The New England Patriots are missing their five top pass receivers from last season, begging the question, "Who will catch Tom Brady's passes?" Yeah, we know, wise guy – Giselle Bundchen for sure. Maybe though, some other supermodel – remember Tom holds the record for impregnating supermodels in a single season with two.
Gone are Wes Welker, who grabbed 118 passes from Brady last year, Brandon Lloyd (74), Aaron Hernandez (51), and Danny Woodhead (40). Rob Gronkowski, who caught 55 passes, is out after having back surgery but may be available later in the season. That adds up to 318 completed passes, and Brady only completed 401. No, he's not going to stop throwing the pigskin around. Identifying who will be catching the passes is a key component of putting together a good Fantasy Football team. Let's take a look at the candidates.
Danny Amendola is the logical candidate to replace Wes Welker – he is short, white, and quick. In fact, he is viewed by the Patriots as a younger version of Brady's favorite target. The trouble is Amendola has trouble staying on the field – he's injury prone. He did manage to catch 66 passes for the Rams last season nonetheless.
Stevan Ridley, the starting tailback, only caught a handful of passes last season – we expect Brady to target him more this time around. Ridley's backup, Shane Vereen, figures to be the chief beneficiary of Woodhead's departure, however – he could be sitting on a big season. Julian Edelman, a returning running back, was used in passing sets last season and he should see his role expanding.
Zach Sudfeld, a huge, undrafted tight end, caught a TD pass in an exhibition game and figures to see plenty of action, at least until Gronk comes back, Even then, New England likes to employ two TE sets, so Sudfeld should definitely be on your Fantasy radar.
Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, two rookie wide receivers, are getting a lot of love in Fantasy drafts. Neither were rated highly in college, and we have our doubts about both. The Patriots have six unknown receivers on their roster and it is anyone's guess which ones will emerge. Don't get carried away. Dobson the most physically-gifted, would be our guess for the long term.
The Pats signed Leon Washington, the former Jet known for his kickoff and punt-returning skills. We can see Bill Belichick using him out of the backfield a la Woodhead.
As for draft day strategy, Gronkowlski is still the second rated tight end on most draft boards. Given his bad back, though, don't overreach for him. If you grab him, probably around the sixth round, it might be a good idea to handcuff him with Sudfeld a few picks later.
You have to figure Amedola is good for 100 catches if he stays healthy – he's going in rounds four and five in most drafts. Vereen is getting a lot of love, but he's still a backup. Wait until at least round eight and if he is gone so be it. Thompkins has been working with the first team so he will get drafted too early – don't you be the one to do it. Wait until the late rounds and grab Dobson.
As for Ridley, he's lasting until the third round in PPR leagues. Grab him there if he is available, even if he catches 30 or 40 passes you'll get a big jump in value.
Unfortunately for all of us, Giselle Bundchen isn't available, even in the first round.
"Skippy Brown" recently won the Draft King Spring Fling contest, besting over 1000 other professional fantasy baseball players. For comments, tips, advice, rants, or just to annoy him you can now contact the Skipper via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.