Apparently, the rich really do get richer. And in the case of the Patriots, they must be bathing in pools of gold.
The Patriots won Super Bowl 51 in a stunning comeback, overcoming a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime, which is their fifth title under coach Bill Belichick. All New England did this offseason was reload the roster in tremendous fashion, especially on offense.
And now Tom Brady is even happier -- and more dangerous -- than ever before.
Brady turns 40 in August, but we're not worried about a drop-off in his play happening this year. Not when he has the best receiving corps of his career from top to bottom.
The Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks this offseason from the Saints, and Rob Gronkowski is expected to be back at 100 percent after a back injury knocked him out for most of 2016, including the playoffs. New England also added free agent running back Rex Burkhead, who should be a useful weapon out of the backfield, and traded for tight end Dwayne Allen, who will replace Martellus Bennett (free agent to Green Bay) and is a viable red-zone threat.
When you add in Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, James White and Dion Lewis, well, good luck trying to stop this aerial attack. And Mike Gillislee was also added as a free agent to replace LeGarrette Blount, but Gillislee might be an upgrade since he's four years younger.
It should be an explosive offense in all facets, which is great for Brady, and he's a candidate to be the No. 1 overall Fantasy quarterback this year. And Gronkowski is locked in as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end to start the season. But the Patriots are also going to be frustrating for Fantasy owners.
Belichick already has a reputation for messing with Fantasy owners when it comes to the New England backfield, and there are now four viable candidates for touches in Gillislee, Lewis, White and Burkhead. What would make sense is Gillislee taking over for Blount, White keeping his role as the pass-catcher out of the backfield and Lewis and Burkhead working in when needed.
But what makes sense doesn't always happen for Belichick's backfield, and we have to plan accordingly. As such, we like Gillislee as a No. 2 Fantasy running back because of his touchdown potential (Blount scored an NFL-best 18 last season), and White could be a flex option in PPR leagues. Lewis and Burkhead are late-round fliers in the majority of leagues, but it could all get turned around once the games start.
At receiver, Cooks was a Fantasy star for the past two years with New Orleans, but his value takes a hit in New England because of all the mouths to feed. Cooks' addition also impacts Edelman in a negative way, and his value is lower. And you're probably not going to draft Hogan or Mitchell in the majority of leagues because they also should have less production moving forward.
The one constant, as always, will be Brady, who overcame a four-game suspension last year and the loss of Gronkowski to still play like an elite Fantasy quarterback. He only finished as the No. 15 quarterback in 2016, but he averaged just under 26 Fantasy points a game in the 12 games he was active. If you project that over 16 games, he would have finished as the No. 4 quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
That's the range Brady should finish in -- he was the No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in 2015 when he played 16 games -- and he's worth drafting as early as Round 3 in the majority of leagues. The risk with Brady, like most NFL players, is breaking down because of age.
But it's hard to bet against Brady after his miraculous comeback in Super Bowl 51, as well as everything else he's accomplished in his Hall of Fame career. And it's hard to expect a down performance with all the talent around him.
Brady will emerge from his pool of gold this offseason to lead the Patriots once again. And he will likely dominate in Fantasy and reality because of New England's loaded roster.
Injury bounce-back: Rob Gronkowski
The NFL is better when Gronkowski is around. And so is Fantasy Football. Sure, the Patriots won Super Bowl 51 with Gronkowski watching instead of playing, but we want as much Gronkowski as possible because it's more fun. And this year he's expected to be healthy after playing in just eight games last season, including only six with Brady. Fantasy owners are worried about when to draft Gronkowski. After all, he isn't getting any younger (27) or more durable (he hasn't played 16 games since 2011), and the Patriots added more weapons this offseason with the addition of Cooks, Allen and Burkhead to go with an already stacked roster. But you know what Gronkowski is and what he's capable of when healthy, and prior to 2016 he had at least 72 catches, 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in the two previous seasons. He's still priority No. 1 for Brady even with the new additions, especially in the red zone, and he should be priority No. 1 for Fantasy owners at the tight end position. The price tag is still high, which is toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3. But it's worth it when he's healthy, and if Gronkowski is fine for training camp then he's someone to target in all leagues. We're glad Gronkowski is back.
Breakout: Mike Gillislee
Gillislee was good last season as a backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo, and he could be great as the potential starter for the Patriots. In 2016, Gillislee had 101 carries for 577 yards (5.71 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns and nine catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. He finished as the No. 26 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, and he should have the chance for more work this year as the replacement for Blount. He won't get the same workload, but Blount had 299 carries for 1,161 yards and an NFL-best 18 touchdowns last year, as well as seven catches for 38 yards. Gillislee will definitely lose work to Lewis, Burkhead and White, but our hope is Gillislee gets around 180 carries and scores at least eight touchdowns in this offense. And he's averaged 5.7 yards per carry in each of the past two years, which could put him around 1,000 rushing yards. Now, we're being optimistic given the crowded backfield, but Gillislee's role should be different from the other three guys, especially with the touchdown potential in this explosive offense. He's worth drafting in Round 5 in standard leagues and after Round 6 in PPR.
Bust: Brandin Cooks
Edelman should be in this category as well since both receivers should see their stock decline, but it's not going to be completely awful with their production. It's just going to be hard to live up to the expectations of most Fantasy owners, especially with Cooks. He was the No. 9 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues in 2016 and No. 11 in 2015, but we're expecting him to be closer to No. 20 this year going from New Orleans to New England. There are a ton of mouths to feed with the Patriots, and Brady isn't going away from Gronkowski or Edelman, as well as secondary options in Hogan, Mitchell, Allen and the running backs staying involved. And we know about his struggles when he's played away from New Orleans. In 21 career road games, Cooks has seven touchdowns and two games with over 100 receiving yards. Compare that to his production in 21 games at home, where he has 13 touchdowns and five games with at least 100 receiving yards. He's still going to be a good Fantasy receiver with the Patriots, but he's not going to be elite. Just be wary of drafting him before Round 4 in most formats this year. And Edelman should be drafted in Round 6 in standard leagues and Round 5 in PPR.