The New England Patriots always have at least one pick in the first two rounds of a fantasy football draft. This season will be no different. However, are there others that can help you out?
Sleeper – Dwayne Allen, Tight End
Allen spent the first five years of his career with the Colts, where he had limited target volume but obscene numbers of touchdowns. He was Andrew Luck’s favorite red zone target and produced very well on a per-target basis when Luck was around over the last few years. With Luck around since 2014, Allen has averaged 2.12 PPR fantasy points per target. For reference, his new teammate, Rob Gronkowski, has produced 1.95 points per target in PPR (with Tom Brady) since 2014. In short, Dwayne Allen has made the most of his opportunities, mostly due to red zone production. The New England Patriots went and traded for Allen after riding Bennett and Gronk to the Super Bowl, so they plan to target him. He is literally free in most fantasy football leagues and is a deep sleeper worth watching.
Breakout – Mike Gillislee, Running Back
Gillislee spent his 2016 campaign frustrating the daylights out of LeSean McCoy owners, and he finally has a chance to break out on his own. He’s been a diamond in the rough his entire career, as he has consistently registered Surprisal Scores at an above-average rate, with only four of his games registering as below-average (on a per-carry basis); all four are barely below average, too. He gets the chance to be the man in New England, a role previously unseen before LeGarrette Blount filled it up. There is a precedent for Belichick seeing a player twice a year then seeking him out to become “the man,” with Wes Welker. Gillislee should rise above Belichicanery and become the feature back for the New England Patriots. With that comes production, and fantasy glory. He is currently the #30 running back off the board, and he should far outweigh that draft position.
Bust – Rob Gronkowski, Tight End
I am a firm believer that an early tight end pick is a wasted pick, and Gronk is no exception. He is going in the middle of the second round, and if he can escape injury and Travis Kelce nipping at his heels, he will be worth it. I am just not confident he will do either. Since 2012, Gronk has missed 24 of 80 games, or 30% of all possible games, and that does not include his nine games he left with injury or acted as a decoy. That knocks that uselessness number up over 40%. In 2016, he was 0.5 points better than the #5 tight end; in 2015, that number was 2.3. With Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed nipping at his heels, Gronk’s status as the no-question #1 fantasy football tight end is in serious jeopardy.
Editor’s Note: Ths article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.