It’s not unusual during New England Patriots training camp for a player or a play to excite the thousands on hand to watch the defending Super Bowl champions.
On Sunday, it was wide receiver Aaron Dobson’s turn to wow the crowd. During an 11-on-11 drill, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a deep ball down the sideline when Dobson leaped and pulled it down with a dramatic catch over cornerback Malcolm Butler. After the catch, Dobson and Butler shook hands.
“There’s always a lot of chatter out here,” Dobson said. “It’s all fun out here. We’re all teammates and we look at this as a competition.”
This is an extremely important camp for Dobson, who missed the majority of last season due to foot and hamstring injuries, the story said. He played only four regular-season games and was placed on injury reserve in December. Despite all the setbacks in 2014, Dobson said he’s put all of that in the past and he’s focused on making his presence felt during camp. Dobson has shown his potential at times in the past, and the fact he's still around may very well say a lot in terms of how the team feels about him. From a fantasy perspective, it's a pretty deep group of WRs on the Pats, and you also have to factor in TE Rob Gronkowski as the top target.
Blount had failed the team's conditioning test, according to the Boston Globe. He missed the team's first two practices.
Blount ranks 21st on our list as a low-end RB2 in 12-team leagues who has an ADP of the seventh round. He certainly has a chance to present nice value around that time of drafts, perhaps maybe even as an RB3 or flex play in 10 team league. Of course, he is suspended for Week 1, which drops his value a bit on our list.
Bill Belichick said WR Aaron Dobson came into spring in "great" shape. "Put himself in good position."
Dobson is finally healthy, which is a good thing, but he has to beat out Brandon LaFell, who played great in his first season with the Patriots, racking up 87-1072-9 in his last 16 games, including the postseason. LaFell isn't practicing at the moment, so it's Dobson's time to make a push.
Aaron Dobson is healthy and getting extra opportunities with LaFell out. LaFell finished as the #22 WR in both standard and PPR formats, but didn’t catch a single pass in the first two games. He began to see starter-type snaps in Week 4, and was the #15 receiver in standard formats (#14 in PPR) over the final 13 games of the season. In fact, counting the postseason, LaFell racked up 87-1072-9 in his last 16 games. That would have been good enough for a #13 finish in both formats. We believe that it's his job to lose, as long as he's healthy.
No reason was given for the move, but players who have been placed on NFI prior to the start of camp in year’s past have often found themselves there because they have failed the conditioning test and/or their physical.
Update: Ben Volin reported that Blount ended up on the NFI after failing his conditioning test.
This is probably nothing to worry about, but we'll monitor the situation throughout camp. It’s always dicey to buy into the New England running game, but Blount has been good while toting the ball for the Patriots. Since 2013, he has averaged 11.3 touches for 57 yards and 0.65 TD in 26 games. Those are solid RB2 numbers in standard (low-end RB2 in PPR). However, in his last 15 games with the Patriots (including the postseason), he has turned 14.2 touches into 73 yards and 1.0 TD; those are strong and low-end RB1 numbers in standard and PPR formats, respectively. Granted, he tends to score his points in bunches -- e.g. 30 carries, 148 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts in January -- but he’s been getting pretty consistent run since December of 2013, registering at least 10 carries in 11 of his last 15 games with the Patriots. Given his 6th round ADP, he should be a fine target as a RB3, or as a RB2 for the “wait on RB” crowd. For more on Blount, check out this article by Sr. Editor John Paulsen.
Garoppolo's most extensive NFL action came against the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale last December, a meaningless affair for the Patriots in which the rookie entered for Brady in the second half. He completed 10-of-17 passes for 90 yards and was sacked three times.
Drawing conclusions from the 32 snaps that Garoppolo played that afternoon can be dangerous, because the Patriots sat out two key receivers that Garoppolo will have at his disposal this season (Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman) and held out his two best offensive linemen (tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer).
Yet the Bills, even having been eliminated from the playoffs, treated the game as if it had meaning -- they scratched only injured defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- so the contest serves as a fair indication of how opposing defenses might attack Garoppolo in September.
Garoppolo is roughly the same size as Brady but is more mobile, however the story said the Pats can expect defenses to blitz Garoppolo often. The story also said don't rule out the Pats trying to find more ways to take advantage of Graoppolo's mobility instead of simplifying the playbook. Graoppolo will face two pretty tough defenses in Pittsburgh and Buffalo to start the season before seeing Jacksonville in Week 3 and Dallas in Week 4. Matt Flynn will be the backup.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported earlier Tuesday that Bell was negotiating a settlement with the NFL to reduce his suspension to one or two games.
Bell was suspended in April for his August 2014 arrest on charges of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. Bell was arrested while driving to the airport for a preseason game with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount.
Blount, who now plays for the New England Patriots, was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and will be suspended for the first game of the 2015 season. Bell was suspended an additional two games because of the DUI charge.
Bell is now our #1 RB in PPR formats and is coming in at #2 in standard formats, though brave owners should probably still take him first overall knowing that they can pair him with a replacement back. Maybe more importantly, Bell was a full go at training camp. There was some concern about a lingering knee injury, though it looks like that’s behind him now.
Brady was suspended four games in May after footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts were found to be inflated under the minimum level prescribed by the league. Along with the NFL Players Association, Brady challenged his penalty and testified before Goodell at an appeal hearing last month.
Brady was suspended on May 11 after a report by Ted Wells, an investigator contracted by the league, asserted Brady's connection to the deflation of footballs used in the AFC Championship Game, which the Patriots won, 45-7. Wells did not allege that Brady himself improperly handled the footballs, but the investigator wrote that he believed Brady was "at least generally aware" of the alleged involvement of Patriots staff in deflating the footballs. Wells also noted that Brady did not fully cooperate with his requests during the investigation.
