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Fantasy Forecast: 2021 New England Patriots

@Glosser13 brings you an in-depth look at the New England Patriots offense.

The post-Tom Brady era in New England didn’t go as planned in 2020. A 7-9 record, a total of 12 passing touchdowns, and a league-ranked 27th offense in points and total yards that about sums it up. The 2020 Patriots offense was the lowest-scoring team since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000 and the first Patriots team to finish 27th or worse in points and yards since the 1992 season.

New England has reloaded heading into the 2021 season. They led the NFL in free agency spending with $291,531,000, according to spotrac.com. Cam Newton will return as the starting QB for the Patriots, which still feels like an odd fit, but they did draft Alabama QB Mac Jones. This early in the off-season, it would suggest the Patriots are heading more towards their early 2000’s type of offensive game plan with a power run game and effective play-action passing to keep teams off balance. Only time will tell whether the combination of Cam Newton and Mac Jones can do enough to make the Patriots’ offense fantasy relevant again.

Credit: sharpfootballanalysis.com

Quarterback

Credit: ny1.com

Cam Newton signed his second straight free-agent contract with the Patriots. I did an extensive write-up on Cam Newton before he returned to New England. Newton finished with his highest completion percentage since 2018 and the most rushing touchdowns (12) since his rookie season in 2011 when he had 14. It will be up to the Patriots’ coaching staff to see if Cam will become a dynasty value this season. Cam Newton has over 5,000 career rushing yards and 70 touchdowns. Cam is coming off 592 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games averaging nearly 40 yards per game rushing and 0.8 rushing touchdowns. Acquiring both Cam Newton and Mac Jones could be the cheapest it will ever be in Superflex leagues, and it could pay off big time. 

Mac Jones was drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. There are high hopes that he will play early. Mac is coming off a 2020 season with Alabama, where he posted a 77% completion rate, 4500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions. Jones seems like he can be a solid fit with Josh McDaniels, but it may take some time. He doesn’t offer the rushing upside that Newton does, but he brings a pure passing element to the offense. Mac Jones threw for 4 touchdowns or more in 9 out of 13 games last season. I loved Mac Jones’ value as a second-round pick in Superflex rookie drafts, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen very often. I would not pay first-round rookie pick value for Jones, but if things go perfectly, I think he has mid QB2 dynasty value.

Running Back

Sony Michel is coming off his worst season as a pro. He finished as the RB61 in PPR leagues. The former Georgia Bulldog enters his contract year as the backup RB. The Patriots system is a multi RB approach anyway and something I look to fade unless there’s a very cheap value. There’s at least an 80% chance Sony Michel is not a New England Patriot next year. He’s a very cheap buy low but be careful not to get burned. There’s a chance he could be a free agent this time next year.

Credit: pro-football-reference

Damien Harris enters the 2021 season as the guy, according to reports. Damien Harris won me over last year when he accounted for 743 total yards on just 142 touches in ten games. The ADP of Harris is currently RB34 per fantasypros.com. If he remains healthy, I believe Harris has the best chance of all the New England running backs to have an RB2 season. Cam Newton will surely hurt the RB production, but if Mac Jones does take over at some point, that will only increase Damien Harris’ value.

Credit: wcvb.com

James White has been consistent in his career as the pass-catching back for the Patriots. White has been targeted at least 54 times in six straight seasons. White has 121 receptions,1,020 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. His value in full-point PPR leagues is so underrated. The 2020 season marks the only time in White’s career he scored more rushing touchdowns than receiving touchdowns. In dynasty startups, James White has an ADP of 150 overall (RB52), which is too good of a value to pass up even in half-point PPR dynasty leagues.

Rhamondre Stevenson was selected with the 120th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He will likely be a reserve in year one unless a significant injury happens in front of him. He appears to be built in the mold of an early-down power back that the Patriots coaching staff really likes.

Wide Receiver 

Nelson Agholor finds himself in a unique situation heading to New England to help the non-existent passing game. Agholor put dynasty managers on notice last season with Las Vegas when he turned just 48 receptions into 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. The veteran receiver Agholor will never be an attractive dynasty buy, but he’s a guy who can ultimately help your team. If you find yourself weak at WR, you can surely do worse than a WR coming off a WR3 season in 2020.

Kendrick Bourne is the ultimate possession WR for the New England offense. Bourne is coming off a career-high in targets (74), receptions (49), and yards (667). There’s very little reason to be excited about the Patriots’ WRs this season. The positive I will leave you with is Kendrick Bourne has accounted for 58 first down receptions over the last two seasons.

Credit: patriots.com

Jakobi Meyers finished as the WR58 last season, averaging just under 10 points per game, and that’s while scoring zero touchdowns. There’s potential for Meyers to be the number one WR, not that it means anything in such a low-volume passing offense. He posted a 72.8% catch rate, his career-best while averaging 52.8 yards per game in 2020. Fantasypros’ current ADP has Meyers as WR82. At that price, it’s worth the risk for every dynasty manager to take a chance he has a year three breakout. While that’s extremely unlikely, the cost justifies the risk, and you could turn a quick profit if he has even one or two big games in a season.

Tight End

Hunter Henry is coming off a career-high in targets (91) that helped him finish as the TE12 last season. Henry heads to New England to play under a coach in Bill Belichick who has a great amount of respect for him. The former Chargers tight end has dealt with injuries over his career, but his 14 starts last season were the most of his career. He will be a huge piece to the Patriots run game and play-action passing, specifically in the red zone.

Hunter Henry saw only 8 targets inside the 10 last season. He turned 4 of them into touchdowns. During the early part of Cam Newton’s career with Carolina, he had a special connection with Greg Olsen. From 2011 to 2016, Olsen had at least 45 receptions and 540 yards in six straight seasons. If I felt confident in his health, I would trust Hunter Henry the most of the New England pass catchers.

Credit: pro-football-reference

Jonnu Smith joins Hunter Henry as the best TE duo in the NFL on paper heading into this season. Jonnu Smith was the TE16 last season and is coming off 11 receiving touchdowns over his past two seasons. The combo of Smith and Henry will be very difficult for teams to match up against. It’s very likely the two will lead all pass catchers in receptions and touchdowns by the season’s end. All the things I said above regarding Newton and his willingness to throw to tight ends could be just as true for Jonnu Smith. Cam now effectively has three safety blankets in Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, and James White. Those three are the only players for New England that I’m willing to go get on my dynasty rosters.

The Wrap-Up

Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have always found a way to put together a good enough offense to remain competitive. The 2021 season will be a huge test for McDaniels to put Cam Newton in enough situations for him to be great. Cam has been quoted saying this is ‘the healthiest he’s been since 2016’, and with added weapons, at TE, there should be no reason he can’t finish as a high-end QB2 if he’s the starter all season.

The offense will have some low-scoring games, and it will be ugly at times, but if they develop a consistent power run game, they can be a top 15 NFL offense. Dynasty managers should be looking to stack upside players from this offense deep on their bench in case of a value spike. I would sell any breakout players outside of the tight ends to cash in on future picks. The depth of the mediocre pass-catchers will leave managers frustrated with this offense as it will likely be a guessing game as to who gets the most targets from week to week.

I appreciate you all taking the time to check out the New England Patriots offense dynasty breakdown. This is the only offense I covered this year, and it wasn’t easy to build up some of these guys. As a dynasty manager looking to get every advantage I can, it’s worth the time digging through some of the worst offenses from a season ago to find those potential dynasty gems. The Dynasty Nerds staff is delivering some of the best content in the dynasty community, and we will continue to be better for all the nerds out there.

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