Last week, I took to Twitter to talk to some folks about a decision: Do I start Rob Gronkowski, on limited snaps, or should I start the Baltimore Ravens' Dennis Pitta? Everyone thought I was crazy for posing that question, but for me it made sense. If Gronk doesn't score a touchdown, he's not going to be a top tight end for that week. Pitta is far more likely to be included throughout the game and, in my opinion at the time, presented the safer option at the position.
Everyone pointed out that Gronk averages a touchdown roughly every game. That's a fair point. Then I checked his stats in his first game back last season against the Jets- 17 targets.
I played Gronk. He scored a touchdown. He scored a hair more than Pitta.
I won my week.
This week, I had no problem starting Gronk over Pitta. I'm playing Gronk the rest of the year. I'm sorry for even putting the notion up for debate. He's a top three tight end for the rest of the season and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is probably a part of Jordan Cameron's extended family.
Tom Brady is a safe play, although I say that with hesitation. All signs have been pointing to another game with Marcus Cannon - Dan Connolly - Jordan Devey as the interior of the offensive line, which means that Brady will be running for his life unless Josh McDaniels starts drawing plays to allow for quicker passes. Brady will get his touchdown or two and put up 250 yards, but it's possible that you could find a better quarterback on the waiver wire (Andy Dalton against the Falcons? Carson Palmer against the Giants?) until the Patriots figure out who will be Brady's protectors. The difference between Brady and Dalton is tremendous in real life. In fantasy, the prospects aren't that different.
Shane Vereen should be in everyone's starting line-ups. He's going to be an active part of the Patriots offense as the best pass protector and he adds an element in the receiving game. He either is a danger to catch the ball, or he draws coverage away to open up plays for others. Either way, he'll get his snaps which means he'll get his touches. He'll be a solid RB2, collecting 60-70 yards overall and a possible touchdown. His usage on the goal line was interesting as he's not as strong of a back as Stevan Ridley, but it's clear the Patriots trust his hands more than they trust Ridley's ability to hold onto the ball.
Speaking of Ridley, I wouldn't play him. Vereen will out-touch him and out-snap him. It's possible that Ridley will vulture a touchdown, but those are odds that I wouldn't take. If he doesn't get that touchdown, he's only going to collect 30-40 yards. Not worth a start, unless you're in a ridiculously deep league.
Julian Edelman is a definite flex start, if not borderline WR2. He racked up six receptions for 95 yards before the half and you can be certain that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are going to find a way to stretch out that level of play for a full game. He's the heartbeat of the Patriots offense, even with a healthy Gronkowski, so he's good for ten+ targets and near 100 yards every game. Don't be shocked by a touchdown, either. The Patriots will have to operate a fast offense to compensate for the weak offensive line and Edelman is the prime benefactor.
I would hold off on starting any other Patriots receiver, but I would definitely pick up Aaron Dobson and stash him for this week. It's his first game back, so his production is up in the air, but he's primed to be a star. Be an early investor and get him on the cheap.
Stephen Gostkowski is top starter as a kicker. He's definitely taken at this point and he's probably going to get two or three field goal opportunities, as well as a couple extra points. The Vikings have a formidible defense, so don't be surprised when the Patriots drives stall deep in Viking territory.
Full disclosure: I'm starting the Patriots D/ST. No question. I'm banking on the Patriots adjusting back to the 4-3, racking up sacks, forcing a few turnovers, and then showing why people thought they were top unit. I'm banking on this.
Feel free to post any fantasy questions in this thread!