2014 Team Outlook: New England Patriots

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2014 Team Outlook: New England Patriots

A fantasy football preview of the New England Patriots this season. Profiled players include Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen.

With a revolving door of receivers going in and out of the lineup, Tom Brady was forced to make the best of it last season. While the Pats won 12 games, his numbers did drop (especially his touchdown passes). Brady finished 2013 with 4,343 passing yards, but was only able to throw 25 TDs -- his lowest total in a full season since 2006. Despite not having his best season, he is still a Top 10 fantasy QB. The good news for Brady is that he has basically the same set of receivers back and he should be more comfortable with them. As long as the Patriots receivers can stay healthy, Brady should have another good season. Expect 4,000 or more passing yards and look for Brady to once again pass for at least 30 TDs.

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Ryan Mallett will once again be the back up to Tom Brady; once again the hope in New England will be that Mallett doesn't have to see the field. Since being drafted in 2011, Mallett only has four career passes, so don't expect much from him. He is nothing more than a back up. Even if Brady went down, there is no guarantee that he would produce. Not worth drafting.

Jimmy Garoppolo was drafted in the second round as long term insurance for the Patriots. With Tom Brady healthy and still playing at a very high level, the Patriots hope they don't have to use Garoppolo anytime soon. He is not worth owning in standard leagues, but is worth a look in keeper & dynasty leagues (he has very high upside, just might take a few years to see if he can actually fulfill them).

Stevan Ridley's biggest problem is that he fumbles the ball too often -- nine times over the past two seasons (including playoffs). After busting out in 2012 with over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, there were expectations of a repeat performance. Unfortunately Ridley never fully got on track as he dealt with more fumbles early on, putting him in the coach's dog house. Ridley is in a contract year and will be highly motivated to prove what he can do. With his strong inside running, he still offers a good counter to Vereen's speed and pass-catching ability, so look for the Pats to use that (especially around the end zone). Despite his up-and-down 2013 season, Ridley scored seven touchdowns. If he can avoid fumbling, look for him to score 10 touchdowns again. Ridley isn't used often as a receiver, so his value is higher in standard leagues and lower in PPR.

Editor's note: This former LSU back was the 28th RB off the board in a recent Fantasy Football World Championships Draft-N-Go. Ridley should hold onto goal-line work and respect for New England's offense carries his value as a RB2 in standard or perhaps a flex in PPR.

IT'S REALLY HAPPENING: Look for Shane Vereen to be the leader in the Patriots' backfield this season. Despite only playing in eight games last season, he played almost as many snaps as Stevan Ridley. Vereen's value jumps up big time in PPR leagues as he caught 47 passes in eight contests (good enough for just under six receptions per game). The Patriots have a history of going with the hot hand at RB, but the offense moved much better when Vereen was healthy; as long as he stays healthy, the former Cal running back should be a Top 20 running back.

James White was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was described by head coach Bill Belichick as "an elusive back, who is dynamic in the passing game, comparing him to Shane Vereen". Both Vereen and Ridley are ahead of White on the depth chart, so it will be tough for the rookie to get much playing time. That being said, Ridley has fumbling issues and Vereen has dealt with injuries. Make sure to see how White does in training camp and preseason; if he starts the season at third on the depth chart, he could end up seeing action sooner, rather than later. He is worth a look later in standard league drafts, especially in PPR leagues as a late-round flier or handcuff. He is also worth a serious look in dynasty leagues as Vereen and Ridley are both in the final year of their contracts.