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New England Patriots Writers
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Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has left for the Las Vegas Raiders, and New England has declined to replace him, meaning they'll likely become the first team to play a season without an offensive coordinator since... the 2010 New England Patriots, who went 14-2 and led the league in scoring. Head coach Bill Belichick is famous for constantly reimagining his schemes on both offense and defense, tailoring his system to best fit available personnel. Last year that involved heavy running from two-RB sets to help keep the pressure off of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Early discussion suggests New England will move away from the fullback in 2022, relying more on hybrid receivers like tight end Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, who can be moved around the formation to dictate matchups.
Mac Jones had a solid rookie campaign, passing for 3,802 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions with a completion percentage of 67% despite some issues with drops. He's clearly a smart quarterback who can make good decisions but lacks a top-shelf arm and doesn't move well in the pocket. Of course, the Patriots are all in on him, adding some nice pieces to the wide receiver corps and retaining Brian Hoyer to continue acting as a mentor to the second-year signal caller. He doesn't have the tools of some of the other young quarterbacks in the NFL and has to make up for it with smart decision-making.
Brian Hoyer returns as the primary backup to Mac Jones as well as a mentor and advisor. He is definitely at the very end of his career, but all that experience will help him teach Jones how to survive in the NFL without top-end physical traits. Jarrett Stidham was sent to Las Vegas to clear the way for rookie Bailey Zappe to make the roster.
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson were RB1 and RB1a - who was who depended on the day - and are a complementary pair in the backfield. New England tends to platoon backs, so it is likely that both get pieces of the carries but not the whole thing. Harris showed he can take advantage of good blocking in 2021 and had a dozen runs of more than 15 yards. He enters this season in the last year of a rookie contract, so he has a lot to prove but also could suffer if the team wants to give Stevenson his head and see what Stevenson can do in his second year. Stevenson is a better pass-catcher than Harris, but Harris has been used more at the goal line. Stevenson can be a power-style runner - he was in college - so theoretically, the Patriots could try him out as a full-time lead back, but as mentioned above, New England likes to spread the carries around, so it will likely remain a committee.
James White was out for the season after a late-September hip injury in 2021 and retired before the 2022 season, leaving a vacancy for the third down role. The competitors for that job are former wide receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery, J.J. Taylor, and Stevenson, who has been working on his passing game chops in the offseason. Montgomery has always been primarily a pass-catching back and will likely see some use here in that capacity, but could also split out as a receiver. J.J. Taylor has apparently bulked up, which could allow him to stay on the field more on passing downs, though he was never a big part of the passing offense in his first two seasons. If the added bulk doesn't hurt his speed or agility, and if he can prove his hands are up to the task, he could push Montgomery for third-down snaps.
DeVante Parker wanted to go to New England, and it is a decent fit, as he will see the lion's share of targets and has nobody in front of him to prevent it. However, Mac Jones was inconsistent at times while going deep last year and the Patriots like to run a lot so, the speedy vertical threat could be hampered a little. Still, he has worked with Jones in the past, and if they can get the chemistry going, he should be productive. Jakobi Meyers is coming off a career year, and had Parker not arrived, could have been in line for more targets. As it stands, he is likely going to line up more in three-wide sets, and while he might be able to take advantage of some of the attention going to Parker and others, the overall targets will likely be down for him. Nelson Agholor and Mac Jones didn't sync up at all last season, and Agholor saw his production drop off a cliff. The lack of chemistry and a run-heavy offense killed his yardage total almost by half, and his touchdowns dropped from 8 to 3. There have been signs in camp that Agholor has rehabilitated his standing with the team and should be in on three-wide sets again.
Kendrick Bourne has great hands and makes tough catches, especially in the red zone. He has had a terrible camp and appears to be falling out of favor with the coaches. Another potential issue is second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, who is coming off of an exception senior year at Baylor, and arrives with really nice deep speed and outstanding ball skills. He's going to push for that fourth spot pretty quickly, that is once he comes back a preseason collarbone injury that will likely wipe out the first 4-5 weeks of the season. Matthew Slater is only a special teams player, while Tre Nixon was drafted in the seventh round in 2021 before landing on the practice squad. Kristian Wilkerson was an Undrafted Free Agent in 2020 with Tennessee who was cut and then signed by the Patriots in early September. He has mostly spent the last two years on the practice squad. Nixon and Wilkerson look like NFL quality receivers, so if the Patriots don't find a spot for them, expect another team to add them.
Hunter Henry saw the most targets at the position last season and was without a doubt the top pass-catching tight end. He looks solid in the red zone, and if he can repeat last season's health to make it through the whole season, should be very productive in this offense. Jonnu Smith cost the Patriots more money than Hunter Henry with less return, though in fairness, the team is changing his role to include more carries out of the backfield and moving around the formation, so his value could be up this year. Devin Asiasi has been a non-factor for the most part during his two years in the NFL and is rarely even active, while Dalton Keene spent much of his rookie season inactive or hurt and lost 2021 to a knee injury. He has a steep uphill battle just to make the roster.
