December 23, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) signals a play during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Patriots defeated the Jaguars 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots 2013 Fantasy Football Preview

Fantasy Stud — Tom Brady, QB

If you’re asking me, you can’t rely on anyone on the Patriots’ roster this year guaranteed besides Tom Brady. Of course, there are guys like Stevan Ridley and Rob Gronkowski who are pretty proven in fantasy at this point, but the Patriots still have a lot of talented backs and Gronkowski has his share of health issues.

Despite having the most questionable group of receivers he’s had in a while, Tom Brady is still the Patriots’ fantasy stud. In the last three seasons, he has thrown for 109 touchdowns compared to just 24 interceptions. That’s a pretty unbelievable ratio right there of TDs to INTs, and Brady has really mastered his art at this point.

With the receivers/tight ends taking huge hits this offseason with the losses of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, Brady has to be thinking there’s going to be a ton more work to do this season as compared to the previous few. Danny Amendola was signed to replace Welker, but he’s not been able to stay healthy for an entire season. The Patriots were unprepared for the Hernandez situation, and what’s even worse is that Rob Gronkowski could start the season on the PUP.

Brandon Lloyd is also gone for the Patriots, and right now, the projected replacement as the Pats’ top outside receiver is either rookie Aaron Dobson or free agent signing Michael Jenkins.

I think Brady could be in line for another 30 touchdown season, but his INTs might increase since he will probably have to create a little bit more. There could also be significantly more drops this year with familiar targets out of town. I still think Brady will be a reliable QB1 in most fantasy leagues.

Fantasy Risk — Rob Gronkowski, TE

You will either feast or famine on Gronk this season. The All-Pro tight end played in just 11 games last year, but still had 11 receiving touchdowns. There’s no question that Gronk would be Tom Brady’s favorite target if he is in the lineup, but there are legitimate questions right now about whether or not he will be ready to start the season.

If healthy, Gronk is capable of putting up WR numbers from the TE position, which offers your fantasy team a very dynamic additional playmaker. I think personally, I would take a risk drafting Gronkowski, and you’ll be able to get him at a real bargain price this year. In fact, I’ve been able to get Vernon Davis pretty late in most mock drafts, so I can’t imagine Gronk is going overly early in drafts this year, unless news breaks within the next month or so that he is fully healthy and ready to go.

It might be a bit of a risk to take Gronkowski this year, but it’s certainly worth the reward.

Fantasy Sleeper — Stevan Ridley, RB

I think most of the country is still sleeping a bit on Stevan Ridley. The Patriots made running the ball a priority last season, and Ridley finished with a very respectable 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he can get even more involved in the passing game (nine receptions in two seasons), I think Ridley can emerge this season as a RB1 instead of just being a nice piece on your team as a RB2.

When drafting this season, I think you’ll be able to snag Ridley in the second or maybe even the third round, and you could come away with a really solid RB2 that could emerge this season and be a nice surprise. He’s not the fastest back, and he only averaged 4.4 yards per carry last year, but he has a nose for the end zone and had four 100+ yard games for the Pats last season.

Rookie to Watch — Aaron Dobson, WR

Dobson is a big, fast receiver prospect who is going to be forced into action early on in his career. The good news is, Tom Brady should have no problem finding this kid deep. At 6’3″ 210 pounds, the playmaker from Marshall ran a 4.37 at his pro day in 2013 and really opened eyes with his athletic ability.

Everyone knew coming out that Dobson was capable of making big plays, as evidenced by one of the most incredible one-handed grabs we’ve ever seen, and he will have to make some big plays for the Patriots this year, especially after all the losses they suffered on that side of the ball.

Expectations will be high for Dobson, who will take time to adjust, but one way we know he can beat teams is by heading deep. I think he is one of the better rookie options to start the season.

Tags: Fantasy Football Preview New England Patriots Offseason

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