As the Patriots and NFL approach the 2022 season, fantasy football GMs are also putting finishing touches on their own teams. The Patriots, because of their unconventional style, variety of weapons and lack of a true superstar, pose an interesting equation for fantasy teams.
It’s hard to predict what a given Patriot will do statwise week in and week out. Here, we take a look at the Patriots’ newly-minted 53-man roster, and examine who to take a look at on the team and who to take a pass on from a fantasy lens.
Acquire: Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne
While a brief period of rough practices and his absence from the Carolina preseason game led to speculations about Bourne’s status with the team, a good week for him in Vegas seems to have quelled the concern. Bourne is coming off a great first year in New England, with 55 receptions, 800 yards and five TDs (and two more in the playoffs).
He impressed with his speed and ability to change direction, as well as his excellent route running. Furthermore, he has been an extremely reliable player for the Patriots, making a number of big receptions in big moments, and being able to keep production when the rest of the offense cannot, as he did for the Patriots against the Bills in the 2021 Wild Card Game. To further his case, he has sure hands, with a true catch rate of 96.5% – tenth in the league – and drops were essentially a nonexistent problem for him.
While reliability in and of itself doesn’t buy stats or fantasy points, the fact that Mac was able to depend on Bourne as often as he was will certainly make him a contender to be the Patriots’ most targeted receiver. The fact that he can catch both on the sides and in the middle opens up the playbook and makes it hard to predict his routes, and he can therefore be used in a wide variety of packages.
Both him and Mac will be entering their second year as Patriots and in Mac’s case, his second year in the NFL. And therefore, the connection between the two should be expected to improve. Especially in points-per-reception based leagues, but even in general, Kendrick would be a reliable second WR, flex or bench option for fantasy owners picking in mid-later rounds.
Acquire: RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Typically, Patriots RBs are a bit of a mixed bag from a fantasy perspective, as the groups are often deep and split reps a fair bit. However, Rhamondre is a guy who could potentially break that mold. He enters the season coming off a very good rookie season as the second option for the Patriots, but is likely to play a co-first option role with Damien Harris this season.
Last year, despite being tied for the 38th most rush attempts in the league with 133, he put up 606 yards and had five touchdowns, with a yards per carry average of 4.6, which was 17th in the league. He was also able to get in the receiving game, having 14 reception for 123 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per catch. While these aren’t high-throughput numbers, they are respectable for a second option, and don’t tell the full story of what Rhamondre is capable of doing.
Both as a Patriot and an Oklahoma Sooner, he has shown his ability to use his bulky size, at 230 lbs, to make the tough yards and push forward in inside runs. But, for while he’s not the fastest and most elusive back, for someone his size he can cut and get to the outside edge quite well. He has sure hands too and can be a factor in the pass catching game, and in general knows how to get into the end-zone. I could certainly see him overtaking Harris for the number one back, in which case, he could put up some great numbers. Probably a late-round pick would be best, but if he’s around for bench selection, I would keep an eye out.
Acquire: Patriots D/ST (Defense/Special Teams)
After the way the season ended with no punts forced and 47 points allowed against the Bills, it might be a surprise that the Patriots defense is on here. However, while the offense has shown some signs of regression, the defense has largely shown the opposite, and could be quite the statistically sound unit.
The pass rush looks threatening with the solid front seven that the Patriots have, spearheaded by Christian Barmore, who has had an amazing camp, and Devon Godchaux, who shows promise to be a key contributor for the team. Furthermore, Josh Uche, Raekwon McMillan and JaWhaun Bentley are proving to be key pass rushing threats within the linebacker group. During preseason, the Patriots were able to generate excellent QB pressure, and so the sacks number should be a lot higher than last year.
While the secondary takes a hit with the loss of JC Jackson, Jalen Mills and Jon Jones provide a great backbone, and Marcus and Jack Jones could be huge hits with their raw athleticism. The young rookies were pretty opportunistic players in college but also ball hawks and overall, it could lead to a good number of interceptions.
Finally, Marcus Jones will bring the explosive returning power that he had in college, where he recorded a total of nine returning touchdowns, and this could be a source of extra points for fantasy owners who draft the Patriots D/ST.
Avoid: RB Damien Harris
To be clear, Damien Harris is coming off a great season and is poised to play a big role in the Patriots’ running back group. His speed and general acumen for the position made him extremely reliable in term of getting important yards and touchdowns last year. With 929 yards and 15 TDs, he was very productive.
There are two reasons to somewhat sleep on Damien Harris. One is the offensive line, or lack thereof. Running has been tough with how the offensive line has performed in training camp and preseason. Without the bruising power of Stevenson, he may not be able to compensate for that. Furthermore, he is in a deep running back group, and will split reps with Stevenson (who I predict will become the top back soon), Montgomery and Strong. So while the Patriots are more than thrilled to keep him on, fantasy GMs may not want to do the same.
Avoid: QB Mac Jones
Mac Jones is the franchise quarterback in Foxborough. He’s got excellent pocket awareness, can distribute the ball to a variety of players, and is essentially automatic on short to medium length throws. He’s excellent at cutting his losses and going to the highest probability outcome when he has the time to do so.
These are all valuable traits that will help New England this season and moving forward. They are also traits which the fantasy scoring system cares about zero. Despite an impressive rookie season that even got him into the Pro Bowl, Mac actually ranked only 18th among NFL QBs in fantasy output. The case for him is that his Tom House workshopped arm, with the acquisitions of Devante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton (who should be back in a few weeks) and the sheer variety of weapons he has, he will expand on it.
But aggressive, big numbers games are just not his style. He will improve his arm – which, also, will take time – to maximize and diversify his current style, but he’ll play a Patriot brand of football and do anything it takes to win, even if it takes him only throwing three passes, as he did against Buffalo last season in their first meeting.
The other limitation on him is the offensive playcalling and offensive line. As we saw in the last preseason game against the Raiders, often he didn’t have time to execute his decision making and make accurate passes because of the crumbling protection. And when he did have time, the lack of trust he has in that line caused him to be rash even when he didn’t have to be. He may be a suitable “wait-and-see” last round type pick because of his potential ceiling, but, from a numbers perspective, his fantasy figures won’t come close to representing his true impact on the team.
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