Evaluating Patriots players on their fantasy football value
While the Patriots regularly rank as one of the best teams in the NFL, their individual players are often much harder to trust online in fantasy football.
Fantasy football is all about predicting the future. With some teams, it’s as easy as picking their star running back. The New England Patriots, however, are a different breed.
“Well, the Patriots are the best football team, so their players must be really good for fantasy.”
This thought process might be the biggest rookie mistake people make when first trying out fantasy football. At face value, it makes sense. “Tom Brady is Tom Brady, so he’s gotta be a great QB pick. Oh hey, Josh Gordon, he’s like their new Randy Moss or something, I should grab him.”
Some teams are built in such a way that you can easily predict where their offensive prowess will come from. For example, the Dallas Cowboys will always lean on Ezekiel Elliott to do the lion’s share of power running, the Seattle Seahawks can use Tyler Lockett in any situation, and the Carolina Panthers will overuse Christian McCaffrey.
However, despite the fact that the New England Patriots offense is always at least decent, their style can shapeshift depending on a number of factors. Coaches Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels know how to modify their offensive approach based on their next opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes they simply modify it to stay unpredictable.
This is a great coaching strategy for the NFL, but if you’re a fantasy football player with New England players on your roster, it can become frustrating. Julian Edelman is your best bet for a fantasy Pats WR, averaging 16 points a game, but he’ll rarely post huge numbers. Other than Edelman, the New England receiving corps is very inconsistent.
Josh Gordon seems like he should be a high draft pick, and he’s put up great numbers in some games. However, this year he’s alternated between decent games and duds, putting up only 1.7 points against the Giants (according to basic point-per-reception rules). The Patriots still dominated that game though.
Philip Dorsett II is New England’s WR3, and while he’s had a couple great games, he’s only caught more than four balls in a game once this season. Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski are players that don’t take the field too often, and 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry is a question mark coming off IR in Week 9.
Don’t even bother looking at New England’s tight end fantasy production. Ryan Izzo was lucky enough to catch an easy touchdown pass in Washington, but there hasn’t been much else.
The Patriots running backs are notoriously tough to invest in, as Bill Belichick loves to have several rotating in and out depending on the situation. Sony Michel has at least demonstrated that he can get consistent touches, running the ball around 18 times per game… but he’s struggled during a few games this season. He’s a low pick in point-per-reception leagues since he isn’t utilized as a pass catcher very much.
James White, whose primary skill is pass catching but who still plays running back, hasn’t even scored a rushing touchdown yet in 2019… although he does have one receiving score this season. He’s still managed to register more than 10 points in each game though, so he does stick around.
The problem is the presence of a certain wild card that can prevent White and Michel from having huge games: Rex Burkhead. Sometimes, for a reason that I can’t quite decipher, Bill Belichick likes to replace Michel and White with Burkhead for a couple drives. He’s an effective back who can both power run and catch, coming in clutch in moments where you might not expect it. If you’re a fantasy owner of Michel or White, it’s annoying to see Burkhead arbitrarily enter the game and score a rushing touchdown when you might have needed one from Michel.
Therefore, while New England’s rushing attack is pretty good as a whole, three different backs each get a slice of the work, rendering them unpredictable for different fantasy matchups. Even perennial benchwarmer Brandon Bolden has scored a rushing touchdown this season.
The final offensive piece to examine is the GOAT himself, QB Tom Brady. Now, as reliable and acclaimed as Brady is, most fantasy owners know he doesn’t usually hit it out of the park on Sundays. At the ripe old age of 42, you can count on him for at least 250 yards and 1-3 touchdowns per game, but 400 yard/4 TD games are rare from him nowadays. Considering the fact that QB rushing yards matter in fantasy leagues, Brady’s a fringe top-10 QB option behind players like Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and even Josh Allen and Kyler Murray.
So even with their 6-0 record and skilled roster, most New England offensive players are tough to rely on as primary fantasy options. Despite that unpredictability, however, I’d like to turn around and make a couple predictions for Monday night’s game against the Jets.
If you’re looking to pick up any New England player, Philip Dorsett II is available in 73% of ESPN leagues, and he could have a great game in the Meadowlands. At the moment, it looks like Dorsett will be healthy for the matchup, but Josh Gordon hasn’t suited up to practice this week thanks to a knee injury. If that’s how the roster looks come Monday, Dorsett should see more targets.
The other side to the story is the Jets’ impotent pass rush, which registers a sack percentage that only ranks 30th in the league. Even though the New England offensive line is damaged, Brady should have a little more time in the pocket than he’s had in other games this season. As the lineup stands, Dorsett is the only receiver with the speed to rocket down the field for deep throws, and it looks like Brady’s going to have time to throw them.
If I were to make a running back prediction, I would estimate that James White might accrue the most points, since the Jets’ run defense isn’t too shabby at 13th in the league. White hasn’t had a breakout game yet this season, and if Michel can’t get it going, White might take the reins hauling in short passes.
However, I’m not Bill Belichick. Who knows which player will stand out in any game? Maybe this is Brandon Bolden’s week. Stranger things have happened when it comes to the New England Patriots and fantasy football.