Patriots

Fantasy Beat: Can't take a flier on Rex Burkhead in your fantasy playoffs

Fantasy Beat: Can't take a flier on Rex Burkhead in your fantasy playoffs

Fantasy football owners seem to get smarter every year. The leagues seem to get deeper. The competition seems to get better. That's partially because of the sheer amount of information available to fantasy geeks willing to put the time in. But it's not always easy to find sound fantasy advice on players making up the back ends of fantasy depth charts. That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps. 

Every week, we'll look at the Patriots matchup and try to help you decide which players to start and which to sit -- or which to invest in if you're playing in a daily format. You know you're rolling with Julian Edelman on a weekly basis this year, but otherwise...? There are plenty of questions that hopefully we'll answer here. 

START

SONY MICHEL, RB, PATRIOTS

You can trust Sony Michel in your fantasy playoffs. At least, I think you can. I know he had two touchdowns vultured by James Develin last week. I know he's looked bad in short-yardage and goal-line situations. I know he only had 63 yards last week against the Vikings. But the Dolphins aren't the Vikings. The Dolphins are one of the league's worst run defenses, allowing 5.0 yards per carry. Michel is an RB2.  

JAMES WHITE, RB, PATRIOTS

Time to worry about James White's workload with Rex Burkhead back in the mix? In a word, no. He touched the football 13 times last week for 118 total yards. After a couple of down weeks against the Titans and Jets, White was right back in the thick of things. Despite the depth at his position in New England, there's still plenty of work available for White, who is likely the best one-on-one option in the short passing game for Tom Brady these days. He's an RB2 and a borderline RB1 in PPR leagues.

JOSH GORDON, WR, PATRIOTS

Josh Gordon has been very efficient the past two weeks, catching all eight of his targets. We know he has the ability to break a tackle and break a long play any time he touches the football, and the fact that he says his conditioning has improved has to be viewed as a sign that he'll have more big-play opportunities moving forward. His hard-charging running style was on display last week as he picked up an average of 12 yards after the catch on his three grabs. He's a WR2 this week. 

ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE, PATRIOTS

You can't start Rob Gronkowski expecting the old Gronk. Especially now that the Dolphins have top-tier safety Reshad Jones back from injury and patrolling the middle of the field. But do you have to start him? Yes. One encouraging note for Gronkowski fantasy owners? The Patriots may have dialed back his workload purposefully against the Vikings. There were instances when he had one-on-one coverage -- and even had room to run -- yet didn't see the football. He's not the player he was. There are weeks when opposing defensive coordinators treat him like any other tight end (though not every week, as we saw against the Jets), but Brady still trusts him, and he still has the ability to put up more fantasy points than most at his position. That's what matters here. 

SIT

TOM BRADY, QB, PATRIOTS

Brady cracked the 300-yard barrier last weekend, but he still has just four touchdown passes in his past five games. The matchup against Miami, which appears as though it'll be without Xavien Howard, is a very good one on paper. But Brady's numbers in Miami -- particularly in Miami in December -- are brutal. His career December rating drops about 20 points when in Miami. His touchdown-to-interception ratio in Miami in December is 9-to-10. He's 1-5 in Miami in December in his career. You can't be blamed for looking elsewhere this week.

KENYAN DRAKE, RB, DOLPHINS

If fantasy is as much about opportunity as it is about talent, you can't feel good about rolling with Drake. He had nine touches last week in a close game with the Bills. In Weeks 9 and 10 he combined for 17 touches. He's had a nose for the end zone lately -- three scores in his past two games -- but with your fantasy playoff lives on the line, I wouldn't feel great about him. 

REX BURKHEAD, RB, PATRIOTS

Do I think Rex Burkhead will have fantasy value before the regular season is through? Yes. Do I think it'll be this week in Miami? I think there's a chance. Do I think you should start him this week? No. Look, the Patriots had their backs touch the football a whopping 45 times the other night. (Burkhead had seven carries for 20 yards and two catches for 21.) They're OK with dinking and dunking given their personnel there. And if either Michel or White were ever to miss time, Burkhead would become a solid fantasy option. But until he establishes a greater role for himself, it's too risky to start him this late in the year. 

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Tom Brady recruits Zdeno Chara as Rob Gronkowski's replacement

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Tom Brady recruits Zdeno Chara as Rob Gronkowski's replacement

Tom Brady has an idea for Rob Gronkowski's replacement at tight end, and it doesn't involve free agency or the upcoming NFL Draft.

The Patriots quarterback had a light bulb go off above his head while watching the Bruins take on the Maple Leafs in Game 7. Why not have 6-foot-9, 256-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara give tight end a shot?

All jokes aside, Brady has been one of Chara's biggest fans during the Bruins' first-round series. He also left a motivational comment on Chara's Instagram post prior to Tuesday night's Game 7 matchup.

As for what the Patriots are really doing to fill Gronk's void at tight end, they signed both Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse in free agency during the offseason. It remains to be seen whether they'll address the tight end position during the NFL Draft, which begins April 25.

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Next-Pats Podcast: Draft week is finally here; Mike Lombardi talks assessing talent

Next-Pats Podcast: Draft week is finally here; Mike Lombardi talks assessing talent

At last, the draft has arrived - almost. Phil Perry talks to former Patriots staffer Mike Lombardi as the annual selection of talent looms.

3:42 - Phil Perry is joined by former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff, football analyst and writer for the Athletic Mike Lombardi. The two begin by discussing the validity of certain reports on players in the upcoming draft.

7:44 - Are the Patriots in a position where they need to pick a quarterback this year? Lombardi explains how difficult it is to judge talent because of the difference in the level of competition in college football.

12:26 - Lombardi talks about how this year's draft could be weak compared to previous years' and how the Patriots should approach their selections because of that.

18:36 - Phil goes through his final mock draft, with the picks being decided by the fans via Twitter polls.


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