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Aaron Hernandez Released: Meet the New Patriots

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During the 2012 season, the New England passing offense was star studded and consisted of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch. Fast forward six months later and the picture looks dramatically different with the Patriots first home game less than eleven weeks away.

Wes Welker left town for Denver to be united with Payton Manning. Rob Gronkowski has been through a turbulent off-season dealing with multiple surgical procedures, including replacement of his forearm plate (see my fantasy prognosis) and a recent back surgery (Doctors are optimistic he will return by week  one). Aaron Hernandez was recently arrested and released from the Patriots. Brandon Lloyd was released and is currently an unsigned free agent. Danny Woodhead also left town for San Diego after catching 40 passes from Tom Brady last season.

These five individuals combined for 338 of Tom Brady’s 401 completions last season or 84%. Based on those same numbers, 81% of Tom Brady’s 637 attempts were thrown in the direction of those players –  that is a significant amount of production missing at the start of the 2013 season. There are a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle that will hopefully come together as the NFL season arrives. Who picks up the slack for an offense that led the league in points scored and yards gained last season?

We all know Brady and Bill Belichick will do whatever it takes to win (remember Spygate). Josh McDaniels is also an inventive offensive coordinator, but it leaves the cupboard a little thin from a talent standpoint. Looking at the remaining talent (led by oft-injured Danny Amendola) leaves a little to be desired in the New England aerial assault. Although Gronkowski is not a permanent loss, the time he has missed (and could miss in the future) leaves a lot of people wondering who will step up in his absence. The loss of Hernandez only complicates the situation because he is a rare talent with no plug and play options on the waiver wire with the talent to come even close to replacing him. Who will be catching the passes in New England this season? I put them in order based on the depth chart at Ourlads.com.

Danny Amendola (Age 27)

Amendola is a no-brainer on the depth chart. He is basically “Wes Welker light.” Currently, his ADP is rising as I type this due to the recent release of Hernandez. If he is able to work up to 80% of the production of Welker, he can still eclipse 100 receptions this season. Amendola has only played all 16 games in one of his first four seasons in the NFL. He has some durability concerns, but is the top overall wide receiver on the Patriots depth chart at this point.

Michael Jenkins (Age 31)

Jenkins is the oldest of the group and not a lock to make the roster. His veteran leadership for the young wide receivers on the roster might be his saving grace. He is currently running with the first team in OTA’s, but could easily be beat out as the season approaches by some of the younger wide receivers on the roster. There are much better options out there for your dynasty squad.

Donald Jones (Age 25)

Jones is a solid young receiver who had some of his best games against the Patriots while playing in Buffalo. Jones has not played an entire 16 game season in his three year career in the NFL. It is likely he will make the roster, but may not be more than wide receiver depth. He could see early playing time if Gronkowski and the rookies miss time in the preseason, however. He could be a solid WR5 on your roster, but I would not lean on him as a starter unless he gets the early call at the start of the season.

Aaron Dobson (Age 22)

It is difficult to understand why the Patriots struggle to draft a wide receiver for their offense, but they have historically. Dobson was drafted in the second round and is a big wideout who was known for making some circus catches while playing at Marshall. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots consider him to be a critical part of the offense – they recently signed him to a four year deal. He has a legitimate shot to play early in the season. If he can learn the Patriots offensive playbook, he may produce very early for fantasy teams. Dobson’s size is of a prototypical wide receiver playing outside the numbers. At 6’3” and 210 lbs., Dobson can beat defenders with size or his jumping ability. Dobson’s current consensus rookie ranking on DLF is #21 overall among all rookies. He is also ranked as the WR56 based on the latest DLF mock drafts for startup drafts. If Dobson does see the field on day one, he could produce big for fantasy owners.

Josh Boyce (Age 23)

Boyce was a fourth round choice for the Patriots in the 2013 NFL draft. He does not have the size Dobson has, but he plays big. He is a very talented wide receiver who is a safer wide receiver selection than Dobson, but also does not have as high of a ceiling. Boyce had an impressive NFL combine while working out on a broken foot. He has had the foot surgically repaired and is currently missing time during rookie minicamps critical to his early development.  Boyce can play the slo,t but also can be moved to the outside if needed. He is a solid pick in the late rounds of dynasty drafts. His current rookie consensus ranking has him as the #50 ranked rookie and he is going as the WR76 based on the recent DLF mock drafts.

Julian Edelman (Age 27)

Edelman is the only player in the group who has any NFL game experience with Tom Brady. He could be the ace in the hole this season with Hernandez gone and Gronkowski on the mend. Edelman is a sneaky good play in PPR leagues and could also get a boost if you are in a league that scores for return yards. You can get him very late in drafts at this point and he has even been undrafted in many others. He would be a solid late round flier who may carry a lot of value early in the season, making him very tradable.

