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2023 Fantasy Football Preview: New England Patriots

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Player Outlooks (2023)


QB Mac Jones: The criticism of Jones has gone beyond overboard, as he was great as a rookie before a chaotic offense was put in place with Josh McDaniels leaving for Las Vegas in 2022. Fortunately, the return of Bill O’Brien as New England’s offensive coordinator should do wonders for Jones’ outlook, and the Patriots have a nice mix of talent at all three skill positions (with the potential for a boost if DeAndre Hopkins is signed). We are very optimistic about a bounce back that makes Jones worth taking as a solid QB2 option.


RB Rhamondre Stevenson: Bill Belichick absolutely loves Stevenson based on the comments he made about him last year—going as far as comparing him to Tom Brady and Lawrence Taylor in an NBC production meeting leading up to the Thanksgiving matchup versus Minnesota (per former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett). The on-field production matched the praise, and the 230-pound runner playing through a high-ankle sprain six days after going down on a Monday night to rush for 172 yards and a score against the Raiders (which ended up being a heartbreaking loss) says all that needs to be said about him as a player. Stevenson is a strong option early in the second round.


RB Ty Montgomery: The Patriots releasing James Robinson after signing him in free agency opens the door for the No. 2 running back job, and it sounds like having a pass-catching complement (despite Stevenson being a very good receiver) is the plan for New England. If so, Montgomery—coming off a lost season—could carry deeper appeal in full PPR leagues by holding off Pierre Strong Jr.


RB Pierre Strong Jr.: Strong flashed his ability as a rookie in a win over the Cardinals by turning seven touches into 90 yards and a touchdown, but he saw just 17 touches on the season and will need to earn a role this summer. The best-case scenario would be playing well enough to make Ty Montgomery expendable, and we’ll get clarity on the backfield next month (and when Dalvin Cook makes a decision on his next team).


RB Kevin Harris: Harris also saw limited action as a rookie—turning 18 carries into 52 yards (2.9 YPC) and one touchdown. The build at five-foot-ten, 225 pounds will make him an early-down handcuff option for Stevenson, so fantasy owners should keep an eye on him in preseason action.


WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Signed to a three-year, $25.5-million contract this offseason, Smith-Schuster will get a chance turn into the No. 1 target for Mac Jones on an offense that should vastly improve under Bill O’Brien. That said, the Patriots project to be a frustrating, spread-the-wealth attack that has different players step up from week-to-week, so JuJu might be a better real-life addition sharing targets with DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, Mike Gesicki, and Hunter Henry (plus Rhamondre Stevenson and the running backs). After a “quiet” 933 receiving yards last year with the Chiefs, a similar season could be coming in 2023.


WR DeVante Parker: Something to point out for the entire passing attack is an extremely difficult schedule to begin the season (v PHI, v MIA, @ NYJ), and Parker might draw the toughest matchup most weeks. That said, he recently signed a three-year, $33-million extension, and Parker—who put up lines of 5/156, 4/64, 3/68, and 6/79/2 in games with at least five targets last season—should be locked into a key role on the perimeter; and it helps that Mac Jones seemed to have a preference for giving him downfield opportunities.


WR Tyquan Thornton: Thornton was a somewhat surprising selection by the Patriots as the No. 50 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and was not very efficient in his first year (5.5 yards per target), but some players can take time to develop—and he should get a clean slate based on the state of the offense last season. It’ll be interesting to see how much bulk he added when training camp begins, and the second-year wideout would arguably be pushed into FLEX status if DeVante Parker were to ever miss time.


WR Kendrick Bourne: Bourne seemed to fall out of favor with the previous New England offensive staff headlined by former head coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, but he’s a year removed from totaling 925 yards and averaging 11.4 yards per target—and was also efficient last season with a scaled-back role (9.0 yards per target). It’s easy to see Bourne becoming a favorite of Bill O’Brien, so that happening could give him a stable role in what should be an efficient attack.


WR Kayshon Boutte: Poor athletic testing and some injury red flags caused Boutte to slip in the draft, but New England took him in Round 6—and he was once thought to be the next star wideout for LSU early in his college career. If focused and on the field, Boutte can make the roster and earn a role with a strong summer.


WR Demario Douglas: Douglas was also taken in the sixth round of April’s draft, and he’s a smaller target that can make things happen with the ball in his hands. Seeing snaps on offense is definitely possible with Marcus Jones locked in as the punt returner, which would have been a logical path to making the roster for Douglas.


TE Mike Gesicki: Gesicki being used more in the red zone was encouraging last season, but he simply wasn’t a fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense and will now try to fully unlock his potential with the Patriots. The athletic tight end committed to play under Bill O’Brien at Penn State before New England’s new OC was hired by the Texans, and Gesicki has already formed a connection with Mac Jones by crashing at his house during offseason training. There might be frustrating weeks based on how the offense will run, but there is reason to be excited about Gesicki’s ceiling.


TE Hunter Henry: Henry going from nine touchdowns in his first season with the Patriots to two touchdowns last year was an obvious drain on his fantasy value, but it’s notable that he previously had at least four scores in every healthy season since entering the league in 2016. Although the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Gesicki could cause his numbers to flatten off in general, Henry is a favorite of Bill Belichick and can remain a decent weekly starter for fantasy purposes—especially if the touchdowns climb.


TE Anthony Firkser: He only caught nine passes last year with Atlanta, but Firkser has shown his talent dating back to his time in Tennessee, and he’d be a potential flier if Gesicki or Henry were to go down. The 28-year-old feels like a good fit attacking the seams for Mac Jones.


Other Notes


Best IDP value: CB Marcus Jones

First-round pick Christian Gonzalez appears to be the favorite to start opposite Jonathan Jones, but the important slot role should be open for the Pats—and Jones was a favorite of ours out of Houston in 2022. After being an All-Pro punt returner and even seeing some offensive action as a rookie, Jones should be a confident option with playmaking ability on the inside.


Stat to know (via draft guide)

Rhamondre Stevenson has played six career games where he’s been given at least 19 carries; he’s averaged 20.2 fantasy points per game in those outings.