With the preseason under wraps and the rosters set, the New England Patriot’s offense is looking to take a complete 180⁰. Their roster, free agency moves, and preseason reports all indicate New England will become a pass-heavy offense unlike last season where their run-game was their priority. Let’s take a look at each position:
Tom Brady might just win you your league this year in what will become the most pass happy offense Brady has played in since his 2012 campaign. With his current ADP in dynasty leagues (QB24), you can buy him dirt cheap if you have a real shot at the championship this year. His passer rating went down to a 97.7 last year, despite averaging above a 100-passer rating in the three seasons prior, but the shaky wide receiver core he had to play with last season is at fault here more than Brady himself. He certainly looked the player he was the previous season. Last year’s receiver core consisted of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, and Cordarelle Patterson. With Hogan and Patterson gone during free agency, the Patriots will open up the season with the addition of Demarius Thomas, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry (IR), and Cameron Meredith alongside Edelman, Gordon, and Dorsett. With more depth and talent added to New England’s pass game than recent years, Brady will be more aggressive in the air as the Patriots look to throw first, run later, and have more no-huddle offense than we’ve ever seen before.
Stidham winning the backup job is exciting for some fantasy owners, but you shouldn’t be excited if you think he’s going to be the heir to the Patriot’s throne. It’ll be the same narrative we’ve seen with Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo. Stidham will learn and develop a bit under Brady, and some team will, at some point, trade for him and make him their backup or potential starter. If you can roster him for a long-term investment, go ahead, but don’t expect a return out of Stidham any time soon. Brady is not getting hurt anytime soon.
The preseason reports coming out of Foxborough was the first indication the Patriots were going to throw more this season. Jeff Howe noted Sony Michel spent the start of preseason catching passes with James White and lining up on the outside as a receiver, something we rarely saw Sony Michel do last season. In fact, the Patriots ran packages during practice where both Michel and White lined up as receivers at the same time. This isn’t news for James White, but it certainly is for Sony Michel. With his history of knee ailments, it’s hard to see Michel take a role in both the run game and passing game. Look for Michel to add pass catching on his list of responsibilities, but with a crowded group for Brady to throw to, I hardly see Michel living up to his ADP. James White and Sony Michel should be sell high candidates.
My favorite to lead the New England Patriots in rushing yards, Damien Harris, is sadly listed as 4th in the depth chart. Rex Burkhead, listed ahead of him in 3rd, was someone I expected to get cut. Burkhead’s contract was too good for someone of his skill set to get cut (Burkhead is expected to make around $1 million this season). The Patriots will try and squeeze out whatever is left of Burkhead before he hits free agency. Damien Harris will have to sit back for now, which is the perfect opportunity to buy.
The Patriots loaded up their wide receivers this offseason, a tell to fantasy owners that Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels wants the Patriots to throw more this season. They loaded up this offseason and acquired veterans Demarius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, and Cameron Meredith during Free Agency while drafting N’Keal Harry and signing Jakobi Meyers as an undrafted free agent. After preseason cuts, the team finalized their wide receiver group to Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, Demarius Thomas, Cameron Meredith, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers. Demarius Thomas looked like the same Demarius Thomas we saw in 2013 and Jakobi Meyers shined the most out of any offensive player during the preseason. Those are two wide receivers you want on your team if you’re looking thin at receiver. They’re a low cost, high return investment you won’t want to miss.
Unfortunately, Harry struggled during the preseason. The two biggest concerns with him during preseason were his drops and lack of separation from defensive backs. To make room for Demarius Thomas, the Patriots threw N’Keal Harry in IR, meaning we may not see him return until after eight weeks. If you can ship him away for anything remotely close to what you got him for in your dynasty league, don’t hesistate. You can do the same with Dorsett. Listed as a starter on their depth chart, Demarius Thomas or Jakobi Meyers leap ahead of him eventually, especially after Dorsett had an abysmal 6 yards per catch last season for someone the Patriots were hoping would contribute as a deep threat. Finally, drop any high expectations you have of Gordon and Edelman this season, as neither of them will see the same volume per game as they did last season.
The Patriots always play to their strengths, and tight end is not one of them. In 2018we saw a run-heavy offense with healthy Sony Michel and Rob Gronkowski opening up lanes all day for him to run. With Gronkowski retired, as well as losing left tackle Trent Brown to free agency and center David Andrews to a pulmonary embolus, the Patriots aren’t going to be able to run as effectively as they did last year. Their tight ends aren’t going to contribute much in the passing game or running game. Matt LaCosse is currently limited, old veteran Ben Watson is suspended, as is other old veteran Lance Kendricks. This leaves former Florida State Seminole Ryan Izzo as their tight end to open the season. Somehow this group made the roster over Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, which could indicate the Patriots didn’t need a pass-catching tight end. Josh McDaniels was not going to find the next Rob Gronkowski anytime soon and shaped the offense to what we see now. Even if Gronk returns, I can’t see him being fantasy relevant because he’ll most likely only contribute to the run game. If you own any tight end on the New England Patriots, it’d be best for you to look for a replacement. Most likely, they won’t be roster worthy.