Mark Harrison (Age 22)

Mark Harrison was an undrafted rookie free agent pickup out of Rutgers. He did not have any off the charts measureables at the combine, but he does seemingly have a good size/speed combination. He will have to work hard in camp and preseason to make the roster. He does have some upside and could be a good find for the Pats if he develops into a solid wide receiver. He does not have the athleticism of Boyce or Dobson, but he does have a large frame and could be a great situational red zone threat. He’s a player to keep tabs on.

Lavelle Hawkins (Age 26), Kemar Aiken (24), Kenbrell Thompkins (24), Matthew Slater (Age 27)

These players should go undrafted in dynasty leagues. None of them are locks to make the roster at this point.  Matthew Slater is the one with the best chance to make the team and that is motsly due to his leadership and special teams play.

Other potential pass catchers

Shane Vereen and Leon Washington are two solid running backs who should see an uptick in playing time and production with the departure of Danny Woodhead. Woodhead caught 40 passes for 446 yards last season. Based on the history of the Patriots, the backup running back has finished in the top 30 in PPR leagues the last four seasons – I don’t see any reason for that to slow down. Vereen’s current ADP is found in the late tenthand early eleventh round – that is a great value for Vereen who could easily finish in the top 30 running backs. Washington would be a great late round flier if you are in a league that includes return yards. At this point, the running backs might see the largest ADP increase outside of Danny Amendola due to the recent release of Hernandez. If you can get your hands on Vereen in eighth round or later, that could be great value at this point.

It’s easy to look at the Patriots roster and believe Jake Ballard may be a great play due to the loss of time of Aaron Hernandez and potential loss of time for Rob Gronkowski. Based on the depth chart, Ballard is next in line. However, I would tell you to follow Zach Sudfeld as the potential tight end to stash in New England. He has more upside and may be a sneaky good play in leagues with tight end premiums if Gronkowski misses significant time. He is not the rare talent of Gronkowski or Hernadez, but he has a lot of upside in an offense that likes to air it out. Don’t force yourself into conventional thinking that just because Brady throws primarily to tight ends that it will continue with Hernandez gone and Gronkowski possibly out with injury – both those players are rare talents and used because of their physical abilities.

Watch Closely

It is important to watch this situation close as the season nears. At this point, Amendola carries the most value in the New England passing attack, but he comes with a high price tag at this point. I would target Dobson and Boyce and possibly stash Mark Harrison if he makes the roster. Edelman may be a great target as well due to the fact that he is the only player with any type of chemistry with Tom Brady.

Vereen is a great mid-round running back to target. He is young and has a ton of upside with Danny Woodhead out of town. Zach Sudfeld may be a great stash in leagues with large benches or taxi squads as well. Monitor the Gronkowski situation closely as they will directly affect the early fantasy value of young players on this roster.

No matter how you slice it, this morning’s release of Aaron Hernandez changes the entire dynamic of the New England offense and you should plan accordingly.

Brian Bulmer

Brian Bulmer

Brian is a high school Biomedical Sciences teacher by day and athletic trainer by night. I love all types of fantasy football leagues and when I am not setting my lineups, scouring the waiver wire, or doing athletic training I squeeze in time with my family.

You'll find Brian on Twitter at @Brian_Bulmer
Brian Bulmer

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Adam

    June 26, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I love the work of this site, but I did have to chuckle during last week’s Podcast when Tim Stafford basically took a “nothing to see here approach” with Hernandez’s legal trouble and less than a week later and he has been released and the situation does not look good.

    Glad I don’t own him in any leagues, what a disaster for his owners.

    • Patrick

      June 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

      It wasn’t just Tim. Pretty much every fantasy contributor I’ve read/heard on the situation saw Hernandez as a buy low candidate. Sometimes those risky moves pay off, but I sat this “opportunity” out & thankfully don’t own him in any leagues.

      • Scott

        June 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

        Where there’s smoke there’s fire… anybody who thought that with a man dead last seen with Hernandez while at the same time Aaron Hernandez destroying potential evidence left and right… that nothing was gonna happen… is a fool…. smoke was last week… the fire is today.

    • Adam

      June 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Patrick…oh I know it wasn’t just him, I was just using him as an example b/c when I heard that, I said to myself that this is a mess best to avoid. And with murder charges, he is likely done in the NFL.

