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Offseason Primers: New England Patriots

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Patriots were once again an offensive juggernaut in 2012, and they came within one game of another Super Bowl appearance before losing to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. They also helped a lot of Fantasy owners along the way.

Tom Brady had another stellar season and was a Top 3 Fantasy quarterback for the third year in a row. He had more than 4,800 passing yards for the second year in a row, more than 37 total touchdowns for the third year in a row and for the second time in his past three years, he had fewer than 10 interceptions. At a time when running quarterbacks are all the rage, Brady continues to dominate.

2012 Touches Leaders
1,164 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Stevan Ridley 296 (290 car., 6 rec.) 25.4%
Wes Welker 120 (2 car., 118 rec.) 10.3%
Danny Woodhead 116 (76 car., 40 rec.) 9.9%
Brandon Lloyd 74 rec. 6.4%
Shane Vereen 70 (62 car., 8 rec.) 10.6%
All Others 478 41.0%

Stevan Ridley stepped in for the departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis and had a breakout campaign. For all the talk about Bill Belichick going with a committee backfield, Ridley dominated carries compared to Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead. In fact, if you combine the touches for Woodhead (116) and Vereen (70) they still fall well short of the workload for Ridley (296).

The receiving corps for the Patriots was again stellar as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez played well despite battling injuries, with Gronkowski the No. 2 Fantasy tight end behind Jimmy Graham. Wes Welker had his fifth season with more than 100 catches, and Brandon Lloyd was probably the lone disappointment on offense with a down year. Even Stephen Gostkowski was the No. 1 Fantasy kicker.

Now, the Patriots have to deal with the loss of Welker, who signed with the Broncos, and Brandon Lloyd, who was released. Brady's receiving corps will have a different look, but we expect him to still shine. Danny Amendola will replace Welker, and Brady should love relying on his new weapon.

Shane Vereen -- Sleeper

2012 Target Leaders
641 pass attempts
Wes Welker 175 27.3%
Brandon Lloyd 131 20.4%
Aaron Hernandez 83 12.9%
Rob Gronkowski 79 12.3%
Danny Woodhead 55 8.5%
All Others 118 18.4%

Vereen got off to a slow start in 2012, but he closed the season on a high note and should be in line for a bigger role this year, especially with Woodhead gone to the Chargers. Last year, Vereen was inactive for the first three games of the season, but he finished the year with 73 carries for 308 yards and four touchdowns and 15 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns, including the playoffs. With Woodhead gone, Vereen's value will rise, especially in PPR leagues where he could complement Ridley. Woodhead had 76 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns and 40 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns with one lost fumble last year, and Vereen should pick up the majority of that production even in a shared role with Leon Washington. He should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back in standard leagues and a potential No. 2 option in deep PPR formats. He's worth a mid-round pick, and Vereen has sleeper written all over him.

Brandon Lloyd -- Player on the move

Lloyd is looking for a new team this offseason after he was released by the Patriots in March. He entered 2012 with a lot of optimism. He was playing with the first elite quarterback of his career in Brady, he was teaming up again with the offensive coordinator who made him a star in Josh McDaniels and he was coming off the two best years of his career. It seemed like he was destined for greatness. Instead, Lloyd struggled with the Patriots with 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns. He managed just five games with double digits in Fantasy points despite getting 131 targets, which made him among the Top 20 most-targets receivers. We can only see Lloyd going down from here. Keep an eye on where he ends up, but Lloyd should still be a Fantasy reserve. Depending on his quarterback and his role, Lloyd will be worth a late-round flier in most leagues.

