The Patriots are notorious for having a muddy backfield, spreading the ball out, and maintaining a balanced offense that struggles to produce many fantasy stars. Last year was hardly different, as the only Patriot to finish in the top 12 at his position in 0.5 PPR was TE Hunter Henry (ninth). Damien Harris did manage an RB13 finish on the back of 15 TDs. On a per-game basis, though, they were 13th and 17th, respectively. Outside of those two, Mac Jones managed a QB18 finish, while Kendrick Bourne marked their highest WR finish at 30th.
In the offseason, they lost long-tenured, well-regarded offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is now the head coach in Las Vegas. His duties will be taken up by some unknown combination of Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, and Bill Belichick. Two of them were failed head coaches, and none have experience as an offensive coordinator at ANY level. This should be fun.
Meanwhile, they added Devante Parker and Tyquan Thornton to the WR room, now making it one of the most crowded rooms in the league without any elite talent likely to emerge quickly. It’s hard to say what kind of split we will see in the backfield (like usual), and no one knows if Hunter Henry can repeat his nine-TD performance. In short, the Patriots are a fantasy football mess.
Let’s try to make sense of it.
As a rookie, Mac Jones displayed two things that are practically prerequisites for a long career at QB: decision making and accuracy. Those traits will likely help him be a good quarterback for a while. However, that doesn’t always translate to being a great fantasy producer.
In a league where QBs are practically expected to rush for 400+ yards, Jones is at a disadvantage. His lack of mobility and the style of his offense limits his ceiling as a fantasy asset. In a SuperFlex or 2QB league, you can comfortably slot Jones in as a long-term QB2. However, with how the league is going, he will be hard-pressed to be relevant in 1QB leagues. He’ll sneak into the top 12 producers here and there, but he won’t separate himself from the rest of the pack that does the same, thus proving not very valuable.
Jones is going in the fifth round in SF drafts – a fair cost option if you fade QB a bit. He is cheaper than vets such as Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr, who will outproduce him in the short term but won’t provide the longevity Jones will.
The Patriots drafted Bailey Zappe in the fourth round. Zappe has good arm strength and set records last year at Western Kentucky. However, he still has a lot of development to do. He is also, obviously, stuck behind Jones for the foreseeable future. If you like the upside, he can be found on the waiver wire in most leagues, but don’t expect much.
This room is a bit more fun to discuss the future of. Starter Damien Harris was second in the league in rushing TDs last year. He proved a valuable pick due to his low cost and scoring five TDs in the fantasy playoffs. Now, however, he’s being drafted behind his backup in dynasty startups.
Harris is in a contract year, which is why the owners of said backup, Rhamondre Stevenson, are excited about his long-term potential. Stevenson emerged as a surprisingly good player last year. He is a well-rounded back, not only able to run it between the tackles with good vision and power but also able to catch the ball and do some damage in the open field. Stevenson remains the second string, but he may carve out a slightly more significant role for himself in 2022. He is primed to take over the backfield in 2023 and beyond, though, without much to compete with behind him. Rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris haven’t yet shown that they will command a big role in the future, but there is time yet for them.
Dynasty managers may be overlooking Harris’s long-term potential, though. He is 25 and has had low usage in his first three years in the NFL. He is a top 32 back in the league and arguably top 20. While he may not be the starter in New England in 2023, he will be a starter somewhere. Harris is being drafted outside the top 30 RBs in startups but will probably be a top 24 RB for a few more years. He lacks pass-catching upside, but he is a good option due to his low price.
While this WR room still lacks the star power it has sorely missed for a few years, it is now arguably one of the deepest in the league after a few off-season additions. Jakobi Meyers, Devante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and Tyquan Thornton all deserve reps as starters in the NFL. However, none of those guys is good enough to emerge from the rest of them in the short term. In redraft, I’m not touching a single one, even at cheap prices, due to the lack of upside. If any, a healthy Devante Parker would be your best bet to lead this group in production.
In dynasty, though, Thornton has the best long-term upside. The second-round rookie surprised many with how high he was drafted, but he was still projected to go in the fourth or possibly third round before the draft. He is fast and athletic and has shown flashes in his first year at training camp. Despite being the most expensive Patriots WR, you can still find Thornton in the 15th round of startups or later.
Outside of Thornton, there’s not much to love in the long or short run. Meyers is a fun player who has led the team in receiving the last two years (which isn’t saying much), but he doesn’t score TDs. He’s a chain mover that is barely relevant in PPR leagues, which may not last long with the additions to the team. Bourne was the leading producer in his first year with the team, but now he, too, has more competition for targets after only managing a WR3 finish in a career year. And Agholor, well…
Hunter Henry was a pleasant surprise last year, hauling in a career-high nine TDs en route to a TE9 finish. It’s tough to picture him repeating that same performance, though. The added WRs will soak up some target share, and fellow TE Jonnu Smith has been great in camp. After a disappointing 2021 season, New England may look to get Smith more involved this year. He understands the offense better and has been one of Jones’ most targeted players in training camp.
The good thing about both Henry and Smith is that neither is expensive. You can find them outside the top 15 rounds, even in tight-end premium drafts. Unfortunately, neither one offers a lot of upside. In the short term, they’re stuck in a crowded, balanced Patriots offense and will take away from each other. In the long term, their next contracts won’t come until their age 29 (Henry) and age 30 (Smith) seasons. If I’m going for one, it would have to be Henry, who will remain Jones’s #1 RedZone option during the next couple of years.
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I hope you enjoyed this piece in our Fantasy Focus series. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @devycramps. DMs are always open for any questions or comments!