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2023 Player Outlooks: New England Patriots

By Nick Caron | 7/28/23 |

Mac Jones

QB Mac Jones
(2022 QB Rank Ė No. 22, 15.9 FPts/G)

After being a top-10 offense for practically Tom Bradyís entire run in New England, the Patriots have taken a step back in recent seasons and itís tough to not put a good bit of the blame on the coaching staff and team management. The front office just has not put the team in the position to succeed on a consistent basis. Some of that has been addressed this offseason with the Patriots moving on from the bizarre Matt Patricia offense they had in 2022 and going toward a more traditional offense coached by former Texans head coach Bill OíBrien. This switch alone can really only mean improvement, but there still seems to be a serious lack of care being put into the pass-catching weapons in this offense.

The teamís leading receiver in each of the past three seasons, Jakobi Meyers, left this off-season and signed a fairly similar deal with the Raiders to the one the Patriots eventually gave to JuJu Smith-Schuster. This was particularly surprising because while Smith-Schuster has a longer history of success, heís historically played a similar role to the one that Meyers had already been successful with in-house for the Patriots. Additionally, the team brought in veterans like Kendrick Bourne and tight end Mike Gesicki, but there still seems to be a serious lack of explosive weapons for this roster. Without big-time playmakers, itís hard to imagine a world where Mac Jones is anything other than a replacement-level QB2 for fantasy purposes.

In fact, one could argue that Jones has been less than a QB2 thus far throughout his relatively short career. While he finished as the 22nd-highest-scoring quarterback, he actually was only the 36th-best QB in fantasy points per game. That's slightly better than Andy Dalton and Jacoby Brissett, and only a bit better than what his teammate Bailey Zappe delivered in his four games started in 2022.

With so many higher-upside options available in later rounds, itís just not worthwhile to draft Jones in anything other than 2QB and SuperFlex leagues.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson
(2022 RB Rank Ė No. 13, 10.6 FPts/G)

While Damien Harris technically got the ceremonial start in more games, the Patriots seemed to commit to a true workhorse back this past season when they began featuring Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson impressed in his opportunity, generating nearly five yards per carry to go along with 69 receptions, accumulating nearly 1,500 total yards and six total touchdowns along the way.

After letting Harris walk this off-season, there was some concern the team wasnít fully committed to Stevenson when they eventually brought in another veteran, James Robinson. That didnít last long as the former Jaguars standout back was cut early in camp (and has now signed with the Giants). A quick glance at the Patriots depth chart shows very few reasons to be concerned because the team really has not invested much in the position at all. Players like Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. both were on the roster a season ago and barely saw any playing time. Ty Montgomery was another off-season acquisition and his history as a wide receiver has some people worried about him taking passing game snaps away from Stevenson, but realistically heís been nothing more than a journeyman player throughout his career. He hasnít caught more than 25 passes in a season since 2016 and thereís no reason to be worried that heís suddenly going to be featured, at 30 years old, over Stevenson.

The biggest knock on Stevenson is probably that heís in this New England offense that most people expect to be pretty bad. Concerns, of course, are that they will be bad enough that they will not be able to feature the running game as much as they have historically and that could lead to fewer touches for Stevenson. But it would be tough for the offense to be much worse than it was in 2022 when Stevenson was already a borderline RB1 while conceding about a third of the backfield carries to Damien Harris.

Stevenson is a player who fantasy managers should be targeting near the end of the second round or the beginning of the third round. Particularly managers who are wide receiver heavy in Rounds 1 and 2 could really stack their rosters by drafting a reliable mid-to-low-end RB1 like Stevenson.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
(2022 WR Rank Ė 35, 7.0 FPts/G)

Once considered one of the top up-and-coming pass-catchers in the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster has now fallen to the point of becoming an offseason afterthought, even in an offense that is almost completely devoid of pass-catching weapons. He most recently had a decent, albeit uninspiring fantasy season with the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs who then decided to move on, which is never a great sign. In Kansas City, Smith-Schuster had his best season since his 2018 breakout but still managed to put up just 933 yards and three touchdowns in an offense quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes. Needless to say, fantasy managers should be worried about his prospects in a much slower-paced offense quarterbacked by Mac Jones.

