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Brady's bunch depleted
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I hope Gisele is a good listener.

Her husband, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, has had plenty to complain about since his team was eliminated by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 AFC Championship game.

Let's recap:

- An infection delayed tight end Rob Gronkowski's recovery from a broken left forearm, which in turn pushed back his surgery on his nagging back injury.

- The Patriots let receiver Wes Welker sign with the Denver Broncos, then brought in several replacements that probably won't be as good as the original.

- Blocking- and pass-catching specialist Danny Woodhead signed with the San Diego Chargers.

- Tight end Aaron Hernandez arrested and charged with murder; released by New England.

All that leaves Brady with what on paper is his worst supporting cast since the mid-2000s, before Brady became a fantasy star.

Fantasy owners have responded by dropping Brady on their draft boards. His average draft position (ADP) on fantasyfootballcalculator.com has dropped from 4-12 (round four, pick 12) to 5-09.

I predict he'll fall even further as the summer rolls on. I mean, check out Brady's weapons from his five best seasons (ranked from best supporting cast to worst) compared to his projected supporting cast for 2013.

2011 - Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez (14 games), Deion Branch, Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis

2007 - Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Benjamin Watson, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney

2009 - Moss, Welker (14 games), Watson, Edelman, Maroney, Faulk

2010 - Welker (coming off torn left MCL and ACL; played 15 games), Gronkowski (rookie) Hernandez (rookie), Deion Branch (11 games), Brandon Tate, Woodhead, Green-Ellis

2012 - Welker, Gronkowski (11 games), Hernandez (10 games), Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman (nine games), Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley

2013 (projected) - Danny Amendola, Gronkowski (iffy for Week 1), Aaron Dobson (rookie), Jake Ballard, Donald Jones, Edelman, Michael Jenkins, Ridley, Shane Vereen

Amendola just might be a younger, quicker version of Welker, but he's yet to prove that his bones and muscles are made to take an NFL pounding without breaking or tearing. Ditto for Edelman.

Gronkowski's back surgery leaves him questionable for Week 1 at this juncture, and there's no way to know if the tight end will ever be the same player after undergoing five surgeries in less than a year.

Dobson, a 2013 second-round pick, is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and ran a 4.42 and 4.40 40-yard dash at Marshall's pro day, but he's still a raw product. Plus, New England doesn't exactly have the best track record of drafting and cultivating receivers. Remember Taylor Price (2010 90th pick), Brandon Tate (2009 83rd pick), Chad Jackson (2006 36th pick), or Bethel Johnson (2003 45th pick)? Neither do most people.

Meanwhile, Ballard hasn't played a down since Super Bowl XLVI due to a torn ACL and microfracture knee surgery, Jones has played 20 games and accumulated 674 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the last two seasons as the No. 2 receiver for the Buffalo Bills and Jenkins runs so slow his 40 time has to be listed in hours instead of seconds.

Due to the presence of Amendola and Gronkowski, Brady's supporting cast isn't as bad as 2006, when Reche Caldwell was New England's leading receiver with 760 yards, but those guys aren't exactly sure things to stay in the lineup for 16 games.

We could be looking at a situation in which Brady's top receivers in Week 10 are Jones, Edelman, Jenkins and Ballard. Deion Branch should make sure his phone is fully charged and near him at all times, because it could be only a matter of time before Patriots coach Bill Belichick calls.

Brady is still one of the best players in the NFL, and he has proven he can put up strong numbers even with a less-talented receiving group, but I wouldn't take him fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy drafts, not when Matt Ryan (6-03 ADP), Colin Kaepernick (6-12), Russell Wilson (7-05), Robert Griffin III (7-09), Andrew Luck (7-12) and Tony Romo (8-04) are going 1-3 rounds later.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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