Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
It is funny thinking about it now, but remember just a few short months ago when one of the preseason narratives was if this is the end of the road for Tom Brady? Well, he played in all 16 games this season and actually posted one of his best seasons of his career. His completion rate of 64.4 percent, 4770 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions are all top five of his career. His yards per attempt were his third lowest of the last decade, but in light of everything else it was quite the year for the 38 year old!
The question is of course how much longer he can keep doing this. As we have seen many times over, elite quarterbacks are elite until they suddenly aren’t. We saw it with Brett Favre and more recently with Peyton Manning. One season they look like they are in their prime and like father time can’t touch them. Then the next one they sudden seem to be 75 years old.
Brady has gone on record as saying he wants to play another five-ten years, but I don’t think he’ll make it that long. That would make him 43+ years old, which just doesn’t happen in the NFL unless you are a place kicker with one bar on your facemask. He’ll be back for at least another year, and likely continue until his production drops. Until then, you’re looking at an elite QB1, but who knows for how much longer. I don’t know when the end will come for Brady, but I do expect it to be sudden, much like Manning this year.
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Jimmy G is just the latest in a long line of Tom Brady backups. They always seem to look great in New England, then the Patriots trade them away for draft picks and just laugh. They never seem to amount to anything once they leave the team, just ask the teams who took a chance on Matt Cassel and Ryan Mallett. I think this one might be different though. Unlike the others who have held this spot, I think the Patriots look at him as a potential heir. That doesn’t mean he actually will be the one, but it is a possibility. He’s under contract for two more seasons, and at some point over those two seasons he could find himself with a chance to prove he can be the future. It is far from certain he’ll actually be able to take advantage of that situation, but I think he has a chance.
LeGarrette Blount (FA)
Before I talk about any of these running backs, let me toss out a quick reminder. This is New England we are talking about. Trying to predict and forecast their running back position is about as easy as catching the wind in your hand. It is really just throwing darts while blindfolded and hoping you just get somewhere close to the target.
As for Blount, I put him on the list even though he is a free agent because he seems to be the guy who just keeps finding his way back to the Patriots. His time in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh ended on sour notes, but he also seems to produce in New England. I expect him back on a cheap contract, assuming he is healthy. He’ll likely resume the bruiser role in the offense, but who knows what that will amount to on any given week. Of course the Patriots could always draft two running backs in the late rounds or sign five guys in free agency, so you really never know!
Like Blount, Lewis is another running back who hasn’t done much elsewhere but produced in New England. Another similarity between the two is their current place on IR. Lewis was lightning in a bottle for a few weeks. He never had a consistent role on the ground, but his role in the passing game gave him a high floor in PPR leagues. The ceiling was always extremely gameplan-dependent though, making him a risky play as a starter. Next season, with him coming off of an ACL injury, he might not be quite as explosive, which could limit his ceiling. He’s only 25 and signed through the 2017 season, making him about as good of a bet as a New England running back can be. He’ll be at least a RB3 most weeks, but the ceiling will vary wildly from week to week.
The second year player out of Wisconsin stepped right into the role Lewis vacated and has been productive. Over the last five games of the season, White was responsible for 28 receptions for 315 yards and three touchdowns through the air. At over ten yards per reception, he seems to have figured out his role. The downside is he was used even less than Lewis in the ground game. Over that same time period, White had only nine carries. Signed through the same time period as Lewis and slightly less explosive (assuming Lewis makes it back to pre-injury form), I think White is just a backup going forward. Should Lewis struggle in his recovery, White could retain his role.
Some would say Bolden took over the Blount role in the offense, but that isn’t exactly the case. The truth is the Patriots have basically abandoned the running game at times this season. The last three games saw Bolden carry the ball 10, 9, and 9 times as the primary rusher. Even worse is Bolden was fairly ineffective in that role. He averaged less than 3.4 yards per carry as the main guy, which isn’t going to cut it. He doesn’t have much value now nor in the future.
Steven Jackson (FA)
He’s on a one year deal and will turn 33 in the off-season. He looks like he is pretty much done at this point after gaining only 50 yards on 21 carries so far. If you’re holding out hope here, I think you’re looking in the wrong spot.
One of the most underrated receivers in the NFL over the last few years, Edelman is the guy Brady trusts above all others. The 29 year old receiver has been the most consistent weapon Brady has had for the last three seasons. His role has actually grown in each year since his 105 receptions and 1056 yards in 2013. He was on pace for a career year across the board this season prior to his injury. He’s highly consistent, both in real life and for fantasy teams, scoring double digit PPR points in every game this season with the exception of when he was injured mid-game.
I think Edelman is easily a top 20 receiver, but he is also starting to get up there in age. Because his game isn’t reliant on his speed, I think he’ll be able to remain a top 20 receiver for as long as Brady is the quarterback. At that point, a new quarterback combined with age will likely spell the end of Edelman’s relevance.
After Edelman, the Patriots wide receivers become almost as much of a quagmire as the running back position. Almost being the key word. There does actually seem to be some order and rank to the position, but not much.
LaFell seems to be the number two guy on the list. After a career year in 2014, LaFell was starting to look like the receiver we all thought he could be when the Panthers drafted him in 2010. Injury slowed the start of his 2015 season, and he never really seemed to find that grove. At this point, we need to consider that 2014 might have been the fluke and what we saw in Carolina was more the norm, because he’s looked exactly like that this season. He has talent, but he’s never been able to put it together on a consistent basis. He has just one year left on his contract, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots look for an upgrade on their top outside target in the off-season.
One of the biggest disappointments of the 2014 season, Amendola has had a bit of a resurgence in 2015. This has largely been due to the injury of Edelman, but he has been fairly productive at times. Consistency is still an issue for him though, and he has a pretty big contract for his production. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and with a $5 million salary coming up, the Patriots might be tired of waiting for him to produce. He only played in three wide receiver sets towards the end of the season, even though Edelman was out.
This was Dobson’s third season in the NFL, and his third injury plagued one. When you double the number of games played from the previous season, and you still miss half of the season, you know you’re in trouble. Dobson was supposed to be the answer for the Patriots at the outside receiver slot, but I think he’s missed his chance at that role. He has one more year left on his contract, but I think he’s going to be on the roster bubble.
Keshawn Martin (FA)
Whenever the Patriots trade for someone mid-season it always gets my attention. They typically have a role in mind for that player and think he is a fit. That seemed to be the case with Martin, but it didn’t really turn into anything fantasy relevant. He saw time as a returner, but his offensive role was fairly limited. As a pending free agent, I could see the Patriots trying to keep him on a team friendly deal if they let Amendola go. Even if they keep him, I think the offensive role will be limited if Edelman stays healthy.
There isn’t anything I can say about Gronk you don’t already know. He is and will continue to be the biggest mismatch in the league. He can produce like a WR1 from a position which typically doesn’t see that level of production, giving his fantasy owners a huge advantage. On the other side of the coin, his play style and history make him one of the biggest injury risks in the game. With that said, he’s actually played 15 or more games in four of his six seasons. So while I still feel like he is more likely to miss major time each and every season, the upside is so big he is worth the risk. Which brings up the whole debate about if he’s a first round startup pick or not, but I’m not going to get into that.
Chandler is entering the second year of a two year deal, and he was well worth it for the Patriots. While his target volume was low and he had his lowest yardage total of the last five year this season, Chandler was a key red zone target for the Patriots, especially since all of their receivers seem to be under six feet tall. I expect Chandler’s 2016 to be much the same as his 2015 with him being more valuable in the NFL than on fantasy rosters. Should something happen to Gronk, Chandler would probably see solid TE2 numbers, but I don’t think he has the athletic ability to be much more than that.
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I think the Amendola analysis is a bit off. His lack of playing time towards the end of the season, was more likely the result of injury than ability. BB trusts Amendola’s special teams work, so he is more likely to be with the team next year, also he is Edelman insurance if Edelman’s health issues persist.
It is always possible his knee was an issue in week 17, but he was barely involved prior to the injury in week 15 as well. I don’t think they will pay $5 million a year for a returner and insurance. I think if he’s staying, he’ll need to take a pay cut. I guess we will find out!