If thereís one thing to be hopeful about itís that Smith-Schuster is almost certainly in-line to be the target leader in New England this season. Unlike when he was playing alongside Travis Kelce, the Patriots do not have much competition for JuJu and thereís a good chance that he meets or exceeds the 101 targets that he saw a season ago. Unfortunately, thereís also a strong likelihood that the targets that he does see will be substantially less valuable than the ones he saw in Kansas City, therefore somewhat negating any real advantages stemming from becoming New Englandís top target.

Smith-Schuster is still just 26 years old and may not have yet reached his physical prime. Perhaps New Englandís longer-term investment in him will help give him the confidence he needs to get back to being a more consistent weapon in the league.

Fantasy managers donít need to invest much to acquire Smith-Schuster this season as heís being drafted past pick 100 in most leagues - right around the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Gabe Davis, Courtland Sutton, and Michael Thomas. While he may not have had the high-end seasons of Thomas and Beckham Jr., heís also a good bit younger than them and provides a stronger floor than anyone in that group.

WR DeVante Parker
(2022 WR Rank Ė 60, 6.0 FPts/G)

As the Patriotsí big wide receiver acquisition heading into 2022, DeVante Parker actually delivered some impressive numbers with the opportunities he had. Unfortunately, he hobbled his way through a good portion of the season, missing some games and being limited in many others, which led to him finishing with just 539 yards and three touchdowns on the year. On a per-catch basis, though, few players in the NFL were more impressive than Parker as his 17.4 yards per reception was among the league leaders.

While Parker has always been a player whoís capable of delivering some huge plays from time to time, the problem has always been consistency. Whether itís been injuries, a lack of interest, offensive scheming, or any other variety of excuses, heís only ever provided one season of actual value for fantasy managers. That came back in 2019 when he caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns. If you remove that one standout season, though, Parker has failed to reach 800 receiving yards in any other year and four touchdowns is his second-best single-season number throughout his seven-year career.

Parker is a player who will be selected near the end of the draft in most leagues, but heís an extremely frustrating player to have on your roster as a fantasy manager and not likely one who youíll ever really feel comfortable with slotting into your starting lineup.

TE Hunter Henry
(2022 TE Rank 22, 3.9 FPts/G)

A gigantic nine-touchdown season in 2021 had many fantasy managers hoping that we were seeing the beginnings of another trustworthy top-level fantasy TE1. That certainly didn't happen in 2022, though, as the Patriotsí tight end caught just 41 passes for 509 yards and two scores. Part of the reason for his drop-off in production can be attributed to the unfortunate situation he was in with the Patriots needing help protecting their quarterbacks, which led to Henry being asked to block significantly more in 2022 than he did in previous seasons.

Things didnít really get much better throughout this offseason and with Jonnu Smith gone, itís reasonable to think that Henry may be asked to block even more now that their TE2 is notoriously terrible blocker Mike Gesicki.

Itís hard to really be excited about anyone in this Patriots passing game, but the tight end position as a whole is ugly throughout the league. Thereís always a chance that Henry sneaks back into the low-end TE1 conversation due to a high touchdown efficiency, but that really shouldnít be relied upon and there are plenty of other tight ends who offer similar touchdown upside in much higher-powered offenses.

TE Mike Gesicki
(2022 TE Rank – 19, 3.9 FPts/G)

Mike Gesicki is a player who’s stayed in the good graces of fantasy managers for far too long. Following back-to-back 700-yard seasons with the Dolphins in 2020 and 2021, Gesicki slid back to fantasy irrelevancy this past season when he was a complete afterthought in the much-improved Mike McDaniel-coached Miami offense. McDaniel recognized that Gesicki is little more than a glorified big slot receiver who offers practically nothing as a blocker and that meant that he didn’t even finish the season as the team’s snap leader at tight end despite playing in every game.

He now has a new opportunity for life in New England on a team that is historically effective at getting production out of their tight ends. However, he’s also in a situation where the team has a more established traditional tight end in Hunter Henry, along with a more productive slot receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Unless the Patriots completely stray away from their historical offenses and start going toward a much more spread-style offense, it’s just tough to imagine a world where Gesicki gets enough opportunities to be fantasy-relevant unless there’s an injury to Henry and/or Smith-Schuster.

Even if he does end up playing way more snaps than can reasonably be projected, Gesicki has never truly been a difference-making fantasy tight end anyway. His best single season came back in 2020 when he caught 53 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns. That’s probably the absolute best-case scenario that can be hoped for out of a player like him and his floor is close to what he did with the Dolphins this past season where he was completely worthless other than the one game where he caught two touchdowns.

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