Hopefully your fantasy football teams, and especially the Patriots players on them, have you smiling as big as Kendrick Bourne in the profile picture above.
If you’re like most of us, though, and have enough fantasy teams that a touchdown in your favor on one team almost inevitably means bad news for another one of your teams, odds are you’re closer to Julian Edelman’s famous catchphrase:
With the Patriots real-life on-field performance so far in 2021, it’s been more like just straight-up misery, no “happily” about it. The team sits at 2-4 going into Week 7’s game against the New York Jets, and while they’ve admirably gone punch-for-punch with a pair of the NFL’s best teams in the Buccaneers and the Cowboys, going punch-for-punch only counts if you can land the knockout. Which, as we’ve exhaustively chronicled at this here blog over the last several weeks, the Patriots generally have not.
Be that as it may, though, despite some disappointing individual performances so far, there’s still some utility to keeping a Patriot or two on your fantasy football roster. It may not be the ones we thought would be fantasy gold when the season started, but hey, especially now that bye weeks are in full effect, it’s better to have “meh” depth than no depth.
So let’s run ‘em all down, starting with the man who’s been given the highly prestigious and unenviable task of succeeding the greatest quarterback to ever do it:
(note: the rankings here are from FantasyPros through Week 6)
Mac Jones (QB)
Standard Scoring Rank: 26th
PPR Scoring Rank: N/A
Every year, my personal drafting philosophy is to spend the last draft pick before the computer forces you to be lame and take a defense and a kicker on a Patriots player that maybe, just maybe, will go off. Granted, they’re all kind of dart-throws at that point, but given how if you’re reading this site, you’re just as obsessed with every last player on this team as we are, and it’s fun to see if your hunch on who could light it up in New England that’s not really on fantasy radar is correct.
As you can probably guess, in every league I did this in, the pick in Round 13 or 14 or whatever it is was Mac Jones. Unfortunately, Mac’s fantasy utility is next to nil in most leagues, unless you’re....well, really, there’s almost no situation outside of 2-quarterback leagues where Mac is worth rostering. He’s ranked as the 26th fantasy quarterback, and his best two fantasy games haven’t even cracked 20 points; he notched 16.9 points against Tompa Bay and 15.24 in the season opener against a Dolphins team that apparently could
f*ck mess up toast at this point in the season.
And not to pile on the kid, but it’s not like Mac has that mid-level QB floor to bank on either. In the 4 games not mentioned above, Mac scored 7, 11, 11, and 14 points.
As a quarterback. Those are halfway decent WR2 numbers, not anything worth spending a precious roster spot on.
Let’s keep it moving and go to arguably the scarcest position in fantasy:
The Running Backs
*note: as James White has been placed on IR, he will not be included.
Standard Scoring Rank: 23rd in RBs
PPR Scoring Rank: 27th in RBS
And he’d be a lot higher if leagues would embrace fun and had a broken tackles Marshawn Lynch Award bonus, am I right?
Funny enough, Damien is performing at almost the exact level that the expert consensus rankings at FantasyPros expected; he’s currently the RB23 in standard scoring and RB27 in PPR, and before the season he was projected at the RB24 and RB27, respectively. The good news is, Harris appears to have mostly transcended the curse/dad joke of “don’t trust the Patriots backfield in fantasy” and won the lead back position in New England, and aside from a couple clunkers against the Saints and the Bucs, he’s either hit double-digit points or been damn close (9.7 against Miami and 9.8 against the Texans). That’s perfectly serviceable RB2 fantasy production, and with the way some backs that were drafted far higher have stunk up the joint or ended up on Injured Reserve in short order, Harris is somewhere between a must-play and a “well, I can live with that” option.
Standard Scoring Rank: 71st in RBs
PPR Scoring Rank: 74th in RBs
And this, as tantalizing as it sounds, in a Taco-Bell-4thMeal sort of way, is why you don’t waste fantasy draft picks or real estate on your roster based on the preseason.
Rhamondre’s on-field performance in last week’s shootout against the Cowboys, though, certainly was enough to at least make fantasy managers put him on your “Interested” list. The kid tallied a meager 23 yards on the ground, but pounded one carry in for a score and - perhaps most intriguing - added 39 receiving yards for a standard score of 12.2 points last weekend. That means that while Stevenson probably isn’t worth rostering right now, he certainly will be worth keeping an eye on in two different capacities:
- Passing-down responsibilities. With James White out on Injured Reserve with a gnarly-sounding hip injury that’s expected to keep him out until 2022, the third-down receiving back responsibilities appear to be up for grabs between Rhamondre and special teams aficionado Brandon Bolden. Bolden hasn’t exactly been a slouch on passing downs, but it should be telling that he (Bolden) only got 1 target against the Cowboys in Week 6, compared to Stevenson’s 3, all of which were caught. The receiving back role in New England can be a nice little flex play once the role is solidified.
- Goal-line carries. While the Patriots would certainly NEVER be so obvious as to have a running back on the field function as a tell for whether they’re probably running or passing (/end sarcasm), there is the chance that Rhamondre starts accumulating red-zone carries, and if he does, there’ll at least be the chance he’ll be able to carve out a role there. A touchdown-vulture nightmare for Damien Harris managers, perhaps, but if Stevenson proves himself to be the better goal-line hammer, he could be worth a pickup down the stretch.
Let’s keep it moving to the other position group that was supposed to be an All Guns/Infinite Ammo group for the 2021 New England Patriots....the big boys who certainly don’t appear to be on their way to a Gronk/Hernandez reboot anytime soon.
The Tight Ends
Standard Scoring Rank: 28th in TEs
PPR Scoring Rank: 24th in TEs
Put frankly, this blows.
While the expectations going into this season between Hunter Henry and Jonnu were a little murky, as to who’d be getting the lion’s share of work in the pass game, for some reason, the Patriots have been paying Jonnu Smith $12,500,000.00 a year on average to.....do more blocking than pass-catching. The Bill Belichick and Mark Bavaro jokes just write themselves.
Patriots are clearly using Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith differently.— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) October 20, 2021
Henry: 161 snaps running passing routes, 78 snaps run blocking
Smith: 84 snaps running passing routes, 118 snaps run blocking
The only reason you might still want to roster Jonnu Smith at this point, aside from the faith that Bill the Coach will make good on the investments of Bill the GM, is that tight end is such a wasteland in fantasy football that even a minor uptick in targets for Smith could rocket him right into the top-20 or even top-15 at the position. Put another way, in standard scoring, Jonnu’s scored a pathetic 19.5 points in 6 games. It wouldn’t take a tremendous increase in either targets or red-zone usage to drastically bump that, though - Tyler Higbee and David Njoku, who currently sit at TE17 and TE16, respectively, are just 12 points ahead of Smith.
Tight end is also, generally speaking, a wasteland outside of a handful of players at this point, so if you believe Jonnu’s going to get more work, stash him for now or plug him in and hope for a back-shoulder fade in the end zone or something.
Standard Scoring Rank: 9th in TEs
PPR Scoring Rank: 9th in TEs
The stat you’ve surely seen, aside from the run/pass usage above: Hunter’s been on a roll in the end zone lately, scoring a touchdown in each of his last 3 games. That’s big news for a tight end who only logged 3.1, 4.2, and 3.6 points in standard scoring in Weeks 1-3, especially given how the red-zone work the last 3 weeks has rocketed Hunter into the top 10 at the position no matter what scoring system you use.
It’s believable that Hunter’s momentum may be worth betting on, too - Mac Jones appears to be perfectly comfortable chucking the ball his way in scoring situations, and really, nobody else on the team has distinguished themselves as a reliable red zone target yet. That’s not nothing, given the mismatches that tight ends can create when deployed correctly. As cliche as “ride the hot hand” is, you can’t not play a guy who’s top-10 at the position and has a 3-game touchdown streak at the moment.
Standard Scoring Rank:
PPR Scoring Rank:
Respectfully, Devin Asiasi, despite his draft status, has logged zero snaps on the season, per FootballGuys.