      • phantasy5

        June 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        I’m not so sure about that in this world we live in? It seems Ray Lewis was in the same situation and he road off in the sunset with a Super Bowl Championship! It all depends if he’s convicted of the murder or not, and even then there’s a chance he makes it back. Michael Vick made it back too and I realize it was dogs and not people but it’s still murder to me. Most dogs are better than some people out there. Just my opinion!

    • Brian Davis

      June 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      In Tim’s defense (not that he needs it), the podcast was recorded when everything was rumor. It came out at the same time as the police were basically knocking on AHern’s door. But at the time Tim said ‘nothing to see’, there really was nothing to see.

      • Adam

        June 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Fair enough!

        That does make sense, I would have had to believe that anyone with their ear to the ground on this one would have been treading a little more carefully with how it would affect dynasty teams.

        You guys are awesome!

    • Ken Kelly

      June 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Well, in the words of Ron Burgandy, “That escalated quickly.”

  2. Adam F

    June 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

    This is terrible news for Hernandez owners, but I think there’s still a chance for him to come out of this.

    That Pats have egg on their faces after the big contract Hernandez signed and may have overreacted. If he can avoid jail time, could you see Hernandez coming back with another team? It seems to me like the Packers would love to upgrade over Finley and the Giants might be candidates as well, for example.

    If he could resurface, he might yet be worth a buy.

    • smcguiga

      June 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Absolute best case scenario is he avoids jail time somehow and gets suspended for a year(yes will be that long). Probable is he get’s booked on murder one and does a lot of time……more than likely Herzandez’s NFL career is over…I own him and it sucks but I am being realistic. Dude probably did it or obstructed justice is such a way to do a lot of time anyway.

      Very Sad stuff….a human life lost and another promising career thrown away

    • ffdude

      June 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      forget it. he’s done. sad, sad situation. but ahern has zero fantasy value now.

  3. John

    June 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

    On Amendola’s ADP rising:

    I would think his ADP would be going the other way. Without Gronk and Hernandez, Amendola’s situation is trending more towards his situation in STL where he was the only reliable target. That could mean Brady forcing him the ball and increasing the potential for injury (in STL, Amendola took a LOT of punishment across the middle because the defense knew who was getting the ball).

  4. Bill Rayfield

    June 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Hernandez will never play another down in the NFL……..

  5. ShowMe

    June 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    After watching the arraignment, it’s clear that the only solid thing that the state really has on him are the 5 weapons charges. And Ray Lewis has proven that players DO, in fact, play again in the NFL.

    As far as the 1st degree murder charge, it looks circumstantial at best. They can place him (or at least his cell phone) at the scene of the crime, they have surveillance video of him with a gun prior to and after the crime, they have shell casings, but without a murder weapon, without a better motive than what the state charged, and without one or more of the other soon-to-be co-defendants copping a plea and actually testifying against him, it would be VERY VERY difficult to convict someone of 1ST DEGREE murder in this case.

    Had they charged him with conspiracy to commit murder, I think that could have been an easy conviction, but surprisingly that isn’t a charge in this case.

    Having said that, my opinion is that he is as guilty as OJ was. But, like all criminal cases, there MUST invariably be proof BEYOND reasonable doubt. And it will be an extremely large challenge for the Commonwealth to put the murder weapon in his hands.

    • DonQuixote

      June 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      Assuming that you’re correct about cell phone, video, shell casings etc: the degree of any murder charge is hardly the point. I could add proximity of location and other non proven evidence but he’s done and a man, presumably once a friend of his is dead. The Pats released him and they’re pretty smart!

  6. Jacob Feldman

    June 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Some of you might be a bit young to remember this, but back in 2000 Ray Lewis was arrested and charged with murder. As time progressed, he turned state’s evidence and actually testified against someone else in the case, receiving only a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. 13 years later he is on his way to the Hall of Fame with multiple Super Bowl rings.

    Now, with that said, I think Hernandez is most like going to spend the rest of his life in prison, or at least the majority of his football prime. However, this is all still very early and there could be more to this story that we don’t know at this point. If the owner dropped him, what harm is there in picking him up for a few months to see what ends up happening?

    • Terminalkennedy

      June 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      I would feel sick owning a guy who did something like that. IF NE feels sick but you know, you’re cool with creating a team with guys like that, great.

      I just want to actually LIKE my team, because I created it the way I envision, with integrity.

      That’s the harm.

      • Jacob Feldman

        June 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm

        Unless I’m mistake, the United States still functions under the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Nothing has been proven yet in a court of law. Until he is proven guilty, he’s still innocent of murder and everything else.

        All I’m saying is let the process play out before you close the book on the guy.

  7. SJ

    June 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I just cant believe how bizarre this story has been..

