BRISTOL, Conn. -- While the 2013 NFL Draft came to close over the weekend, it won't be long until fantasy football drafts take place in preparation for the upcoming season.
With that in mind, a group of 25 or so members of the ESPN.com Fantasy staff congregated Tuesday at company headquarters for the annual Fantasy Football Summit, during which player rankings were discussed in advance of the release of a special magazine preview.
As the top scoring offense in 2012, the Patriots had no shortage of fantasy relevant players, and though the personnel has turned over some this offseason, that figures to remain the case again in 2013.
Several Patriots-related items led to spirited conversation, some of which are outlined below:
1. Does the new-look receiving corps impact the value of Tom Brady? Brady's top two receivers from 2012 are gone, and there are some questions related to the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski (more on this later), but the 35-year old has proven to be among the most consistent and potent quarterbacks in the league. While losing Wes Welker hurts, the additions of Danny Amendola and a pair of rookie wide receivers was enough to keep Brady right in the mix among the top four fantasy quarterbacks for 2013. In 2012, Brady trailed only Drew Brees among all fantasy scorers, averaging over 20 points per game.
2. Blount's presence tied to Ridley. It seems too soon to suggest that LeGarrette Blount will both make the active roster and have a consistent role in New England, as he had a down 2012 and is limited athletically. However, one area where he has been known to have a fantasy impact is a goal-line runner who can save a fantasy day with a stat line in the mold of six carries for 17 yards and a touchdown (good enough for seven fantasy points). Stevan Ridley tied for third among NFL running backs with 12 rushing touchdowns in 2012, but some wonder if Blount will take away some of his touches near the goal line, decreasing his overall value. In the end, Ridley still checked in right outside of the top 10 running backs for the season.
3. Amendola's expectations. We didn't dive too deep into this one, but it's a question many fantasy players have already asked: how productive can Danny Amendola be in a role comparable to Wes Welker? For those who play in a point-per-reception league, Welker was an ideal fit because of his high-volume of catches (and his yardage), and the same could prove to be true with Amendola. The biggest concern relating to Amendola is the same concern that has been discussed in "real" football: his health. If he can stay healthy, some believe he'll approach the production of Welker; however, he's missed 20 games in the past two seasons, and that's a factor worth considering before drafting him.
4. The health of Gronk. Rob Gronkowski's record-breaking production has led some fantasy owners to re-think the way they value the tight end position. Despite missing five games last season (and sitting for much of a sixth), Gronkowski was just five points short of the most points produced by a tight end for 2012. He's virtually uncoverable and, for those who play in dynasty leagues, among the 10 or so best building blocks in fantasy football. But the left forearm that he broke remains not only a concern for his team, but for fantasy owners as well. When healthy, there's no doubt that Gronk is the top tight end choice (and by a wide margin), but how much caution must an owner through right now given his circumstances? The answer, much like how the Patriots are probably feeling, is it's just too soon to tell. Gronk checked in at number two on the tight end list, just behind Jimmy Graham.