Rob Gronkowski -- Draft Day target

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Tom Brady 18-26 overall
Stevan Ridley 11-15 overall
Shane Vereen 45-52 overall
Danny Amendola 38-44 overall
Donald Jones Undrafted
Brandon Lloyd 144-152 overall
Julian Edelman Undrafted
Rob Gronkowski 11-15 overall
Aaron Hernandez 44-51 overall

A popular debate for Fantasy owners is when to draft Gronkowski. The traditionalist will say wait on tight end and look for sleepers like Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta or Brandon Myers. But the modern owner will look at Gronkowski's body of work and realize he's a difference maker and should be drafted in the first 15 overall picks. Despite missing five games last year with a broken left forearm he still finished second in Fantasy points behind Graham. He has scored double digits in touchdowns in each of the first three years of his career with 39 scores in 43 games -- a 90.6 percent clip. With 187 career catches he's averaging a touchdown every 4.9 catches. Calvin Johnson is considered the No. 1 Fantasy receiver and a first-round pick, and he finished with 214 Fantasy points last year. If you project Gronkowski's stats over 16 games when he got hurt in Week 11 he would have finished with 85 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns, which is 215 Fantasy points in a standard league. He's right there with Johnson and should be drafted in the same range. That is, if you want to win.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Patriots place rookie CB Darryl Roberts on IR
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Patriots have placed rookie cornerback and seventh round pick Darryl Roberts on season-ending injured reserve, ESPN has reported.

Roberts injured his wrist in the first preseason game. He started that game and was showing promise in training camp.


Saints place P.J. Williams on IR
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Saints placed cornerback P.J. Williams on injured reserve, reports NFL.com. Williams will miss the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring. He was a third-round pick in 2015.

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin sidelined with sprained ankle
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) Seahawks backup running back Robert Turbin sustained an ankle injury Saturday against the Chargers, which might keep him out for a while, coach Pete Carroll revealed Tuesday. 

“Robert’s got a sprained ankle,” Carroll said, per SeattlePI.com. “It’s a significant ankle sprain. We have to see what that means. He feels pretty good about it, but it definitely showed up on the MRI and all that.”


Bears place running back Senorise Perry on IR
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Bears placed running back Senorise Perry on injured reserve Tuesday to reach the 75-man roster limit. He is in his second season out of Louisville.

RG3 meeting with independent neurologist later in the week
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) Redskins backup quarterback Robert Griffin III will be evaluated later in the week by an independent neurologist to check for lingering concussion symptoms, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday. He is expected to be re-tested Thursday or Friday.

Report: Jaguars' Julius Thomas to undergo surgery, miss a month
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) After undergoing a second opinion Tuesday, Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas will have surgery on his broken index finger Wednesday, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. 

The surgery could sideline Thomas for up to a month. He is in his first season with the Jaguars.


Chiefs place LB Justin March on IR, Tyler Bray on NFI list
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Chiefs placed linebacker Justin March (knee) on injured reserve and quarterback Tyler Bray on the non-football injury list Tuesday.

Giants place OL Will Beatty on PUP list, two others on IR
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Giants placed offensive lineman Will Beatty (pectoral) on the PUP list Tuesday, which means he will miss at the least the first six weeks of the 2015 season.

The Giants also placed Josh Gordy (hip) and Bennett Jackson (knee) on injured reserve, while waived-injured Brandon Mosley (back) and Akeem Hunt (hamstring).


Packers WR Randall Cobb: 'I don't plan on missing a game'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb missed the final training camp practice Tuesday due to his sprained right shoulder. However, Cobb feels his time away from the field will be minimal, per PackersNews.com.

“I don’t plan on missing a game,” Cobb said. "I'm doing everything in my power to get back before then, but we still don't know severity. We've still got to get a lot of the swelling out. It definitely is a lot better then what we all thought it was in the beginning."


Cowboys get roster down to 75 players
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2015) The Cowboys pared down their roster to 75 players on Tuesday by releasing four and giving injury designations to six, according to the team's official website.

The Cowboys waived linebacker Jonathan Brown, wide receivers Antwan Goodley and David Porter and and tight end Brandon Barden. They also waived/injured defensive end Kenneth Boatright, running back Michael Hill and offensive tackle R.J. Dill.

Dallas also placed Orlando Scandrick on IR, Chaz Green on the PUP list and Mark Nzeocha on the NFI list.


 
 
 
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