    Could he really be that blatant to just kill someone (over whatever reason), close to his home, and just expect to get away with it, like “no big deal”? I mean, I’m just flabbergasted at the lack of respect he has towards this. Then all the evidence…. my god.

    If its not him, he is so involved in the case. There is really no denying that. How in the world would he ever get out of that? The evidence seems to be quite damning.

    I just dont get it. Really? No one is that stupid. Really? Not possible is it? Has anyone ever heard this guy talk or give interviews? Is he that far from reality.

    • phantasy5

      June 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      If I’m not mistaken, he’s been known to be associated with “gangs” in his past and their mentality is not of normal behavior. I’m not claiming to be an expert on this but I know enough about it to say they’ll kill someone for a lot less than whatever it was they fought about? It’s either over a woman, money or drugs is my guess! I know it’s hard to fathom but that’s the way they roll! It is truly SAD to see yet another athlete, that has the world by the balls, throw it all away by being involved with a crime. I know he’s not guilty until proven so, but it doesn’t look good for him.

  8. Preston

    June 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Small thing I noticed (aside from the article content, ofc!):

    “These five individuals combined for 298 of Tom Brady’s 401 completions last season or 84%. ”

    I think that is actually 74%, not 84%.

    • Ken Kelly

      June 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Wow, Preston is like Rainman! Thanks for catching that. It was likely my own mistake in editing, not Brian’s. Thanks!

  9. TheGloveDon'tFit

    June 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Hernandez had character issues coming into the NFL. If I remember, he had some gang affiliations or at least some close friends did.

    But is there really enough evidence to convict this guy of murder? From what I have seen so far, I don’t think so. His maid/house scrubbers deleted most of the evidence! Obstruction of justice/spoliation of evidence is a definite guilty plea. That coupled with pleas on the weapons charges, and he might walk or do very little time with probation if the prosecutors dont think they have enough evidence to prove murder.

    Additionally, there was no bronco (or escalade nowadays) chase. That’s how you know the guy is guilty…or is it innocent?

    • Jeff Beran

      June 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      I don’t understand how anyone that watched/listened to the arraignment and heard the mountain of evidence they have against him could come away thinking anything other than he’s spending the rest of his life in prison. I’m just totally incapable of comprehending that point of view. To me, it’s on par with the Boston Marathon bombers’ mother coming out and saying that her sons were framed. Everybody is entitled to their opinions and I very well could be off-base if there turns out to be evidence that the defense has and/or finds which supports his innocence but I just can’t fathom him ever playing again at this point in time.

      • DonQuixote

        June 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

        And don’t forget CSI. Sorry to be flippant.

      • Preston

        June 27, 2013 at 4:51 am

        Yeah I agree Jeff, there is plenty of evidence. While the evidence presented yesterday was largely or all circumstantial, they pretty much eluded to the fact that they have someone to testify against him. They said they have someone who can say what was said in the car when the 4 were together before the murder, so that is going to be the slam dunk part. Prosecution clearly thinks they don’t even need the murder weapon to close this case, so the guys testimony must be pretty damning.

        Not going to dive into talk about the Boston Marathon Bombing, but I dont think the above view by ‘TheGloveDon’tFit’ is akin to their mother saying they are framed. We yet have no video details of anything in this case, and at the risk of sounding absurd, I’d implore you to look a bit harder at the marathon bombing.

        • Jeff Beran

          June 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

          According to the state of Massachusetts, there is a bounty of video evidence. Open and shut case; it’s really that simple.

        • TheGloveDon'tFit

          June 27, 2013 at 11:42 am

          “Is there enough evidence to convict this guy of murder? From what I have seen so far, I don’t think so.”

          That’s what I said. As of right now, based on the evidence that was brought forward in the arraignment process, there is no way he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

          Tomorrow, new evidence may come up. A video might be released. Or, if one of his friends that was in the car testifies against his, then there is a whole different situation.

          But as an attorney, and someone who believes in the Constitution of the United States, I think he is innocent until proven guilty. That arraignment was pure circumstantial evidence. AH owns a gun. He texts his friends to come get him. He says he can’t trust anyone. He leaves in a car with them. They pick up Lloyd. Drive him to gravel road and he is shot and killed. Bullet casings found.

          Now, someone tell me where in the evidence that we have so far, that they can say beyond a doubt that Hernandez pulled the trigger?! There were 2 other people in the car with him right? That is enough doubt right there.

          Maybe tomorrow there is new evidence. All I’m saying is that from what we know right now, and if a trial was today, I dont think there is enough evidence to convict, and the prosecution would want to get some sort of plea out of this. The prosecution is always going to say they have a key witness and they have video/recordings. Until they prove it, it doesnt matter.

