Mike Tanier

Going Deep

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Patriot Gains

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The 2007 Patriots are long gone. Laurence Maroney and Jabar Gaffney are in Denver. Ben Watson is in Cleveland. Kevin Faulk is out for the year. Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker may still be around, but most of the supporting cast of the team that scored 589 points three seasons ago is now scattered around the league. In their place are guys with names like BenJarvus, Green and Ellis. Wait, that's one guy. You get the point: there are a lot of unknown commodities playing for the Patriots right now.

This year's version of the Patriots may not rack up 6,580 yards of offense, but they've already scored 38 points in two different games, and with Brady at quarterback there are sure to be fantasy opportunities for players other than Moss and Welker. The trick is to sort out the one-game wonders from the guys who will have a regular role all season long. Here's a rundown of some of the guys who have been getting the ball in New England and what their fantasy impact will be in the weeks to come.

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BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Green-Ellis rushed 15 times for 98 yards and a touchdown last week, but that production comes with a major caveat. Green-Ellis carried the ball just twice in the first half, then rushed nine times in the fourth quarter as the Patriots tried to deflate the ball in a blowout win. That means that much of Green-Ellis' production, including his touchdown and a 22-yard run, came late in the game against a bad opponent.

Green-Ellis has been the garbage man in New England for three years. He gained 69 yards in the Patriots' 59-0 blowout of the Titans last year, gained 65 yards (all in the second half) in a 47-10 rout of the Broncos in 2008, and also rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in a 20-10 win over the Bills in 2008 that wasn't as close as the score. He had exactly one red zone touch last season, and that came from the 15-yard line. A guy can earn a good living in New England by beating up on the Bills and mopping up blowouts, and the injuries to Faulk and Fred Taylor should provide Green-Ellis with more opportunities. But don't blow all of your waiver points on him: he's a terrible receiver, which makes him a bad fit in both the Patriots system and PPR leagues, and the Patriots have other red zone options. Make a low bid; your owners may be distracted by some of the other commodities (see below) on the waiver market.

Danny Woodhead
The spunky, plucky, scrappy Woodhead got a lot of attention after carrying three times for 42 yards and a touchdown while showing lots of grit, moxie and heart. A running back/receiver tweener who spent last season with the Jets and got more HBO face time than Ari Gold on Hard Knocks, Woodhead has the receiving chops to replace Faulk as the Patriots' often-used receiving back.

Now the bad news: Woodhead was on the field for 10 plays against the Bills, knows only a fraction of the playbook, and is getting a disproportionate amount of media attention because he has ever-so-much gumption-determination-pepper. Faulk was a fine player, but he was only useful in deep PPR leagues: he hadn't rushed for more than 80 yards in a game since 2004, and his touchdown production was unpredictable. If Woodhead is 80 percent as good as Faulk, he's not worth a fantasy selection.

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