Over the weekend, ESPN’s Mike Clay dropped his 2020 fantasy football primer “192 Players Who Should Be Drafted”, with 192 being the number of players that’d normally be drafted (or in your one easily distracted friend’s case, autodrafted) in a standard 12-team league. In years past, this would be A) no different than any other year and any other of the plethora of The Only Fantasy Football Guide You Need™ that come out around now, and B) you’d probably run into a few of your Patriots faves by the time you’re about 2 dozen players into the list or so. Now? Not so much. The first New England Patriots player doesn’t check in on Clay’s list until....#81, where Julian Edelman is ranked in between Houston Texans WR Brandin Cooks (which still looks weird in print) and New York Giants TE Evan Engram.
If you’re looking for Cam Newton or N’Keal Harry on that list, well, I’d recommend packing a snack. You’re gonna need it.
That being said, and ESPN jokes aside, since half the fun in fantasy is drafting players you actually like, as opposed to, say, grudgingly drafting Ben Roethlisberger in years past because he was objectively good at the sport, we’re running down where you should be able to snag your favorite Patriots in this year’s fantasy draft. This year’s drafts, from a New England perspective, are suddenly not about whether it’s worth spending a second-round or third-round pick on a Gronk or a Brady or a Welker; being that almost every Patriot is buried deep in the later rounds of the draft, they’re almost all either Mr Reliables (Jules, James White) or wild-card prospects where the ceiling is anywhere from starter-level to, well, prime Cam Newton, and the floor is....um, this is awkward....2019 Cam Newton.
Having gotten all that out of the way, here’s a primer on where each and every Patriots starter is being drafted in fantasy this year, assuming your league is a relatively normal 10-12 team standard-scoring or PPR league. If you’re one of those that plays IDP 2 QB 3 flex players and bonus points for 50-yard field goals and -10 for missed field goals.....you did this to yourself, good luck.
Let’s get to it!
Note: For average draft position, I’m going off of the rankings from Fantasy Pros, which aggregates 100+ expert rankings. You probably knew that already, and if you didn’t, congratulations, Pats Pulpit just made you smarter.
Julian Edelman, WR
Standard Scoring ADP: WR35
PPR Scoring ADP: WR32
2020 Projections: 885.8 yards, 4.9 TDs, 75 receptions
Much like the recent return of Octoberfest beers and Pumpkin Spice everything, Julian Edelman’s consistency is not to be questioned, according to all the nerds that project these stats. Jules may have a couple 100-catch regular seasons on his resume, but even with the ongoing mystery of who’s going to sling the rock for New England in a couple weeks, Jules is projected to be the same Mr Reliable 65-75 yards a game with a score every few weeks or so. Is he ever going to have a Mike Evans 30-point week? Probably no. Will he ever blank you on the scoreboard, barring the ever-present possibility of being abducted by aliens? Probably also no.
N’Keal Harry, WR
Standard Scoring ADP: WR57
PPR Scoring ADP: WR56
2020 Projections: 587.7 yards, 4.3 TDs, 46.3 receptions
Even the most diehard of training camp superfans can admit, none of us have a freaking clue what to expect out of the newly-christened Doughboy this year. That being said, a projection like that seems to follow the thought process of:
Healthy all season + couple more sweet touchdown grabs + quite a few more chain-moving throws = our best guess.
Mohamed Sanu Sr, WR
Standard Scoring ADP: WR80
PPR Scoring ADP: WR79
2020 Projections: 455.1 yards, 2.6 TDs, 41.7 receptions
You’re probably thinking “that’s really low, borderline undraftable!” and you’d be right. In strictly fantasy terms, he’s either a late-round flier pick (if you believe) or one to keep on your Injury/Bye Week streaming list (if you don’t).
(Or, like many of us do, keep him on your “dudes I gotta pay attention to in Week 1 and add to my waiver claims before coffee on Tuesday morning if he balls out against the Dolphins” list)
That’s it for Patriots wideouts. (I know, right?). Moving on to the running backs!