          The new update with the connection to 2 murders from a year ago is interesting. That is their motive. But who pulled the trigger?

          • SitonmyDitka

            June 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm

            I remember when Donte Stallworth was driving drunk and killed someone. He plead guilty to manslaughter and got 30 days in jail. It’s not premeditated murder…but still. 30 Days? Plaxico shot himself in the leg and did much more time than that!

          • Jeff Beran

            June 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm

            “The prosecution is always going to say they have a key witness and they have video/recordings. Until they prove it, it doesnt matter.”

            I mean…they gave a pretty descriptive play by play of their video evidence, complete with time stamps. We haven’t seen a dead body, the busted rental car, the recovered text messages, the stockpile of weapons or any of the other evidence that led to these charges but I think it’s reasonable to assume that those things exist. Besides, the laws and rules of the US court system have never applied to the court of public opinion (for good reason, obviously) so I see no reason for this situation to be handled any differently. As a licensed engineer, I feel qualified to confidently express my own logical conclusions but I can respect your desire to take a wait-and-see approach.

  10. Doc

    June 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I think that Zach Sudfeld could be a viable replacement for Henandez for a number of reasons. He doesn’t have elite measureables but is highly intelligent which is one of the most important things for a player to succeed in the NE offense.

    At Nevada’s pro day, Sudfeld ran the 40-yard dash in 4.77 and 4.71 seconds. He had a 9-foot-5 broad jump, a 4.48-second short shuttle and a 7.00-second three-cone drill time. He also performed 11 lifts of 225 pounds on the bench press.

    The other thing that he brings to the party is his background as a good guy, something which NE really needs right now and something that Robert Kraft would love to embrace and promote. Not that this makes any difference to BB but could be a factor if his health and talent are comparable to the other TEs on the roster. I like him a lot more than Ballard who I like as a player for NE but not so much in FF, especially as a replacement for Hern.

    “As if that was not enough, there is the fact that Sudfeld already has traveled around the world, from Asia to Europe and elsewhere, not as a tourist to enjoy himself, but to build hospitals in impoverished areas to help the needy. ”

    Zach Sudfeld, the anti-Hernandez.

    • TradeHappy

      June 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Are you kidding me a TE with only 11 reps that is really weak. You would think that he would never see the field. A big guy that weak would be a reliability on the field.
      I did 15 reps out of high school at 6′ and 190 lb.

  11. PV

    June 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Glad I only paid Jared Cook for AHern last week Thursday and don’t need Hernandez for even my TE2 in the ONLY league I have him. Kinda wish I had Cook back though after today. I have to agree with the above comment of anyone who saw this as a ‘buy low’ opportunity and not ‘this is really bad, REALLY bad territory’ isn’t paying attention.

    • Deadly EFX

      June 27, 2013 at 9:54 am

      I assume you include yourself?

      • PV

        June 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        Yes, I don’t view Jared Cook as buying low to get Hernandez last Thursday. That’s bottom basement, here you go just so I can have the 5% shot that he beats this. Considering that league we have Rudolph and Fleener in 14 team we could afford to get rid of Cook.

  12. Jordan

    June 26, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    I own this jackass in three of my leagues, one where I paid a pretty penny to acquire him as my TE1 back in March on a team that has (or DID) have a legitimate chance for a championship. Thanks for nothing Hernandez, I hope he rots.

    • Vince

      June 28, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Yeah, I made an offer for him early in the offseason before all of this went down. Thankfully it got rejected. I have him in one league (keeper, not dynasty) and he’ll definitely be getting dumped.

  13. phil

    June 27, 2013 at 3:39 am

    reading these comments on here i cant help but laugh….i am a hernandez owner and i hate that his value has plummeted!!!!
    However that is as far as i care…he is ONLY a fantasy football play for me and that is it…so what if he did it or didnt do it? all that matters to me is that im not gonna have him scoring me tons of points every week..so on to the next guy to step in for me before gronk comes back(who i also have)…when ur slaries come outthis wekend if ahern is cheap enough im gonna keep him…and root for him to beatthis now i guess….if nothing else butto prove once again how fucked our court system is these days!!!! so sudfeld huh?

  14. Jason

    June 27, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Well… You can now count him as a suspect from a July 16, 2012 double murder. I’m not sure how anyone can think that this guy isn’t screwed. Obstruction of justice, “accidentally” shoots a guy in the face, 1st degree murder charges and now a suspect in a double murder charge.

  15. Brian

    June 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    “Vereen’s current ADP is found in the late tenthand early eleventh round.”

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your ADP, but in the June DLF mocks Vereen is going at 84 overall — right at the end of the 7th round.

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