The New England Patriots continue to make no sense. After deactivating both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins last week (in a game they seriously could have used bigger receivers), they have not waived Thompkins. New England had already made Thompkins a healthy scratch in two of the last three games, while the move appears to have been made with other roster considerations in mind.
The Patriots Have Been Dumb
At the very minimum, this latest transaction makes you question Bill Belichick and co.’s ability to assess and develop talent. Dating back to last year, the Patriots let the likes of Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker walk in free agency, only to replace them with Shane Vereen, Dobson, Thompkins, Danny Amendola and Josh Boyce. Tight end Aaron Hernandez also left a hole after being cut due to murder chargers, while the team knew it would be without their other tight end – Rob Gronkowski – for a while.
Their answer? They settled on undrafted free agent Zach Sudfeld. Sudfeld was a complete fail, Amendola and Vereen were instantly injured in week one and Boyce flopped and was eventually cut before the 2014 season. Since then the team has played hot and cold with both Thompkins and Dobson, made a sheepish trade for tight end Tim Wright. Wright has failed to be utilized in any manner, while Tom Brady hasn’t been able to get anything going this year with a less than 100% Gronkowski and no other field-stretching options.
This all rolls up into one big ball of “stay away” when it comes to the Patriots in fantasy football.
Not only have the Pats failed to land the right talent that can make an impact the past two seasons, but it’s clear the talent they do have, they’re not sure what to do with it. Whether it’s a poor fit, health or something intangible no one can put their finger on, it’s not clicking in New England. That sadly means you need to refrain from using these guys in fantasy football until something changes for the better. With a very tough and balanced Bengals defense coming into Foxboro in week five, it doesn’t seem logical that that swift, positive change would come this week.
What Do You Do?
That all being said, I’m still not completely ready to pull the plug on the following players: Tom Brady, Gronkowski, Vereen, Julian Edelman and Stevan Ridley. When the Patriots actually show the threat to pass, their running game can be deadly. To this point, they also simply haven’t had a completely healthy Gronk and their other receivers can’t stretch the field or make plays on the ball like Brady needs them to. Perhaps Brandon LaFell or Dobson step up and Gronk is closer to being 100% than we think. Who knows?
But you probably spent a decent pick on most of those guys, so pulling the plug after four shaky weeks may classify as a knee-jerk reaction. Still, you can’t play most of them – especially with this brutal week five matchup. I think Edelman and Gronk are the only ones you can feel even reasonably comfortable using. Gronk is still a threat in the red-zone and Edelman has the role to bank on in terms of targets and catches – although he’s only really “safe” in PPR leagues.
What you do with these guys is probably going to depend on your league size. The smaller the league, the easier it is to make up for these guys being such sad sacks. Anything 12 teams or smaller, you can pull the plug on any outside of Edelman and Gronk. 14-teamers and bigger, you just have to gut it out and hope these guys turn around. Otherwise you’re getting into that “drop Brady for Austin Davis” discussion, and that’s just crazy talk. Or is it?
I say give it another couple of weeks in deeper leagues, but keep an open mind on planning out an exit strategy.