What does Deion Branch do to Brandon Tate’s fantasy value?
For any fantasy owner who picked up Patriots’ wide receiver Brandon Tate after the Randy Moss trade, the subsequent trade for Deion Branch might have caused a little bit of frustration. How much will Branch hurt Tate’s new found value and are either worth owning or starting in your league?
I’ll start off by saying that Brandon Tate was likely on his way to a solid campaign even without the Randy Moss trade. In the four games the Patriots played, he had been targeted 14 times and managed to catch the ball at a great 79% rate. We saw in the Week 4 Dolphins matchup that he was beginning to get more featured in the offense.
Branch has had a similarly successful campaign in Seattle, catching 72% of the 18 balls thrown his way, although for much lower average yardage. However, in prior years Branch has seen his average reception drop below ten yards and his catch rate stuck below 60%. Back in his career year in 2005, he had a solid average per catch at 12.8 yards but still only caught 62% of balls thrown his way. Branch has the history of playing with the Patriots and Tom Brady, but keep in mind that he is not the type of receiver that can replace a Randy Moss. He also will not directly replace Brandon Tate as they are different types of recievers — 4 inches separate the two. At 31 years old, Branch is also not the young receiver he was in his early Patriot days.
Fantasy owners are correct in their valuation of Branch and Tate; Tate is owned in 54% of leagues while Branch is only owned in 25%. Despite that, Branch has been the most added player this week after Danny Amendola, signaling some optimism.
We all know that Belichick and the Patriots are great talent evaluators, and if Branch has truly declined, then he won’t see the field enough to take many opportunities from Tate. Even if Branch proves to be a good receiver for the Patriots, Tate should still continue to grow as a receiver and get chances, especially for touchdowns. With the questionable backfield in New England, we could easily see Tate, Welker and Branch all on the field at the same time soon.
At this point, Branch is a purely speculative pickup who could give a few points in a bye week, but won’t be scoring many touchdowns. Tate, on the other hand, could be a solid third receiver option and is a potential star in a Week 16 fantasy championship game when he faces Buffalo.