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Brady is Back, Wide Receivers Rejoice!

Tom Brady

With Tom Brady’s return to the Patriots, there are high expectations coming from Foxboro, Mass. The last time Brady saw the field for a full season, he put together arguably the greatest statistical season by any quarterback to play the game.
Now before we go any further, let’s look at what the Patriots accomplished in 2007:

  • Most points in a season – 589
  • Most touchdowns in a season – 75
  • Individual passing touchdowns in a season – Tom Brady threw 50
  • Individual receiving touchdowns in a season – Randy Moss caught 23

Pretty impressive resume if you ask me. So is it possible for the 2009 team to surpass these records? Yes it is.

Obviously it is not going to be easy for this team to break four records in a season, but considering the team has more talent this year and a fully healthy Tom Brady, it is not out of the question that they can dominate the way they did in 2007. Consider these factors:

  1. Tom Brady and the Patriots are hungry (are they ever not hungry?) after a missed opportunity last year as they failed to qualify for the playoffs despite an 11-5 record.
  2. Joey Galloway, a No. 1 wide out in Tampa Bay two seasons ago, will replace Jabar Gaffney as the team’s third wide receiver.
  3. Fred Taylor joins an already talented backfield, giving the Patriots four good options to turn to for carries, which bodes well for their health and for the balance of the offense.
  4. Ben Watson now has legit company at the tight end position with new arrivals in Chris Baker and Alex Smith.
  5. Did I mention Tom Brady is back and motivated more than ever?

How soon people forget that this offense was putting up 35+ points on a weekly basis before Brady went down with a knee injury and probably would have done the same last year had he stayed on the field. Yes, Randy Moss is a year older and yes, Joey Galloway is like 40 years old (OK he’s only 37), but the Patriots still have a lot to prove in 2009 and they will have the drive and motivation to get back to the Super Bowl and take care of business as usual. As a matter of fact, I do believe that they still have that perfect season to accomplish. Let’s take a look at how some of the Patriots’ starters fare to do this year in fantasy football. (The targets are based on 10-team leagues that start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 D/ST, 1 K)

Quarterback

Tom Brady (2007 – 4,806 passing yards/50 TD/8 INT/117.2 RAT)

What needs to be said here? Tom Brady is the best quarterback in football – both fantasy and reality. Since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has never thrown more than 14 interceptions in a season, and has a career completion percentage of 63 percent. In 2007, the Pats gave him a legit No. 1 wide receiver and he responded with records galore. The man has a good head on his shoulders and can really make everyone else on the team exceed expectations. Oh, and he’s healthy because you know Belichick would not have traded Cassell away if there were any doubts. Target him in the first round in all draft formats.

Running Backs

Fred Taylor (2008 – 143 carries/556 yards/3.9 avg/1 TD)

First you have newly acquired running back Fred Taylor, who is coming off one of his worst seasons ever. He is the favorite to get the bulk of the carries on first and second downs, but at 33 he will not be expected to get more than 200 carries this season. Target him in rounds 8-10

Sammy Morris (2008 – 156 carries/727 yards/4.7 avg/7 TD)

Next you have Sammy Morris. He led the team in fantasy points last year thanks to his seven touchdowns and he is the favorite again to receive most of the red zone and goal line carries, but you would have to think Taylor will eat into those a little. Target him in rounds 10-12

Kevin Faulk

The third back in the mix, Faulk’s role will remain the same as always, which is third-down back and receiver out of the backfield. Not draft worthy in standard leagues. He only has value in PPR leagues.

Laurence Maroney

Last but not least, (well maybe least) we have Maroney. Maroney complicates things a lot more just on his own. Maroney is the true dark horse on this team because he has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been struck down by injuries throughout his three-year career. He has the talent to be the team’s No. 1 running back, but he will have to prove it on the field before he gets any bulk of the carries. He is a sleeper candidate, but in a crowded backfield he might be a year away from being on the verge of a breakout season. Not draft worthy, but keep an eye on him in the first couple weeks to see how the Patriots plan on using him this season.

Wide Receivers

Randy Moss (2008 – 125 targets/69 rec/1008 yards/11 TD)

In 2007, Randy Moss put up insane numbers with Tom Brady throwing those ever-so-perfect deep balls to him. He ended the season with 98 receptions for 1493 yards and record-breaking 23 touchdowns. With Matt Cassell , Moss put up some very good numbers as well, after a rough start to the season, with 69 receptions for 1008 yards and 11 touchdowns. The scary thing is, with Brady back in the huddle, Moss can only get better in fantasy because Moss received 24-less targets with Cassell leading the way in 2008. Look for him to return to top-three status. Target him in the first round in all draft formats

Wes Welker (2008 – 150 targets/111 rec/1165 yards/3 TD)

On the other side of the field we have Wes Welker, who has been a top 20 wide receiver since joining the Patriots in 2007. In his two seasons, Welker has caught 112 and 111 passes respectively. The big difference? In 2007, Welker scored on eight of those receptions compared to just three in 2008. Look for Brady to connect with Welker on more touchdowns this year and boost his value even more. Target him in rounds 5-7 in standard leagues, but in PPR leagues his value jumps rounds 3-5.

Joey Galloway (2008 – 37 targets/13 rec/138 yards/0 TD)

Not too long ago Galloway was considered a No. 1 receiver on fantasy teams. He is just two seasons removed from catching 57 passes for 1014 yards and six touchdowns. He was banged up for most of last season, but offseason rest has let his fractured foot heal and the 37-year old is ready for action in 2009. His speed is his best asset and with him and Moss on the field at the same time (I’m getting giddy!) there should be some one-on-one matchups that Brady can exploit down the field. Target him in the later rounds of your drafts

Greg Lewis

Lewis will battle with Galloway for the third receiver spot, but barring any unforeseen injury to Galloway, Lewis will be the Patriots fourth wide receiver, which will give him very little fantasy value. I can see him posting one or two 100-yard games during the season, but unless you are Nostradamus himself (in which case, why do you need my help anyways?) I would avoid trying to predict when those games actually occur. Not draft worthy, but if Galloway is hurt during the season, Lewis is worth taking a flier on.

Tight End

Ben Watson, Chris Baker and Alex Smith…does it even matter?

So the Patriots brought in Chris Baker and Alex Smith, which gives current starter Ben Watson the message that his days may be numbered in New England. Chris Baker was brought in for his blocking skills, but Alex Smith could be the one who ultimately takes away the valuable snaps as primary receiving tight end. Watson has been rather inconsistent throughout his career despite his freakish size/speed combo. I don’t see any of these players becoming the No. 1 target for Tom Brady so their fantasy value is rather compromised. None of them are draft worthy.

Kicker

Steven Gostkowski (2008 – 36/40 Field Goals, 40 XPM)

When it comes to fantasy football, you want a kicker on a high scoring offense. Stephen Gostkowski is on the most powerful offense in the NFL and he is very accurate kicking the ball, which is shown by his 85.6 career percentage. Look for him to get you three to four extra points per game with the occasional field goal. Target him in the last round of your draft because that is the only time you should take a kicker.

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