2021 Fantasy Preview – New England Patriots

Team Overview

The New England Patriots took quite the fall from grace after losing Tom Brady following the 2019 season. They suffered their first losing season in 20 years and Belichick’s first with the Patriots since his first year as their HC. Not only did the Patriots lose Tom Brady, but they also lost Cam Newton for parts of the 2020 season due to COVID and its lasting effects. They appear to have revamped their offense this offseason with additions of Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor via Free Agency. It looks like the Patriots are trying to get back to their roots of a TE-centric offense that features 12 personnel often. This will help their run game that was a bit lacking last season as well.

Their defense also took a hit last year with several opt-outs from key positions. All but Patrick Chung are returning this year and they addressed the defense heavily in the draft, making an effort to get younger on that side of the ball. Additionally, they took a shot on a first-round QB, a position they haven’t had to worry about in decades. Mac Jones appears to be in a full camp battle with Cam Newton this offseason. Newton probably gives the team the best shot at competing right away, but if the season gets away from them, we could see Mac learning in live game action. A lot of this season’s success will depend on if the offense can take a step forward and if the defense can be as dominant as they were not too long ago.

Projected Depth Chart

Individual Players

Studs

  • N/A

Role Players

  • Cam Newton: Despite struggling to stay healthy and dealing with the lasting effects of COVID throughout the season, Newton still put up a QB16 season. All signs point to Newton being fully healthy this season and he can still produce borderline QB1 numbers for fantasy teams. We are only a few seasons removed from consistent QB1 performances from Newton and he is still only 32. He has some years left and has a good chance to hold off Mac Jones for another year. If he finds a new home next year, it’ll be hard to find another situation with fewer weapons than he had last year. And he can always fall back on his consistent rushing floor. 
  • Hunter Henry: Henry was a budding star at the position, but struggled to stay healthy for a complete season. Going into 2021, there are more questions than just his health. Now managers have to worry about the New England offensive efficiency as a whole as well as how Henry and Jonnu Smith will coexist. If one comes out as a more consistent option, it will probably be Henry. But we will most likely see a back and forth where managers never know which TE will be the one that produces each game. 
  • Jonnu Smith: Jonnu is a bit more explosive as an athlete than Henry is, but never showed the same consistency that his new teammate has. He will probably have some big games throughout the season and finish the year fairly well in the tight end standings. But it will be hard to predict his good games and it’s yet to be seen if the new Patriots’ offense can support both TEs to fantasy relevance. 
  • Damien Harris: Harris put up good numbers and was very efficient on the ground in 2020. But he lacked any involvement in the passing game, a phase of the game that is crucial for fantasy managers. Harris should gain some targets from James White this season as White is now 29 years old and Harris is not a bad pass catcher when given the opportunity. He has a fairly low floor if he can’t get that passing down work, but if he does it is more than worth the investment as he goes fairly late in drafts still.

Keep an eye on

  • James White: White has been a consistent presence in deeper leagues when teams are in a bind for an RB. He has always been able to fall back on a solid receiving floor until last year. It was an overall down year and he played minimal snaps for New England even when healthy. Expect him to still be a presence in the offense, but it’ll be hard to trust him as the consistent option he once was right out of the gates. 
  • Nelson Agholor: Agholor enjoyed his one and only season with the Raiders last season, accruing career highs in yards, yards per target, and yards per catch. He was an effective downfield threat, but New England isn’t necessarily known for explosive plays downfield. Maybe Agholor can change that and prove to be a decent depth piece for fantasy managers. But there’s plenty of other mouths to feed in this offense, even if they aren’t all top-end pass catchers. 
  • Kendrick Bourne: Reports this offseason are that Kendrick Bourne will take over Edelman’s previous role in the slot this season. Bourne has shown flashes in his career but hasn’t been able to be consistent. The slot role Edelman once held is very enticing at first glance, but with the signing of both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, it makes sense that the Patriots will run more 2 TE sets. If that happens, the slot WR role isn’t as appealing as it seems since that position won’t be on the field as much as it once was. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on or stash in deep leagues.
  • Jakobi Meyers: Meyers is going overlooked in a lot of leagues currently because, at first glance, he didn’t have a great year even though he improved from year 1. But he missed a decent amount of time at the beginning of the season and from Weeks 7-17 he was the WR22. A WR2 season is not too bad for a second-year undrafted free agent. He could absolutely improve going into 2021 and solidify himself as the top WR in a WR room full of very average players.

Dynasty Stashes

  • Mac Jones: Even though reports claim there is a QB competition, Cam is the incumbent starter and without an injury, he should be able to keep Mac off the field for a majority of the season. That being said, the Patriots took Mac in the first round and clearly viewed him as the future of the franchise. If Mac gets on the field this season it will most likely be because the season is lost or Cam gets injured. If it is because the season is lost, it would be surprising to see him succeed enough to warrant a start in 1QB redraft formats. But he absolutely should be stashed in dynasty formats. The offense hit rock bottom last season and it can hopefully only go up from there. Mac should be the beneficiary of that improvement. 
  • Rhmondre Stevenson: Stevenson possesses some interesting upside. He possesses the size to be a feature back and had some success at Oklahoma in his one year as a starter. Being drafted in the 4th round generally means the team has a role for you in the offense, but it’s a crowded backfield. New England likes to have a running back by committee approach and this draft pick most likely signals the end of Sony Michel in New England.
  • N’Keal Harry: Harry has disappointed as a first-rounder the past two years despite being given the opportunity on the field. In a league that is more and more predicated on separation and working in space, Harry provides a jump-ball specialist and red zone threat skillset. He has requested a trade and a fresh start for him might be the only thing that can give his future some hope of future success. New England hasn’t utilized his skillset, so hopefully, a new team will. He’s a deep dynasty stash to find out if a new location will actually revitalize his young career, but it’s a long shot still. 

***Note: All projections and discussions are assuming full PPR formats.***

Stat Projections

Passing

Player Name Pos Comp Att Yards TDs INTs
Cam Newton
QB
174
261
1,895
11
8
Mac Jones
QB
166
251
1,819
11
3

Receiving

Player Name Pos Targets Rec Yards Yds/Rec TDs
Nelson Agholor
WR
73
44
660
15.0
5
Hunter Henry
TE
78
55
633
11.5
4
Jonnu Smith
TE
78
55
622
11.3
6
Kendrick Bourne
WR
63
41
492
12.0
2
James White
RB
78
59
466
7.9
1
N'Keal Harry
WR
57
32
394
12.3
2
Damien Harris
RB
31
22
139
6.3
0

Rushing

Player Name Pos Att Yards Yds/Att TDs
Damien Harris
RB
168
754
4.5
5
Sony Michel
RB
120
515
4.3
2
Cam Newton
QB
72
388
5.4
4
James White
RB
72
302
4.2
3
Mac Jones
QB
24
53
2.2
1

***Note Player Projections are only fantasy relevant players. Team totals may not add up as we left out players that may not have a significant impact on the season. Projections are provided by Rich King and are based on 16 games.***

Team Projection

Record HC OC
9-8
Bill Belichick
Josh McDaniels
Rushing Att Rushing Yards Rushing TDs Passing Att Passing Yards Passing TDs Total Yards Total TDs
480
2,115
16
522
3,790
22
5,905
38
2nd
9th
13th
28th
31st
30th
31st
27th

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Image Credit: Vincent Carchietta – USA TODAY Sports