The New England Patriots have rarely featured an abundant crop of fantasy football commodities in recent years, and 2020 looks no different.
As anyone who’s played fantasy football at all over the past 20 years can tell you, the New England Patriots aren’t traditionally one of the more prominent factories for “cash-cows” when it comes to the popular cyber sport.
As much success as the Pats have had in real-life football, it’s rare to see their players make major impacts on the “fake” football scene through fantasy sports.
Of course, there are certainly exceptions. The 2007 Patriots was an offensive juggernaut, and if you were lucky enough to own Tom Brady as your QB1 and Randy Moss as your WR1 that year, you probably won your league.
Similarly, you probably did already if you drafted Wes Welker anytime between 2007-2012; Rob Gronkowski in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, or 2017; or Julian Edelman in 2013, 2016, or 2019.
Brady was solid if not spectacular as a QB1 in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2018. You obviously could have done a lot better than him in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, or 2019. You also were probably thrilled if you had him in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017.
Adding it all up, Brady had 10 great seasons as a fantasy starter, five decent seasons, and five below-average seasons (although to be fair, one of those was his rookie year where he virtually didn’t play at all and the other he lost almost entirely to injury).
The New England defense has usually been a reliable play in fantasy football, though not always.
Conversely, the Patriots running back platoon Bill Belichick loves to employ year after year is death to fantasy football enthusiasts, with the rare exception being a great LeGarrette Blount year here or Stevan Ridley year there.
Now that Brady and Gronk are both gone (seemingly for good too), where do things stand for the 2020 New England Patriots in terms of potentially useful fantasy football assets?
As in 2019, the New England D/ST might be the best Patriots fantasy asset
The 2019 New England D/ST was a revelation to anyone who drafted them. Buoyed by an embarrassingly easy first-half schedule, the Patriots D actually led all “players” in fantasy scoring at times during the first eight weeks of the season.
As the schedule stiffened during the second half of the year, the points fell quite a bit too — but that’s not to say the defense overall still wasn’t productive from a fantasy standpoint.
Heading into 2020, even significant personnel losses this offseason (Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) shouldn’t hamper the prospects for this team in fantasy. Yes, the schedule this season is much, much harder — and the Patriots do face a murderer’s row of offenses this year.
Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the New England D/ST emerge once again as the most reliable fantasy football asset this team has to offer on a consistent, week-in/week-out basis.
Elsewhere, Julian Edelman remains a viable play so long as he makes it through the full season intact and healthy.
Losing Brady certainly hurts Edelman’s prospects entering the new season — and nobody really knows what to make of Jarrett Stidham yet (or Brian Hoyer if he ends up getting the starting nod for the Pats).
While he probably won’t be able to replicate his career year in receiving from 2019 (1,117 yards), Edelman remains by far the most established and veteran pass-catcher on this roster.
Given the inexperience and youth around him — not to mention the injury concerns around Mohamed Sanu and Marqise Lee — it’s not a bad idea to draft Edelman somewhere in the middle rounds and put him in your lineup as a FLEX. He just might not be a WR2 this year — and he definitely won’t be a WR1.
If you’re going to take a flier on another Patriots WR, your options include Sanu, Lee, ex-Cardinal Damiere Byrd, or second-year players N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski.
Barring something miraculous occurring though, I don’t believe any of these players will offer anything close to consistent production on a weekly basis during the regular season. Maybe — maybe — stash Sanu, Harry, or Meyers in the late, late rounds of your draft and keep them on your bench. There’s definitely no need to start any of these guys in Week 1 — not even as a FLEX.
Avoid the Patriots TEs like the plague. Rookie tight ends are notoriously ineffective and inefficient during their debut seasons in the pros, and it shouldn’t be any different for Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse had their chances last year and couldn’t do anything with Brady as their QB — why would either be able to generate more production with Stidham/Hoyer this year?
The Patriots RB rotation should be much more effective in real-life than they are in fantasy … yet again. The names may change year after year, but the story remains the same in New England for fantasy running backs as long as Belichick is the one running the show.
Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, and Rex Burkhead are all undraftable.
Sony Michel might make a decent RB2 this year simply off volume alone — especially now that Brady’s gone and the Pats will be breaking in a new starting QB (potentially one as inexperienced as Stidham). If ever there was a season for the third-year back out of Georgia to break out for 1,000 yards or more, this would be it.
If you play in a PPR league, James White is a useful option as a FLEX or RB2 because of his skills as a pass-catcher. If you play with standard scoring, his value is significantly lessened. The seventh-year running back has never rushed for more than 425 yards or five touchdowns in a season, and that probably won’t change anytime soon.
Finally, this brings up back to the quarterback position.
Whether the starter ends up being Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer, it shouldn’t really matter much in fantasy football circles. The 2020 New England Patriots are going to be a team built on their defense and run game. Neither Stidham nor Hoyer offers much upside as an every-week starter; at best, the Patriots QB1 should be viewed as a bye week fill-in or emergency option when it comes to fantasy football.