NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Patriots. New England lost some core players, with the biggest being Tom Brady, as he moves on to the Buccaneers after 20 years with the Patriots. They also lost OLB Kyle Van Noy, OLB Jamie Collins, DT Danny Shelton, and S Duran Harmon, providing a big blow to their defense.
Starter: Jarrett Stidham
Backups: Brian Hoyer
Will the Patriots really go with fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham as their starter in 2020? They might. But, there is still time for them to grab one of the quarterbacks dangling out there on the wire. They did grab Brian Hoyer, who can be a capable backup, but you do not want him starting 16 games for your team.
Stidham showed well in preseason, but that isn’t much to go on. Coach Belichick likely has a plan, but until all of the quarterbacks left over are signed, there will be speculation on who will start for the Patriots in 2020.
Starter: Sony Michel, James White
Backups: Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
Michel has proven to be a useful back at times, especially in the 2018 playoffs, where he was a key part of getting them to the Super Bowl, but he has had knee issues and last season ended with a poor 3.7 yards per carry. The Patriots did use a third-round pick on Damien Harris last season, but he ended up seeing only four attempts all season.
James White remains a strong receiving back and with the Patriots trouble at receiver lately, has been needed often. He will remain a staple of the 2020 offense, but the lead back could be up for grabs between Michel and Harris, with Michel the likely winner unless the team makes a move to bring in competition.
Much of the individual offensive projections depend on the quarterback play for New England. Tom Brady was adept at getting the ball to his receivers underneath, which was helpful for White. Brady’s ability to move the ball, even with few offensive playmakers, also helped Michel see a good amount of goal line attempts.
Starters: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu
Backups: Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Quincy Adeboyejo, Matthew Slater
The Patriots can’t seem to build any real depth at wide receiver, but there is still hope for N’Keal Harry, who was injured much of his rookie season. Julian Edelman remains the No. 1 receiver by a wide margin, but will miss his and Brady’s rapport, no matter who starts at quarterback.
Mahamed Sanu was a dud after the Patriots traded a second-round pick for him last season, but he also played with injuries. If he can stay healthy, he should be a solid real-life player, but likely won’t have a big fantasy impact this season.
Again, so much depends on the quarterback and right now the signs aren’t good for the offense under Stidham, especially without playmakers to do the work for him.
Starter: Matt LaCosse
Backups: Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson
The drop off from Rob Gronkowski to Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse last season was steep and Gronk’s ghost will continue to haunt this sub-optimal group. There are serious questions about this group and the Patriots will likely add an option through the draft. It’s not a deep group, but it’s a serious area of need for the Patriots. For now it is not a fantasy viable group, regardless of the quarterback.