10 Most Valuable Patriots Players in Fantasy Football
Fantasy football drafts are right around the corner even if the start of the NFL season isn't. Because of that, fantasy team owners will begin cramming in their research so they are prepared for their drafts whenever that may happen over the next eight weeks.
If you are interested in picking some New England Patriots players, it's important to try and project how they will perform, especially now that Cam Newton is the projected starting quarterback, which is much different than having Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer under center.
Because of that, we bring you the 10 most valuable Patriots players in fantasy football for the 2020 season, ranked from worst to first.
10. Dalton Keene, TE
The Patriots selected Dalton Keene in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft shortly after selecting UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi. While Asiasi is my projected starter given his upside as a pass-catcher, Keene will be the Swiss-Army knife of New England’s offense. Whether it's as a tight end, H-back or fullback, there will be no shortage of opportunities for Keene to get on the field because of his versatility, which will ultimately lead to more opportunities to touch the football.
Keene is not someone that's worth drafting in fantasy leagues. Most of his production on the field will not show up on the stat sheet, although he should manage to gather at least a catch or two per game, and could find himself being targeted in the red zone. His value comes in deeper fantasy leagues where talent is very thin on the waivers. If you want him, don't draft him. Draft one tight end and pick Keene up on the waivers after the draft if you really want him.
9. Damien Harris, RB
At some point the Patriots need to use Damien Harris, who they selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
If Sony Michel -- who underwent foot surgery in May -- does begin the season on PUP, Harris could be the lead candidate to take over the early-down workload in New England's backfield. Even if that does happen, he will likely split carries with Rex Burkhead, who doesn't look like he's going anywhere after taking a pay cut to stay with the team on July 7. Harris' production in Year 2 is still a big unknown despite being part of an offense that looks to run the ball a lot moving forward.
If you're in a league with a few Patriots fans, Harris will likely be selected in the later rounds of your fantasy draft. Otherwise, he will go undrafted. If at some point between now and your draft more news surfaces that Michel will be sidelined during training camp/the preseason because of his foot, then Harris is absolutely worth a draft pick, probably as the third or fourth running back on your roster. But if Michel is a full go come August, Harris should not be drafted, unless you handcuff him with Michel as a late, late-round pick.
8. Mohamed Sanu, WR
Mohamed Sanu is a player entering the 2020 season with a huge chip on his shoulder, as I wrote about in a feature piece a few weeks back. He struggled to produce in 2019 after being traded mid-season to the Patriots, but that was because of a lingering ankle injury that he had to get surgery on this offseason. However, with a healthy ankle and an offseason to master the playbook, Sanu should bounce back and be a consistent, reliable target like he was in Atlanta.
Newton and Sanu have had the opportunity to work with each other since Newton signed with New England on June 28. Although that chemistry should help the two connect on the field early on in the season, the targets will be hard to find for Sanu, as he is the second-best receiver on the roster and is part of an offense that likes to spread the wealth in the passing game.
With wide receiver talent not hard to come across in most fantasy leagues, Sanu is worth nothing more then a late-round flyer, if that, in fantasy drafts. His best season to-date came in 2018 when he caught 66 passes for 838 yards and four touchdowns from Matt Ryan. But at 31 years old Sanu's best days are likely behind him, and even if he is healthy we shouldn't expect that kind of production from him moving forward.
7. N'Keal Harry, WR
After a rough rookie season N'Keal Harry is looking to bounce back and prove he has what it takes to live up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick. Unfortunately for him, the opportunities for him in 2020 won't be plentiful enough for him to put up WR1 or WR2 numbers.
Cam Newton has a history of throwing to his receivers outside the numbers, which bodes well for Harry. That could change now in a new scheme. But it also might not. We will see a lot of what we saw last season from Harry; end-arounds, screen passes, plays designed to get the ball in his hands with open space in front of him. The hope is that his growth as a route-runner in Year 2 will help him expand his route tree and allow him to get open enough for Newton to find him down the field. But that has yet to be seen.
With Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu, two tight ends being added via the draft, and James White on the roster, targets will be hard to come by for Harry in 2020. That, coupled with a poor start to his NFL career has Harry's ADP in the 8th/9th round of PPR-based fantasy drafts. Based on what we know and what we've seen, Harry's upside for this upcoming season could put him in WR3 territory. But it's more likely that he will put up WR4 production this year.
6. Patriots Defense
We have to mention the Patriots defense on this list because they are very much fantasy relevant. Coming off a historically great season, New England’s defense will take a step back in 2020, especially since they lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins this offseason. But they are still in line to have a very productive fantasy season.
New England is still in the AFC East, which leads to an opportunity for their defense to toy with some of the young QBs in the division. Bill Belichick has a knack for applying pressure on opposing QBs using exotic blitzes, which leads to sacks and turnovers (ie fantasy production). Having some new pass rushers like Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings will also lead to new ways for Belichick and company to confuse offenses.
