The New England Patriots have been producing fantasy football goodness for many years, and I expect them to continue that trend in 2018.
Let’s start with the most valuable fantasy asset on their roster, Rob Gronkowski. He is the best TE in football and lives in his own fantasy football tier. The only problem is that Gronk has had trouble staying healthy. His injury history does not make for pretty reading, ranging from concussions, broken forearms, and back injuries. However, for the first time in several seasons, Gronk has not had any surgeries and did not miss any major time in 2017 due to injury (he missed Thursday Night Football at Tampa Bay due to a dead leg).
One of my favorite fantasy football analysts, JJ Zachariason of Numberfire, is known for his streaming approach to the QB and TE position given that only 12 are started on any given week. However, ‘Gronk’ offers such an advantage at the position, it makes sense to draft him. Especially at his late 2nd round ADP. You can find his incredibly detailed analysis here.
With Edelman suspended for the first four games of the season, and questions at WR outside of Chris Hogan, Gronk is positioned to produce his best fantasy season since 2011. Where he finished as the 6th highest scoring player with 331 PPR points to date (remarkably, Aaron Hernandez also had over 900 yards and 7 TDs that year).
Drafting Gronk is a risk, we know this. But given his relatively healthy 2017 season and healthy offseason, it’s a risk I am willing to take for his tremendous upside.
Rex Burkhead has risen rapidly in ADP to become a top 60 fantasy football pick. Just look at his price over the last month.
Burkhead is currently the favorite to be the Patriots lead back as Michel learns the system and recovers from his knee procedure. Burkhead is a jack of all trades and does everything well – even playing a little bit of slot WR in 2017.
In 10 games for the Pats last season, Burkhead finished as a top 12 running back twice, three times in the top 24 and once inside the top 36. A very respectable output given that Dion Lewis featured in all 16 games and James White was a consistent rotation on 3rd downs.
However, as you can see above, his ADP is rising – and quickly. I am unwilling to draft Burkhead any higher than the mid to late 5th round, especially since Sony Michel is going a full round and half later at 7.02.
The Patriots surprised many people when they drafted Michel with the 31st overall selection. Given the teams’ history of turning undrafted or low draft capital players into productive NFL running backs, it was definitely a surprise. However, the Patriots love what Michel can offer the team and as a bonus also selected his Georgia teammate and OL Isaiah Wynn.
Unfortunately, Michel had a procedure on his knee, and may not be available to the start of the regular season. That limits his ability to learn the Patriots schemes and playbook, which means that he might start off the season slowly. However, once he gets going, there is no doubting his ability – he had a productive college career despite competing against likes of Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and freshman phenom D’Andre Swift:
If he’s healthy, Michel has high-end RB2 upside in the Patriot offense.
James White is a player worth drafting in PPR formats and is worth a flier in the 14th Round or later of your drafts. He has great PPR upside on any given week. He was featured heavily in the Patriots preseason game against the Eagles and was moved up to the line as a receiver on occasion.
Chris Hogan is an underrated WR. Maybe it’s the whole “white lacrosse player” thing, but Brady trusts him, and he performs. Better still, his ADP of WR24 doesn’t yet reflect his fantasy football potential. Hogan is a versatile player, having the ability to play in the slot (18% of his offensive snaps in 2017 were from the slot), outside the numbers, or as a deep threat (he led the NFL in yards per reception in 2016).
From Weeks 2 to 8 last season, Hogan was the WR5 averaging approximately 15 ppg. That was with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola on the field. Now those players have left, and with Julian Edelman suspended, someone other than Gronk is going to have to catch passes. In 2017, 15 ppg over a 16 game season would have Hogan as the WR7. Provided he stays healthy, Hogan will see the volume to put up WR1 numbers whilst Edelman is out and has shown he can still produce with other WRs on the field once he returns.
As I write this watching the Patriots preseason game against the Eagles, Brady just found Hogan in the end zone. I expect this to happen many times in 2018.
Graham Barfield of FantasyGuru also agrees that Hogan is a versatile threat:
Most importantly, what stood out is Chris Hogan’s role. #Patriots moved him all around their formations: X-Iso in one-receiver set, on field in 12-personnel (2WR), in slot & X in 3WR, motioning left/right. Diverse deployment.
Make no mistake: Chris Hogan is Pats’ No. 1 wideout.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) August 17, 2018
As mentioned above, Julian Edelman has been suspended for the first 4 games of 2018 and missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL. The reports out of camp have been positive, and he should be Brady’s #1 WR, however, given his ADP of 87OVR, there are other players I would rather draft in that range such as Robert Woods, Tarik Cohen, or Randall Cobb who will score you points over the first four weeks of the season – and who played football in 2017.
The reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady is showing no signs of slowing down, despite entering the 2018 season at the age of 41 years old. His Superbowl efforts were in vain, but Brady set records throwing for over 500 yards and three touchdowns to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank. He finished 2017 as the QB4 and is currently being drafted as the QB3 to start the 5th round of drafts. This is too early to draft a QB in standard PPR leagues, and as such I will not own Tom Brady shares this season. I would rather draft his WR, Chris Hogan at a similar cost.
There are a few other players on the Patriots roster, that whilst are not worth rostering at the start of the season, should be monitored on the waiver wire for their usage in the early weeks of the season or in the event of an injury.
Jeremy Hill had fantasy success in Cincinnati, finishing as the RB11 in 2014 as a rookie, the RB20 in 2015, and the RB22 in 2016. 2017 was shortened by injury, and now he finds himself on a crowded depth chart. However, it will only take an injury to Burkhead for him to return to his top 24 potential.
Phillip Dorsett has failed to live up to his 1st Round NFL draft pedigree, but the speedy wideout has been retained for 2018, and with the lack of bodies available to start the season, might see some targets from Tom Brady.
Finally, special teams ace Cordarrelle Patterson, and he is performing well in training camp. If anyone can unlock Patterson’s potential, it’s Bill.
That’s it for the Patriots in 2018. Expect lots of fantasy points to be scored by their players on your rosters!
You can find me on Twitter @FF_DownUnder to talk fantasy football anytime. If you’re on Facebook, make sure to join our group – FFDownUnder to find leagues, talk strategy, share content, and talk all things fantasy football!
NB – all fantasy football statistics in this article come from ffstatistics.com unless otherwise stated. Shout out to its creator Addison Hayes (@_amazehayes). Other stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference. ADP data is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator.