Fantasy mini-camp: Patriots injuries hurting Brady's fantasy value?
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Fantasy mini-camp: Patriots injuries hurting Brady's fantasy value?

Touring the sleepers, stars and storylines for all 32 NFL teams

Division: AFC East

Team: New England Patriots

Situation: Elite fantasy quarterbacks

Player to watch: Tom Brady

Though it sure seems like the Golden Boy has always been part of any top tier fantasy quarterback class, it has truly only been this way over Brady's last five full NFL seasons. Any preseason rankings will project a similar scenario for 2013 with perhaps only Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans' Drew Brees slotted ahead of him. Brady has certainly earned our trust to make this designation a mere formality.

However, with the Patriots' suspect receiver situation and this year's crazy fantasy quarterback depth, don't assume that drafting Brady with a an early-round pick is a no-brainer.

Let's start in Foxboro, where Wes Welker no longer resides. Rob Gronkowski is scheduled to undergo a fourth forearm surgery on Monday, with an operation on his back in the following weeks likely. Obviously Gronk remains a a true game-breaker and a tent pole for fantasy owners, but ESPN's Stephania Bell recently said nobody should assume the touchdown producing tight end would be ready for the season opener. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez missed six games last season, has never played a full NFL season and is recovering from shoulder surgery. Welker is now in Denver and even if one wants to assume Danny Amendola makes for a seamless replacement, his injury history is sketchy.

Even with numerous medical issues suffered by the aforementioned trio, it's not as if the Patriots are stocked up for a rainy day. Should any or all of those three go down, New England will be counting on Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins, rookie Aaron Dobson and Jake Ballard. Yikes. Even without injury, looking at Jones or Jenkins as the Week 1 starter is scary.

Granted, Brady has produced wins for his team and fantasy owners in the past with less. In 2007, he was one-half of football away from putting the Patriots into the Super Bowl with Reche Caldwell as his go-to wide receiver. Welker was not the ppr-beast we've all come to know before arriving in New England. Obviously losing Gronkowski for any length of time would hurt, but Brady will ultimately get his. The backfield of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will help shoulder the offensive burden,

Will the soon-to-be 36-year-old Brady rack up enough fantasy scores to justify drafting him in rounds 2-4 (depending on league scoring systems) is the issue.

Rodgers is at the top of his game and even with the loss of Greg Jennings in free agency, he has plenty of weapons. Brees gets a boost with the Sean Payton back on the sidelines. Not much more needs to be said about taking either of those gunslingers. Same goes for ultimately for Brady...or Cam Newton and Peyton Manning...or Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford...or Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson...and then we have Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck. That's a starter for every team in a 12-team league -- with Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler and others available.

The issue typically against taking a quarterback early in fantasy drafts isn't about whether the likes of Brady will outscore the bulk of the other starters. It's whether those starry passers will outscore the others enough to justify having drafted them several rounds earlier while simultaneously passing on help elsewhere. Because of how deep the QB class is, even those that are cool with selecting a QB high cannot be in love with the prospect this season, though Rodgers and Brees remain worthy of early, early round affection. As for Brady, we know owners won't be able to resist considering his history of fantasy awesomeness and the potential of Gronk, AH and Dola. Still, when taking a step back, it becomes much harder to justify going all in under his team-specific and league-wide conditions no matter the rankings.

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