The New England Patriots are entering year four of the post-Tom Brady era. The team only has one playoff appearance in that span, and Mac Jones is entering a pivotal year three. A decision will have to be made at quarterback this upcoming offseason. Could a decision be made on Bill Belichick as well? 2023 will be a critical season for the New England Patriots. How does that affect our dynasty rosters? Let’s break it down by looking at the Fantasy Forecast for the 2023 New England Patriots.
2022 Season Recap
The 2022 New England Patriots were the NFL’s definition of ‘mid.’ The team finished 8 and 9 and missed the playoffs, coming in third in the AFC East. According to PFF, the team finished 16th in passing offense and 20th in rushing offense—both league-average marks. At this point, there are more questions than answers revolving around Mac Jones, and 2022’s mediocrity has led to 2023 being an actual inflection point for this franchise.
The bright spot for the New England Patriots had to be Rhamodre Stevenson. He finished as a top-16 running back on the year, including six weeks with an RB1 performance. He is the hot name in dynasty right now, but there is always the dread of the Belichick running back by committee taking over in 2023.
From a fantasy perspective, the most significant offseason change is at offensive coordinator. The 2022 season was a disaster where Belichick employed Matt Praticia and Joe Judge as co-offensive coordinators. Having two people filling this one position is not the key to success, and that played out on the field. Thankfully for 2023, Bill O’Brien is stepping in as offensive coordinator. As much as everyone wants to rag on his time in Houston, he is an upgrade at the position.
Quarterbacks: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Trace McSorley, Malik Cunningham
As stated earlier, 2023 will be a critical year in the career of Mac Jones. Most franchises will have to decide on a young quarterback in year three, and Jones hasn’t proven himself enough up to this point. He is 16 and 16 as a starter through two years, including an embarrassing 47 to 17 playoff loss to division rival Buffalo. Throw in that the team looked just as good with Bailey Zappe under center last season, and there is cause for concern in the dynasty community.
Unless New England sees a significant improvement from Jones, I cannot see them committing to a long-term contract with him. This leaves the Patriots back at square one regarding the quarterback position. The fact compounding this problem is that Belichick is too good of a coach to have a team that loses enough to get a top pick in any draft class. Perhaps the end of Mac Jones could also signal the end of Bill Belichick’s career. Or perhaps Kyler Murray will be suiting up as a Patriot in 2024.
But enough speculating about the future, how can the 2023 season play out for the New England Patriots quarterback room? With better organization coming from the offensive coordinator position, I expect Jones’s numbers to be closer to 2021 than 2022. In 2021, he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. I would project the interception numbers to come down and the touchdowns to go up slightly. If Jones can hit 4,000 and 25, he can finish as a top 16 fantasy option this year.
However, we cannot discount how Bailey Zappe looked in limited action last season. He won the two games he was asked to start while maintaining a completion percentage of over 70. More than a handful of fans in New England are clamoring to see a bit more from Zappe. If Mac Jones were to struggle in 2023, you have to wonder how short the leash would be. Zappe can be acquired in Superflex leagues for cheap; just look at some trades from the DynastyGM tool.
Running Backs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong, Kevin Harris, J.J. Taylor
The bane of many in the fantasy industry is what to do with the New England Patriots backfield. 2023 is no less of a mess than previous seasons. Rhamondre Stevenson was the most productive rusher, eclipsing a thousand yards on the season. He was the first Patriot running back to do this since LeGarrette Blount in 2016. The fantasy football community has been hyping Stevenson as an RB1 option for 2023, but is that take a little too bold?
Damien Harris left in the offseason to head to Buffalo and left behind over 100 carries. Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong are entering their second seasons but combined for less than 25 carries in their rookie seasons. Given the small volume of work they saw last year, both could have been more efficient. J.J. Taylor is still in New England but accounted for only ten carries last season. So where are those 100 vacated carries going in 2023?
New England has been linked to multiple veteran running backs over the last few weeks. Former Jaguars running back James Robinson was brought in for a few weeks but has since been released as he won’t be ready for the beginning of the year. Leonard Fournette was brought in for a workout last week but left without a contract. Dalvin Cook has been linked numerous times to the Patriots but has not been brought into the building for a meeting. Finally, Ezekiel Elliot remains a free agent. Rhamondre owners are on pins and needles as they navigate the beginning of the training camp news cycle.
Wide Receivers: Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thorton, Kayshon Boutte
The group of wide receivers that the New England Patriots have assembled for the 2023 season doesn’t inspire confidence. Jakobi Myers left this offseason for the Vegas Raiders, and JuJu Smith-Schuster was brought in to fill that role. Smith-Schuster is on his third team in as many years, which is not often a good sign for a young receiver. Despite playing with Patrick Mahomes, Smith-Schuster only had 1.68 yards per route run, good for 36th in the league. It is doubtful that this number will improve with Mac Jones.
The departure of Jakobi Myers leaves DeVante Parker as the incumbent leading receiver on the team from 2022. He can claim that title with a mere 539 yards. The rest of this group consists of second-year player Tyquan Thornton and rookie Kayshoun Boutte. Thornton wants to build off a rookie campaign where he commanded just 45 targets in 13 games. Boutte was once a highly touted college prospect who unfortunately fell in the draft due to character concerns. Reports out of rookie mini-camp could be better, and he may be a potential cut candidate when the rosters go down to the final 53.
Tight Ends: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki
We are only a few seasons removed from the New England Patriots, making Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith two of the top-paid tight ends in the league. What has that money gotten them so far? Ninety-one receptions for 1,112 yards for Henry. Jonnu Smith, who is no longer on the team, had 55 receptions for 539 yards and one touchdown. Not the most excellent allocation of salary cap space.
The last time Bill O’Brien was an offensive coordinator during his previous stint in New England was in 2011. He had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as his tight ends that season. They accounted for almost 40% of the targets in New England that season and Gronkowski had his best season yet with over 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns. I am not saying that Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki are at the same talent level, but a 40% target share would be good enough for 216 combined targets in 2023. Henry and Gesicki make great dynasty buys before the 2023 season starts; look at these trades in the DynastyGM trade browser.
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I hope you enjoyed this fantasy forecast. Be sure to check back often, as I will cover all fantasy-relevant positions. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!