Patriots Skill Position Players: How they'll impact each other.
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
The New England Patriots and their players are often discussed around this
time of the off-season due to the team's polarizing nature and lack of marquee players.
For years we've been forced to speculate on pass targets asking ourselves, like a survivor
die-hard, where are they going this season?
This annual exercise stands to reason, since 2014 the Patriots have been no worse than fourth in the NFL for total points scored.
New England is also constantly churning their ancillary wide receivers and the departing wide outs leave behind not only their best seasons in the league, but also targets! Going into the 2019 Draft the Patriots have 160 available targets, the ninth most in the NFL and almost 40% of their air yards. This is even more than usual with Gronk's retirement. One caveat here is that Josh Gordon was tendered at a second round pick so we may see the Josh Gordon Reinstatement merry-go round back at the Boston Fair come training camp.
To determine where the targets will go, I find accuracy increases when you can exploit history from a coaching regime that's been together for a period of time. The Patriots' past shows us that we may get equally frustrated with the receivers as we have in the past with their running backs.
Looking back five years, you find a pigeon hole for the Patriots Wide Receiver finishes in PPR. The pattern shows that a top 20 finish is all but certain for the Patriots WR 1. Four of those five years a Patriots receiver finished between 15-20 in PPR. Julian Edelman doing it three times and Brandin Cooks filling in admirably in 2017. If Julian Edelman stays on the field for 12 games or more in 2019 he will undoubtedly finish as a mid WR-2 in PPR.
The complimentary pieces in New England are projectable as well. The data surprised me. You have to go back five years to find multiple top 24 wide receivers supported by Tom Brady in a single season. In 2014, Brandon Lafell put up a 211 point PPR campaign, good for 22nd among WRs, while Steady Edey finished 17th in PPR scoring. The 2014 production by the wide receiver group in New England was either the peak of the Patriots fantasy robustness, or simply an outlier.
Composed of breakout hopefuls, sleeper candidates and twitter proclaimed GOATs, the likes of Josh Gordon, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan, haven't managed better than a WR 4 finish (top 48 WR). It is also interesting that in 2014 Brady supported not only 2 top 24 WRs but Gronkowski being TE 1 by almost 40 points in PPR.
The 2014 season is important to pinpoint. Not to say Brandon Lafell is a superior talent to the incoming wide receivers, but instead to illuminate the changes in the offensive philosophy and Quarterback play since.
I could say it is as simple as a drop off in Tom Brady and that we can no longer expect the prolific fantasy QB he may have been once upon a time. This being true, its also universally known and accepted. It's more so a change in the offense.
In the 2014 season, when Brady was supporting several fantasy starters on a weekly basis, the Patriots were pushing the ball down the field aggressively. That 2014 season saw the Running backs catch only 60 passes. Last season saw the New England backs catch 110 passes, down from over 120 in 2017. This shows the transition the Patriots and others have moved towards: using running backs out of the backfield with Texas routes, wheels and screens.
With an even higher amount of targets up for grabs going into 2019, I'm willing to
say that New England's vacated targets should get distributed among the running backs.
Outside of a few games, i don't believe the ancillary pieces in the receiver corps, such as Philip Dorsett or Maurice Harris will have much fantasy value or upside in 2019. Sony Michel's stock should get a boost, as he could inherit a pass catching role (the lack of which is serving to suppress his value/ ADP). James White seems to have a role that is not only solidified, but stands to increase his consistency week to week, and his end of the season totals. Rex Burkhead could even emerge as a post hype sleeper,
available deep into drafts.
Tyrell Maclachlan (@TnfFTyrell) - 2019