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ESPN’s Matthew Berry shares insight on the Patriots fantasy football prospects

Find out where the Patriots players rank in fantasy football heading into the 2016 season.

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ESPN’s Matthew Berry has started to provide his Fantasy Football thoughts for the 2016 season and there are some interesting rankings.

Berry currently has New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ranked 5th at the position, behind Panthers QB Cam Newton, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Colts QB Andrew Luck, and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Brady’s suspension likely factors into this ranking.

“For the third straight season, Tom Brady's aDOT (average depth of target) dropped,” Berry states. “Running backs accounted for more than 25 percent of his completions. During the past three seasons, only four teams in the NFL have attempted more passes than the New England Patriots.”

This is a curious note that bears examination in 2016. Average depth of target indicates how vertical an offense can be, but injuries, the weak offensive line, and the rise in the quick passing game have limited the Patriots vertical attack in recent years.

A reduction in aDOT isn’t necessarily a negative. The Patriots fantastic 2011 offense featured two receivers that ranked in the bottom ten of aDOT (Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez). But a smaller aDOT does indicate a more constrained offense, which is a negative.

Hopefully Brady can buck the downtrend if the offensive line and the rushing attack can buy him some extra time in the pocket.

Running back Dion Lewis ranks 17th while tandem back LeGarrette Blount comes in at 34th. James White ranks 63rd, coincidentally immediately ahead of former Patriots and current Lions RB Stevan Ridley and Giants RB Shane Vereen.

Berry points out that Lewis averaged 5.3 receptions per game- which led to Brady’s lower aDOT- which was the 2nd highest mark in the NFL, behind free agent Arian Foster (5.5 RPG)

“In the six full games Lewis played last season, he averaged 17.5 points a game in PPR scoring, fifth best in fantasy last season, or just slightly less than Le'Veon Bell's 17.8 per game,” Berry writes. “In those six full games Lewis played, he scored 73 points in ESPN standard scoring. Last season, only six running backs scored more than 73 points in their first six games in ESPN standard scoring.”

Lewis could be a top 5 back if fully healthy and is currently available in the middle or late rounds in drafts. He could be a boom-bust player that wins or sinks seasons. He’s already back on the practice field, which is a good indicator that he could be ready to go in week 1. I’d buy in early if you can.

At wide receiver, Julian Edelman ranks 14th and could be a bargain pending upon how his foot heals. He was one of the top fantasy plays last season and he’s extremely consistent. Danny Amendola (67th) and Chris Hogan (71st) come in at the bottom, as does former Patriots receiver and current Bengals WR Brandon LaFell (75th).

Tight end Rob Gronkowski unsurprisingly is the highest ranked tight end, while Martellus Bennett ranks at 14th place, one ahead of Steelers TE Ladarius Green (which I question. I think Green will be a reliable fantasy starter).

Gronkowski is one of six active players with 100+ targets and 8+ receiving touchdowns in both 2014 and 2015, according to Berry. The other six are wide receivers: Jets WR Brandon Marshall (4 straight), Steelers WR Antonio Brown (3 straight), Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin, Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., and Eagles WR Jordan Matthews. Retired Lions WR Calvin Johnson (3 straight) would have been in this group, too.

I would bet money on Gronkowski extending that streak to 3 seasons in a row.

The Patriots defense and special teams ranks 12th, which I think is pretty low for this group, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski comes in at 1st. Gostkowski has led the league in scoring in each of the past four seasons.