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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
Bengals' Vontaze Burfict may start year on PUP
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:30 pm ET) Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's rehab may not be progressing as quickly as the team had hoped.

Burfict had microfracture knee surgery and initial post-surgery reports said that he could be recovered by the start of training camp. 

This week, the team's website said that Burfict's status was "up in the air" and that a return by the start of the season would be a "tight call".

If Burfict isn't ready by the opener, the Bengals may choose to put him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. 


So far, so good for Texans rookie CB Kevin Johnson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:49 am ET) First impressions aren't necessarily important for first-round picks in the NFL. They are far more critical to lower selections and undrafted free agents who desperately need to raise a few eyebrows immediately lest they be back out looking for work.

But whether necessary or not, Texans first-rounder Kevin Johnson is making one heck of a first impression on Bill O'Brien. The clornerback opened some eyes at minicamp.

"This is a guy that's a very quick guy," O'Brien said. "He's a tall guy. He's a guy that has really good transition ability. He's got what I call really good recover transition. If he's getting beat, he can stick his foot in the ground and really make up a lot of ground.

"He's a very bright player. If you ask him questions in the morning meeting, he really has obviously studied the night before. He's working out on his own and doing things to help stay up on material that's being installed."

Johnson believes he needs to do the little things right to make a big impact in his rookie year.

"From the training room to the classroom to the film study, everything is just more detailed," he told the team website. "I'm just trying to take it all in and use everything around here and just get better."


Bears CB Tim Jennings could transition into slot role
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Bears cornerback Tim Jennings is "still trying to figure out" where he will fit into the secondary this season, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

The nine-year veteran, who is entering his sixth season in the Windy City, has 95 career starts and led the league in interceptions in 2012. He is even a two-time Pro Bowler. But he spent significant time as the slot corner in minicamp. That's an unsatisfying role for him that he just might be forced to embrace.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers his outside corners tall and physical. Jennings is 5-8, 185 pounds. He might still earn an outside role opposite Kyle Fuller, but do achieve that goal he must at the very least outperform free agent pickup Alan Ball, who better fits the ideal description.

If the words of new coach John Fox are any indication, that's unlikely to happen.

"Dimension-wise, he's built like a nickel corner," Fox said. "He's played it before."

Jennings has started all but three games over the last seven years.


Report: Cardinals' Daryl Washington unsure of NFL standing
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/22/2015) Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is approaching the one-year mark for his suspension though his NFL status is still in limbo. 

But according to a report from FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix, Washington is unsure about his status with the league. He was suspended a year ago on May 30, 2014 for being a multiple offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

However, he was expected to apply for reinstatement a month ago but did not do so. 

Assuming Washington is reinstated to the NFL at some point he will likely be subjected to punishment under the NFL's domestic violence policy. On March 24, 2014, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. 


Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/22/2015) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/22/2015) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/22/2015) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/22/2015) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/22/2015) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/22/2015) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


 
 
 
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