Standard Scoring Rank: 42nd in WRs
PPR Scoring Rank: 34th in WRs
Let’s be real, it’d be perfectly understandable if after his touchdown got called back last weekend, Jakobi had Linkin Park “In The End” on repeat for the rest of Sunday night. The good news is, despite that below-the-belt punch, and after getting off to a slow fantasy start in Weeks 1 and 2, Jakobi’s last 4 games in standard scoring are as follows: 9.4, 8.8, 5.6, and 6.4. And not to rub it in, but that’s with zero touchdowns and one 2-point conversion.
Ironically, Meyers may have settled into that James White Steady-Eddie guy that’s probably never going to break 20 points, but may well save your bacon once the bye weeks kick in by steadily chipping in his 7-12 points a game. Especially if he breaks his end zone jinx sooner rather than later.
Standard Scoring Rank: 65th in WRs
PPR Scoring Rank: 63rd in WRs
How many times in our lives have we heard Football Guys tell us that every team, and especially the Brady-Era Patriots, need a DEEP THREAT who can TAKE THE TOP OFF and OPEN UP THE FIELD and MAKE DEFENSES PAY?
It certainly hasn’t worked out that way for Nelson Agholor so far in his Patriots career. Agholor’s Week 1 touchdown remains his only score of the year, and what’s truly alarming is his snap count appears to be on a decline that’s both steady and steep. Look at this from Pro Football Reference:
Yeah. When you started out the season playing ~60 offensive snaps and you’ve worked yourself down to 30 or so....not great. Certainly not what you’re getting paid for.
Meanwhile, another free-agent signing appears to be doing a fine job distinguishing himself:
Standard Scoring Rank: 38th in WRs
PPR Scoring Rank: 45th in WRs
In contrast to the graveyard (it’s almost Halloween, right?) of wide receivers that’ve attempted to pick up the Patriots offense and failed, Kendrick seems to have taken to it like a fish to water, playing anywhere from 44% all the way up to 76% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps this season. Unfortunately, that’s still not resulting in a boatload of targets - 5 targets against the Bucs, 3 against the Texans, and 2 against the Cowboys - and as we all know, his 75-yard bomb from the Cowboys game was his only statistical output from that game too.
If you have room on your bench, Kendrick may be worth rostering for bye-week purposes, but expecting Jakobi Meyers volume or target-share from him is probably unwise....which, that’s not exactly the highest bar to begin with, really.
Standard Scoring Rank:
PPR Scoring Rank:
I’m not going to bother looking either of these up because due to a combination of injuries and quite possibly somehow not knowing what he’s supposed to be doing, N’Keal’s stat line for the 2021 season currently sits at 2 receptions and 19 yards.
Any hope that N’Keal and a new quarterback would click better than either Brady or Cam have been piledriven into the ground, and that appears to be unlikely to change until N’Keal gets his wish and either gets traded, leaves in free agency, or gets cut outright.
Finally, let’s run down the defense and the kicker, just in case any of you actually hang on to a defense all season long and don’t just stream based on whoever’s playing the Jets/Jaguars:
Standard Scoring Rank: 12th
As one would expect, the defense got shellacked against the Dallas Cowboys, logging their first negative score of the season at -4.0 points. With the departure of Stephon Gilmore via trade earlier this year and the Patriots only sitting at 15th in the NFL in sacks, you can probably bench this squad or drop them altogether - especially as New England heads into a particularly beefy part of their schedule that includes games against the Browns, Chargers, Titans, and Bills, all of whom are fully capable of sending this D to the Shadow Realm.
Nick Folk, K
Standard Scoring Rank: 6th
Just like last season, Nick Folk may well be the steadiest contributor on this team. Keep an eye on his knee situation for sure, but a top-10 kicker that’s probably going to stay in line for a decent workload as long as this team remains allergic to going for it on 4th down is a resource worth keeping.
Hopefully this proved useful in evaluating your squads. We’ll see you all in another couple weeks for another check-in before the playoffs.