James White, RB
Standard Scoring ADP: RB38
PPR Scoring ADP: RB30
2020 Projections: 225 yards, 1.7 TDs, 59 receptions
A fantasy football guilty pleasure of mine: Sweet Feet’s stat line being 2 carries, 11 yards. Good for 11 fantasy points.
The points, in the Brady Era, came from - what else - the passing-down checkdowns and outlet passes that White eagerly gobbled up and turned into chunks of yardage and occasionally six on the scoreboard. Will he be able to do that again with Cam and/or Jarrett slinging the rock? We don’t know!
That being said, here’s the company James White keeps in standard fantasy rankings: Denver RB Phillip Lindsay (RB35), Miami RB Matt Breida (RB36), Detroit RB Kerryon Johnson (RB37), and New Orleans RB Latavius Murray (RB39).
And now, time for only the second-most controversial man in New England these days....
Sony Michel, RB
Standard Scoring ADP: RB41
PPR Scoring ADP: RB45
Sony’s off the PUP list and back at practice now, so, there’s that. To the #analytics types, this is my gift to you:
nobody:— 1 (@HPJArt) April 23, 2020
PFF: all running backs should be shot in the face
That being said, efficiency is one thing, but in fantasy, TDs from RBs are efficient when it comes to, you know, accumulating points and winning games. Sony scored 6 times in the regular season in his rookie campaign and 7 times in his sophomore season, so, assuming the next guy on here doesn’t wrest the starting gig from Sony, he may be undervalued here.
Speaking of which....
Damien Harris, RB
Standard Scoring ADP: RB52
PPR Scoring ADP: RB54
Given his 2019 redshirt status, your opinion of Damien depends entirely on whether you believe training camp hype or not. Cause if you do, DH’s performance so far on the practice field is the equivalent of getting that email that someone at the office got Chick-Fil-A for breakfast for everyone:
Damien Harris continues to stand out, and it's not just as a runner. He did a nice job picking up a block today and looks comfortable in his route tree. He's been the best back in camp.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) August 23, 2020
There’s two reasons to spend precious draft capital on Harris, IMO: if you trust that the Patriots RB platoon will feature the second-year college standout at some point, or if you believe he’s coming for Sony’s checks.
Rex Burkhead, RB
Standard Scoring ADP: RB74
PPR Scoring ADP: RB72
Yawn. You know better than this.
We could do tight ends next, but given that everyone only plays one TE a week and as of right now nominal TE1 Devin Asiasi is currently ranked at 42nd on the tight end board, I trust you people’s judgement to keep a watchful eye on both Devin and Dalton Keene (TE51, if you’re counting).
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.....
That’s right, Defense and Special Teams!
Standard Scoring ADP: D/ST5
Much like who you decide to take home on a Friday night, when you draft a D/ST is your own business. That being said, after free agency losses like Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, COVID-19 opt-outs like Boomtower and Patrick Chung, and not a ton of notable free agency additions, in terms of points allowed, picks, sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries, the nerds still think this is one of the best defenses in football.
Just, with all due respect to Captain Obvious, don’t expect them to be the All-Guns-Infinite-Ammo cheat code they were last year.
And last, but certainly not least:
Cam Newton, QB
Standard Scoring ADP: QB17
The proper time to take a QB will never not be a debate, and one of the more fun parts of your draft is almost certainly going to be “who grabs Patrick Mahomes and when” and then the gold-rush scramble for Madden-cover quarterbacks goes off. Same as it always does. What QB17 should tell you is this:
1) if you’re the type of fantasy player that NEEDs a top-5 QB, then Cam shouldn’t even be on your radar, unless your bench is deeper than most leagues.
2) rankings-wise, QB17 is still backup-worthy, if you like to stock 2 QBs. If that’s too rich for your blood and you’d rather use another roster spot on another WR or something, it’s worth bookmarking for streaming purposes.
Jarrett Stidham, QB
Standard Scoring ADP: QB36
Barring a SEISMIC training camp breakthrough (and yes, I’m injecting my own Cam/Stidham bias here), this ranking should tell you Jarrett Stidham is only worth rostering if you believe he can steal the job. Within the next 2 weeks. With no preseason.
I mean, if you like fliers, this game is supposed to be fun, right!