In 2009, a lot of excuses were made for the Patriots failing to make it deep into the playoffs. There was Tom's knee, Wes's knee, Randy's beard, Gisele Bundchen (understandable), and Maroney's impeccable ball security (yes, that's sarcasm), but in 2010 no amount of excuses will suffice. The Patriots are as talented as ever and have weapons on both sides of the football to be a major contenders. While the Jet and Dolphins dove almost blindly into the free agent pool, the Patriots locked down their key guys and seem to have something to prove with this specific group of players. Speaking of that specific group of players, ahead I will discuss the New England Patriots impact fantasy players, as well as analyze their schedule and coaching strategies for the upcoming NFL season.
New England Patriots 2010 Fantasy Football Draft Targets
Tom Brady: Despite his stalling contract negotiations, Tom Brady will still be a top 10 QB pick in any fantasy draft. Every year he puts up gaudy numbers, although I doubt he will ever be able to reach to 50-TD pinnacle he set in '07. Everyone always says that an ACL tear takes two years to fully recover from. Well, this is year two so we should expect big things from number 12. Last year he put up his second highest touchdown total with 28 as well as completing over 67% of his passes for 4,398 yards. Those are solid numbers no matter which way you look at them, and as long as he can stay healthy his numbers will hover around the same area this year, especially with the addition of Torry Holt as an outlet man and the ascension of Julien Edelman as a solid slot receiver. While Brady won't be the top scoring QB in the fantasy world, he is still a top 10 QB pick and is poised to have another big year.
One thing the New England Patriots have never had is a marquee running back – unless you count Curtis Martin. They have been the poster child for running back by committee. Everyone had high hopes for Laurence Maroney to be the man right out of Minnesota, and he has moments of brilliance down the stretch last year posting 9 touchdowns, but he has been injury prone and had serious issues holding onto the football. The veterans Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk are always present but no one guy has ever been able to take hold of the position so look for the Pats to continue attacking on first and second down primarily with Morris or Maroney and Kevin Faulk continuing to be a stud on third down passing situations. Individually it is extremely difficult to recommend any one player as a starting RB in your fantasy league, but as a Bye Week filler pick a name out of a hat and they could produce some decent numbers in a more balanced Patriot offense in 2010.
Randy Moss: The ever present down field threat for the Patriots. While his numbers have tapered over the past two seasons (as if 13 receiving TDs is a bad thing), he is still Tom Brady's primary downfield and red zone target. Look for Moss to have a big first half while Wes Welker gets back to full strength and continue his streak of double digit TD, 1,000+ yd seasons in a Patriot uniform.
Wes Welker/Torry Holt/Julien Edelman: Any one of these guys could be huge this year for the Patriots, but it is too soon to tell about Welker's knee, Holts durability at this stage of his career, and Edelman's development as a slot receiver. Holt will definitely fill the secondary receiver hole that has lacking in the Patriots offense and will get his touches no matter what, but to what extent with Moss on the other side? Edelman showed flashes of what he can do down the stretch and in the playoffs last season and could be a solid fantasy performer as a yards after the catch guy and a speedy return man.
Alge Crumpler: Big veteran guy who is a superior blocker than he is receiver. A lot of us remember him as Michael Vick's favorite target in Atlanta but he has sort of devolved out of the passing game over the past few years in Atlanta and seldom used at all last season in Tennessee. Not a great fantasy option in 2010, especially with the addition of these guys...
Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez: Both rookies in the Patriots camp, Gronkowski taken in the second round and Hernandez in the fourth, could be minor fantasy producers. Gronkowski is the most talented of the duo, but there are questions about his playing time due to recovering from back surgery last season and the addition of Hernandez just two rounds later in the draft. They both have similar skill sets down the field and can block along the line, but one has to remember that the Pats ranked 28th in the league in catches by tight ends, and with Alge in the mix it is hard to imagine one of these guys making a major impact over any of the others.
Instead of trying to rebuild through free agency, Belichick and Co. decided to lock down the guys that they have confidence in and utilize the draft to inject some youth into their defensive unit. The biggest question in the offseason was the linebacker position. Right now the Patriots have one stud, Jerrod Mayo, and one attacking linebacker in Tully Banta-Cain that they hope and pray can repeat the season he had last year when he recorded 9.5 sacks. In the Base 3-4 they are going to need someone else to step up and they are hoping one of their rookies, Brandon Spikes or Jermaine Cunningham, will be able to plug that hole. Overall the Patriots may not be the best defensive unit in the league, but they remain solid every year. They do not give up a ton of points (5th), rushing yards (13th), or the big play down the field (12th in p. yds/g), but they also do not score a whole lot in terms of fantasy points with 28 total takeaways in 2009. They are a well rounded unit and with a bit more youth and experience in this year’s line up they will continue to be solid, but do not expect them to shut teams out on a weekly basis.
Wk Date Opponent
1 Sun, Sept 12th Cincinnati Bengals
2 Sun, Sept 19th @ New York Jets
3 Sun, Sept 26th Buffalo Bills
4 Mon, Oct 4th @ Miami Dolphins
5 BYE WEEK
6 Sun, Oct 17th Baltimore Ravens
7 Sun, Oct 24th @ San Diego Chargers
8 Sun, Oct 31st Minnesota Vikings
9 Sun, Nov 7th @ Cleveland Browns
10 Sun, Nov 14th @ Pittsburgh Steelers
11 Sun, Nov 21st Indianapolis Colts
12 Thurs, Nov 25th @ Detroit Lions
13 Mon, Dec 6th New York Jets
14 Sun, Dec 12th @ Chicago Bears
15 Sun, Dec 19th Green Bay Packers
16 Sun, Dec 26th @ Buffalo Bills
17 Sun, Jan 2nd Miami Dolphins
Nightmare of a schedule. Not only is the AFC East as good as it has been in ages, the Pats have to take on the defending AFC champion Colts and NFC title contender Vikings. The Patriots are still the class of the AFC East and until someone knocks them off that pedestal I think they will again reign supreme. There are no major ego issues, besides Logan Mankins, and instead of blitzing free agents the Pats locked down their big guys and built chemistry. The Patriots will win the AFC East with an 11-5 record with key victories over the Chargers, Packers and securing their title in the season finale against the Dolphins.
The Patriots offense has potential to be one of the best in the league every year, and this
year will be no different. We all know what we are going to get from their downfield passing game, because it will be Moss, Moss, and more Moss with a dash of Holt, but this year the Patriots have developed multiple weapons to work underneath. The mighty whitey duo of Welker and Edelman could be a force to be reckoned with as they both have speed, solid hands and are great after the catch. The big question will be the running game and the effectiveness of their veterans in the backfield. More than likely the Patriots will revert to the slant and screen passing game that is an extension of their running game to keep defenses honest, and pound the ball with Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney at the goal line and in short yardage situations. I expect big things, but they need to establish some sort of effective running attack to open up those spaces underneath and get Moss in single coverage on the outside.
Defensively the Patriots need to step up their aggressive play. When they attacked the quarterback effectively last season it took the pressure off of their offense to win games. With the added youth and depth at linebacker, the aforementioned Spikes and Cunningham, to help Vince Wilfork up front against the run and up and coming safety Patrick Chung alongside Brandon Meriweather, the Patriots defensive unit has the ability to bring a lot more pressure without sacrificing anything over the top. The litmus test for this unit is how they hold up against the run heavy offenses of the AFC East facing the Jets and Dolphins twice a year. If they can show some resolve against those guys and force their young quarterbacks to go to the air more than they would like they will definitely have the success that we expect from such a quality team.