- LT Trent Brown
- LG Cole Strange [R]
- C David Andrews
- RG Mike Onwenu
- RT Isaiah Wynn
- Justin Herron, James Ferentz, Yodny Cajuste
On paper, the tackle starters of Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown are among the better in the league. David Andrews is an institution at center, but there is some change at guard. Right guard Michael Onwenu has played at near Pro Bowl level at several positions and will step in for the departed Shaq Mason. Rookie left guard Cole Strange (First round, UT-Chattanooga) has an elite athletic profile. This solid group has top-10 potential if the tackles stay healthy.
The Patriots chose to re-sign Folk this offseason, with $2.29 million guaranteed, ensuring that he will be the opening day kicker. He tied Daniel Carlson for the scoring title at 150 points, didn't miss a field goal attempt under 50 yards, and had the highest number of field goal attempts from 50+ yards (8) and makes (5) in his career. The Patriots' game plans will likely involve keeping games low scoring and relying on Folk to bank points when the low-wattage offense stalls out on the opponent's side of the field. Folk will cost a pick among the top five kickers, but he is worth it.
Gunner Olszewski had handled New England's returns for years, but he left this offseason for Pittsburgh, leaving a void behind. Rookie cornerback Marcus Jones could fill that void, though Ty Montgomery and Devin McCourty give experienced options if Jones struggles.
After three seasons with one of the best punt returners in the NFL in Gunner Olszewski, the Patriots are tasked with finding a replacement. They believe they might have their guy in third-round cornerback Marcus Jones. If not, they've hedged their bets by signing Jabrill Peppers in free agency.
The Patriots D/ST remained relevant in 2021 fantasy leagues on the back on 30 takeaways, tied for third in the league, and a stellar No. 2 ranking in points allowed and No. 4 ranking in total yardage allowed. They also had multiple D/ST touchdowns for the fourth straight year. The team did lose top corner J.C. Jackson in free agency, but they hope Malcolm Butler can find his old form to help deal with the massive hole left in the secondary. The defense should still be the stronger side of the ball for the team, but they could struggle on offense without Josh McDaniels. The loss of Jackson can't be overstated in a division that features Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill. They are probably being overdrafted on reputation and should be avoided at ADP.
There isn't much to get excited about from a fantasy perspective here, but Lawrence Guy has been a reliable source of tackles during his five years in New England. Christian Barmore is likely the most talented member of this group and should take another step in his development. Davon Godchaux anchors the line and puts up slightly above-average numbers for a nose tackle. Deatrich Wise Jr is one of those players whose value to his team likely exceeds his fantasy value as he does generate pressure but hasn't topped 3 sacks since his rookie year in 2018.
Henry Anderson has significant starting experience and will try to bounce back from a chest injury that wiped out his 2021 season. Carl Davis and Byron Cowart also figure to see time in a rotation but offer limited upside.
- LB Mack Wilson, LB Josh Uche, LB Jahlani Tavai, LB Harvey Langi, LB Raekwon McMillan, LB Ronnie Perkins, LB Anfernee Jennings, LB Terez Hall
Matt Judon helped revitalize the Patriots defense last year after signing in free agency as he set a new career-high with 12.5 sacks. His level of play appeared to trail off late in the year, but he's a strong 2-way player who should remain a capable fantasy starter in most scoring systems. Ja'Whaun Bentley played well against the run in 2021 but sometimes sits in passing situations due to his struggles in coverage. He has some upside given his tackle output but is also matchup-dependent and therefore better suited as a fantasy backup.
The Patriots are unlikely to play many snaps with more than two linebackers, but Mack Wilson figures to be the 3rd option. He was productive as a rookie in 2019 with the Browns but didn't make much of an impact the past two years. Josh Uche is a developing edge rusher who has just four sacks through two years but could be poised to take a leap in his third year. There are some interesting depth options here, such as Ronnie Perkins, Jahlani Tavai, and even Raekwon McMillan, who could earn playing time as part of a rotation.
- CB Jonathan Jones, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Myles Bryant, CB Jack Jones [R], S Jabrill Peppers, S Cody Davis, S Joshuah Bledsoe, S Justin Bethel
Malcolm Butler returns to the team where he had success early in his career, but his fantasy value is likely to drop off after an 87-solo tackle season with the Titans. He has struggled in coverage of late but looks like the best option to replace J.C. Jackson. Adrian Phillips may be listed as a starting strong safety, but he plays near the line of scrimmage more like a linebacker at times. He set a career-high with four interceptions last year, but that's unlikely to be repeated. Devin McCourty is 34 years old and provides steady play in the deep secondary but limited fantasy potential, despite a recent uptick in his big-play numbers. Jalen Mills should return as a starter at the other cornerback spot, but he was a weak link for them last year and may not be able to hold onto the job if some younger players make a push. Even though Kyle Dugger may not be considered a true starter, he enjoyed a breakout season of sorts last year with 70 solo tackles and 4 interceptions. He has star potential and is clearly the most valuable IDP in this group.
Jonathan Jones figures to return as the team's nickel back, which means he'll see a heavy workload most weeks depending on the matchups. Terrance Mitchell, Myles Bryant, and rookie Jack Jones could all see playing time this year and compete for starting spots if either starter falters. It is not immediately clear where Jabrill Peppers will fit in given the strength at the top of the depth chart, but he gives them more matchup options and suggests they will likely use three safeties in their base package.