Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the fifth installment of a series, we head to the AFC East and start with the division winning New England Patriots.
The 10-6 Patriots were sixth in scoring at 26.7 ppg and fifth in defense at 17.8 ppg.
Tom Brady - After missing all but the first quarter of the first game in 2008, Brady played all 16 games in 2009 and at his normal high level. No, not the extraordinary year of 2007 when he threw for 4,807 yards and 50 scored, but slightly above his performance level from 2002-2006 (3,743 yards, 26 TDs). You can't expect Brady to throw more than 26-28 touchdowns, particularly without Wes Welker at 100% when the season begins which is why he's the fourth quarterback off the board in early mock drafts (behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning) and a late third round/early fourth round selection. At that price (ADP 33) you can't go wrong.
Laurence Maroney - Coach Bill Belichick is so unpredictable as to which running back will be featured in any given week and so tight-lipped about injuries that it's impossible to depend on any of the four Patriots' running backs. Maroney had his best season in years (757 yards, nine rushing TDs), yet in fantasy playoff time accumulated just 195 yards and one score over the three-week period. He can't be a fantasy starter and has a current ADP of 125 (13th round).
Fred Taylor - Taylor did have 105 yards and a score in Week 3 against Atlanta, but also didn't see the field between Week 5 and 15 because of an ankle injury. He hasn't been a fantasy option since he left Jacksonville and that won't change in 2010.
Kevin Faulk - Faulk is a valuable member of the Patriots, but as a fantasy player has no real value. He'll get the team a couple of important first downs every week, but his 2009 total of 636 yards from scrimmage and three scores won't get him on a fantasy roster.
Sammy Morris - When injuries decimated the Patriots backfield in the second half of 2008, Morris was a solid fill-in. However, in the currently crowded New England backfield, he's not going to get enough touches to be of service to your roster.
Randy Moss - Although he disappears once in a while (Week 4 4-for-24, Week 5 1- for-36, Week 14 1-for-14), Moss is still a lethal wide receiver. He finished 2009 with 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was the fourth-best season of his 10-year career and there is no reason to think he can't put up similar numbers. He's going to cost you dearly (ADP 12), however, he'll be in a "contract" year so he should give you an honest effort all season.
Wes Welker - The Patriots and Belichick are always tight-lipped about injuries so evaluating Welker will be one of the toughest fantasy decisions of 2010. However, given that his injury (ACL) happened in Week 17, it's very likely that he'll miss a good portion of 2010. He's currently got an ADP of 58, but that's just too high unless you know you'll get at least nine games from him and I don't believe you will know that on Draft Day.
Julian Edelman - If Welker isn't ready to go, the Patriots have a "clone" who does a pretty good Welker impression. In the two games Welker missed last season, Edelman accumulated 18 receptions for 201 yards. Obviously owners think he'll see plenty of action because he's got an ADP of 81 which puts him in with receivers like Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss and Jeremy Maclin. Whether you draft Welker, Edelman or better yet "handcuff" them together, you will have to hang on every word you can get during the season to know what to do.
Torry Holt - Given the Welker injury, it's not surprising that the Patriots signed another veteran receiver, however signing Holt seems to be a mismatch. He isn't going to play the "Welker role" because that's not his game. Still, he's nice insurance as a fourth receiver. Barring additional injuries, Holt probably won't have any fantasy value, but if you draft Moss, it might be a good idea to use your last pick on Holt.
Sam Aiken - Aiken had a couple of good moments last season (90 yards in Week 12, 81-yard TD catch in Week 13), but won't see the ball enough to have much fantasy value in 2010.
Alge Crumpler - As the only Pats tight end with NFL experience, Crumpler could have some value in 2010. But keep an eye on training camp where two high draft choices (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) will vie with Crumpler for playing time. Given the quality tight ends around the league, I probably wouldn't draft any of the three, although Gronkowski has an ADP of 160.
Stephen Gostkowski - He is the No.2 kicker off the board (behind Nate Kaeding) and on the prolific Patriots offense should get plenty of opportunities to score. Gostkowski was a solid 26-for-31 on field goals last year and 47-for-47 on extra points. Like any kicker, however, you shouldn't draft him until the final two rounds.
The Patriots defense used to be one of the best in the game, sacking quarterbacks and turning fumbles and interceptions into scores. Alas, that isn't the case anymore and they ranked in the lower half of all defenses in fantasy scoring with 77 points (4.8 ppg). Just 31 sacks, 10 fumbles recoveries, 18 interceptions and no defensive or special teams scores did them in. They are currently being drafted 18th among the 32 teams, but that might be generous. They did select three defensive players in the first two rounds of the draft (CB Devin McCourty, LB Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes) but whether that is enough is yet to be determined.