As it stands, Brady is suspended for the first four games, so his current ranking (which is dependent on his full season projections) is not reflective of his true value. If he decides to pursue the issue in the court system, he could get an injunction allowing him to play while the matter is settled. Given the allegations that he had his phone destroyed ahead of time, he may elect to take his medicine and serve his suspension. If he’s still around in the 10th/11th round, an Angry Tom strategy could be effective. Owners can draft Brady along with another quarterback (Carson Palmer?) later in the draft and stream the position until Brady returns in Week 6. Brady should return with a chip on his shoulder and provide good production down the stretch. Who knows, if he sues and wins an injunction, he could play Week 1.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 5:53pm
It's common for the Patriots to be overly cautious with their injured players before camp by placing them on PUP or NFI, the story went on to say. Each player can be removed from the list and begin practicing at any point. However, players can't be placed on PUP once they begin practicing.
The Miami Dolphins overhauled their wide receiver group this offseason, with the exception of promising second-year player, Jarvis Landry. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson are all out of Miami, and have been "replaced" by Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker.
Three new receivers, three better fits for Ryan Tannehill, according to head coach Joe Philbin. He is confident the trio of Jennings, Stills, and Parker are better for Tannehill than the previous trio of Wallace, Hartline, and Gibson.
"I do think it’s a better skill set to match [Tannehill]," Philbin told the Palm Beach Post.
As expected, first-round pick DeVante Parker should be a big part of the offense this season. Philbin had great things to say about Stills' speed and called Parker and Jennings QB-friendly guys. A combination of these three receivers, plus Landry, the story said, should give Tannehill the weapons he needs. Add in newly-acquired tight end Jordan Cameron and the Dolphins look like a dangerous offense. As a result, Tannehill finds himself ranked 10th on our QB list. If he can produce QB1 numbers, he could be a real steal with an ADP of the ninth round in 12-team leagues.
Monday, July 27, 2015, 10:17am
Pats WR Aaron Dobson, reveal thyself.
This season — or maybe even this month — will define the second-rounder’s career after a pair of injury-plagued seasons. Dobson had a terrific first half in 2013 before a major foot injury derailed his rookie season and sabotaged his sophomore campaign, which ultimately ended when he popped his hamstring in Green Bay.
Quarterback Tom Brady showed spurts of trust with Dobson in the spring, so there’s reason to believe in the Marshall product who redesigned his offseason schedule with the goal of strengthening his lower body and preventing future injuries.
Julian Edelman has become a legitimate No. 1 receiver, even if tight end Rob Gronkowski is the offense’s top weapon. If Brandon LaFell builds upon his inaugural season with the Pats and Danny Amendola’s postseason momentum carries over (he restructured his contract to stay), that’s a nice trio, the story said. The story also pointed out that those WRs were also blessed with good health and that's not something you can always count on, thus the importance of Dobson to emerge.
The Boston Herald broke down the Patriots RBs:
LeGarrette Blount will miss the opener on the suspended list, but should be viewed as a lock because the Patriots made no obvious attempt to replace him in the draft or free agency. Brandon Bolden signed a contract extension last season and is one of their most trusted special teamers. The Patriots believe James Develin is the best fullback in the league, so he is safe as long as the Pats continue to value the position.
We still don’t know for sure much about Travis Cadet, Tyler Gaffney, Jonas Gray and James White really. Cadet has an intriguing set of skills, but could he provide more than Bolden or White? And White just had his second strong spring of OTAs, but can he do it wearing pads? Is Gray the bulldozer we saw against the Colts or the guy Bill Belichick preferred to keep in the doghouse? And the thinking here is that Gaffney’s best work must come in pads, which is why he had a somewhat quiet spring.
The story went on to say that White, a 2014 fourth-round pick, dazzled at the start of training camp last season before falling off the map with 16 healthy scratches in 19 games. He was strong again during the nine-week OTAs program and appeared to be the Pats’ best back in passing situations. White could monopolize that role if he keeps it up and earns more trust, the story went on to say. But if he disappears again midway through camp, he might even get cut. We had news articles last year that stated White could be a potential Shane Vereen replacement, but the team signed Cadet in the offseason and right now is a bit more proven after filling in for Pierre Thomas at times last year in New Orleans. With Blount seemingly the early down back, the winner of the third down, passing situation job could potentially have PPR value in fantasy leagues.
Perhaps most notable about the Patriots' running back position is that James White, Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis look to be closely bunched for the pass-catching role vacated by Shane Vereen at this juncture.
If any single back wins the pass-catching role outright, he'll suddenly be a factor in PPR formats. Shane Vereen averaged 4.3 catches per game over the past two years (including the postseason). That projects to 68.8 receptions over a full 16-game season.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 3:44pm
The sides had faced a 4 p.m. ET deadline to reach a multiyear contract after the Patriots had designated Gostkowski as its franchise player in early March.
Gostkowski, who has played his entire career with the Patriots after being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft as the replacement for Adam Vinatieri, was the NFL's leading scorer in 2014 with 156 points. A Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons, he has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, which the Patriots, as a team based in the Northeast often playing in adverse conditions, have valued. Gostkowski's strong leg was reflected in his 53 touchbacks during the 2014 regular season, which tied for fifth most in the league. The 31-year-old Gostkowski was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014, hitting all 51 extra points that he attempted. He became New England's all-time leading scorer in 2014, passing Vinatieri, the story added.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
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