As usual, grabbing a defense shouldn't be a priority in your fantasy draft until one of the final rounds. If you want New England's defense you may have to reach a little bit in order to take them, however, as they will be one of the first defenses taken off the board.
5. Devin Asiasi, TE
This is where you'll find great value in your fantasy league.
Devin Asiasi, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft by New England, is my projected starter at tight end. While it will take a couple years to fully develop his game, his pass-catching ability will be an immediate factor for the Patriots offense.
Cam Newton threw to Greg Olson heavily for most of his career, so having another big body in between the hash marks will be something he looks for early and often as he begins his stint with the Patriots. Having a 6-foot-3, 257-pound frame will make Asiasi a top target in the red zone in his rookie campaign.
Asiasi is currently going undrafted in many fantasy leagues because, well, he's still a big unknown. He's on a depth chart with two veteran tight ends and another rookie (Keene), and rookie tight ends typically do not produce in the NFL.
This is just purely opinion, but I think Asiasi bucks the trend and produces in Year 1. He is more talented than Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, who were part of the league's worst tight end room in 2019. Asiasi won't have a large workload in 2020, but it will be big enough for him to have an impact in fantasy football, where productive tight ends are hard to come across.
4. Sony Michel, RB
Sony Michel is one of the most frustrating players in fantasy football. Why? Because since being a first-round pick in 2018 he's had plenty of opportunities to carry the rock, but he hasn't done a heckuva lot with those opportunities.
The Patriots offense in 2020 is expected to be a run-first scheme, which means Michel will once again have a chance to shine. That's good news for fantasy owners who are looking to get value in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts, which is where Michel's ADP is (7th round, to be exact).
But you should still be weary of Michel. He could potentially begin training camp on PUP after undergoing foot surgery in May, which could lead to an opportunity for Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead to soak up some of the early-down work early in the season. If they produce well and Michel comes back and doesn't, we may see the end of the Sony Michel era in New England. But if Michel plays well enough to lock in his early-down role in a Cam Newton-led offense, we could be looking at his best season to-date.
3. James White, RB
Having Cam Newton means the Patriots will likely begin running an RPO-based offense, which is good news for New England's pass-catchers out of the backfield, ie James White. During the Tom Brady era White was one of the most productive pass-catching running backs in the entire NFL. It just so happens that one of the RBs in the NFL that was also productive as a pass-catcher during Brady's time in New England was Christian McCaffrey, who was catching passes from Newton in Carolina in 2017-18.
White's ADP is in the 10th round of fantasy drafts, which means he provides much less risk than Michel. The Patriots know what they have in White, so Belichick and McDaniels will make sure they get him the ball out of the backfield similarly to how they did with Brady under center. That means he's the safest pick to make among the bunch in New England's backfield, as he will provide a stable floor given the draft capital it takes to get him and the PPR upside he provides.
2. Julian Edelman, WR
Julian Edelman, at 33 years old, is coming off the best statistical season of his NFL career. The problem is, that career-high season came with Brady under center, which has many questioning what he can do with the first quarterback of the post-Tom Brady era in Foxboro. Those questions have Edelman entering the 2020 season with a massive chip on his shoulder, which may or may not help his production. But what will help his production is the scheme he is in.
Although New England is projected to have a run-first scheme moving forward, the Patriots know how to utilize Edelman, who has a pedigree for tearing up defenses out of the slot. Even though Cam Newton doesn't have a history of utilizing slot receivers, he'll need to as a Patriot if he wants to thrive in their system.
Edelman's ADP is currently in the eighth round, but I would expect him to begin moving up draft boards now that Newton is the projected starting quarterback. The veteran receiver's ADP puts him at WR3 value, but if he stays healthy the entire season he could easily put up WR2 numbers, which would be great value if you are still able to get him in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft.
1. Cam Newton, QB
Cam Newton joining New England is one of the best situations he could be in from a fantasy perspective. The quarterback market was very saturated this offseason, which is part of the reason why he didn't sign with a team until late June. But joining the Patriots is one of the few opportunities he had to join a team and compete for a starting job in 2020.
Having Newton under center allows Josh McDaniels to use pages from his playbook that he never utilized in the Brady era. Because of that, he will get to be very creative now that he has a dual-threat quarterback, which means one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL can help revive the career of a quarterback that was deemed "washed up" after landing on injured reserve last season.
Newton's ADP currently has him going in the 13th round of fantasy drafts. He's going that late mainly because he has yet to win the starting job in New England, but first needs to prove he can grasp the playbook and stay healthy. The closer we get to the regular season the higher his ADP will be. So if you have a draft coming soon and you'd like to take a flyer on a quarterback in the later rounds, Newton should be the player you grab. Getting Newton in the 13th round is great value for a guy that should win the starting job and will at least produce QB2 numbers in that role with the potential of producing QB1 numbers.