. While those issues could have a material impact on the offense, most NFL teams would gladly trade their offensive situation for the Patriots “problems”.
QB Tom Brady
Brady is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2009 campaign as the seventh ranked fantasy quarterback. However, 43 of his fantasy points came during a 59-0 blowout win over Tennessee. In 2010, expect similar numbers from Brady and an improvement over 2009 seems reasonable given he will be two years removed from the ACL injury that derailed his 2008 season. However, much hinges on the health of Wes Welker, the league’s best slot receiver and Brady’s unquestioned security blanket on third down. Randy Moss returns and veteran Torry Holt is better suited for to the third role than Joey Galloway and Sam Aiken were last year. Welker’s health needs to be monitored but reports indicate he could be ready on week one. If that holds, Brady is headed for a top five fantasy ranking in 2010.
RB Laurence Maroney
Maroney is the ultimate tease for fantasy owners and Patriots fans. He seemingly changes from looking like a stud running back to a player more interested in avoiding contact by stepping out of bounds from play to play. He is coming off a modest season in 2009 where he finished with 757 rushing yards and nine touchdowns even though he found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse courtesy of four fumbles. During a nine-game stretch from week 7 to week 15, Maroney averaged almost 14 fantasy points per game on 709 total yards and nine touchdowns while averaging almost 19 touches per game. If he can avoid Belichick’s doghouse, he is a decent option as a fantasy backup with some upside given the age of the Patriots other running backs.
RB Sammy Morris
Morris is a dependable back whose ability running between the tackles keeps him employed. However his sporadic playing time in the Patriots backfield gives fantasy owners fits. Sure he will score a few fantasy points but it will almost certainly happen when he’s sitting on your bench. Injuries generally hold Morris back. He has played 16 games only three times during his ten years in the league all of which occurred during seasons where he was barely used. While he’s a key cog in the running back-by-committee approach used by the Patriots, you should avoid him in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues given his lack of upside, injury history and competition for carries in New England.
RB Fred Taylor
The Patriots were hoping Taylor would have a resurgence during his first year in New England but that failed to materialize as he suffered through the worst year of his 12-year career. An ankle injury limited him to just six games and he finished with just 269 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Laurence Maroney played well in Taylor’s absence and will enter training camp as the favorite to start in 2010. Maroney does have a history of disappointing so Taylor may be worth adding as a waiver-wire pickup in-season should Maroney falter.
RB Kevin Faulk
Faulk keeps on chugging at age 34 and has yet to relinquish his role as the Patriots top receiving option out of the backfield. If the Patriots are behind late in games (which happens more frequently now), Faulk is generally in the backfield for his receiving and pass protection abilities. However, predicting when he will be used is difficult and given his age, there is no chance he will earn enough touches on a consistent basis to even fill a role as a flex player. Faulk is strictly a fill in option in all leagues.
WR Randy Moss
Moss comes off a 2009 campaign in which he had solid statistics while not necessarily being a solid citizen. In 2010, the stars may be aligned for Moss to have an excellent fantasy season, perhaps even supplanting Andre Johnson as the top fantasy wide receiver. Success = opportunity + motivation + ability and Moss has all three. Opportunity – Wes Welker may miss the early part of the season or at best be limited as he recovers from tears to his ACL and MCL. Motivation – Moss is entering a contract year and hoping for one final big payday. Ability – In the two years that Brady has been healthy, Moss has accumulated 2,757 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns. In addition, Brady will be two years removed from tearing his ACL. Expect plenty of targets, plenty of big games and plenty of production from Moss in 2010.
WR Wes Welker
Welker has been PPR gold with 347 receptions for 3,688 yards over the last three years however, he tore both his ACL and MCL during the last regular season game of 2009 leaving his fantasy prospects for 2010 on shaky ground. A full recovery from such a severe injury seems unlikely. Although some reports indicate he may be ready on opening day, it is wishful thinking to suggest he will be 100% by week one. In fact, it is likely wishful thinking to expect he will be fully recovered at any time during 2010. Welker relies on quick cuts on short and intermediate routes to get open and the injury he suffered will at least partially negate his strengths as a receiver. A fourth straight 100-catch season isn’t in the cards and Welker is unlikely to be a solid fantasy contributor in 2010.
WR Torry Holt
Holt has spent the last few years wallowing in the moribund passing attacks of the Rams and Jaguars. This year, he moves from the run heavy offense in Jacksonville to an offense led by one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Tom Brady. In 2009, Holt never seemed to be on the same page with quarterback David Garrard and the two missed several opportunities to connect for big plays. Still, the veteran managed 51 receptions for 722 yards (both career lows) for a respectable 14.2 yards per catch but suffered fantasy wise as he failed to find the end zone. If you subscribe to the theory that the Patriots want a dependable receiver to start opposite Randy Moss and Wes Welker, then Holt is your bet to win the job ahead of second year player Brandon Tate, rookie Taylor Price and Julian Edelman. Even so, Holt has limited upside in 2010 unless he can rediscover his ability to find the end zone.
WR Julian Edelman
Edelman quickly proved himself to be a Wes Welker clone during his rookie season in 2009. An injury to Wes Welker allowed Edelman to haul in 16 passes for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns during week 17 and the Patriots playoff loss against the Ravens. Edelman figures to be used heavily early in 2010 unless Welker is fully recovered from the significant knee injuries he sustained late last season. Edelman is clearly worthy of being drafted and has significant upside in PPR leagues if Welker fails to regain full health.
TE Alge Crumpler
The days of watching Crumpler split the safeties down the field are long gone. Although he moves to the pass-happy Pats in 2010, there is little chance of him resurrecting his days as one of the league’s top receiving threats at the tight end position. He has morphed into more of a blocker late in his career by adding several pounds, which in turn hampers his ability to get open. Too many dropped passes in 2009 show that Crumpler’s skills as a receiver seem to be on the decline. He’s no better than a TE2 for your fantasy league in 2010.