The Patriots' grand plans for Mac Jones to develop into the next franchise quarterback have stalled for the time being. Perhaps the team has learned its lesson as they’ve decided to bring in actual coordinators to call the plays this season. It’s also worth noting that Bill Belichick went out of his way this offseason to mention that the Patriots have been one of the lowest-spending teams in the league over the last three years. They did spend up the year before last on guys like Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith but, last year, they opted to save their money and trade for DeVante Parker so that it wouldn’t offset the compensatory pick formula and cancel the return pick for JC Jackson. When you consider those comments in the context of the Patriots having the seventh-most cap space of any team, they could be in line for a little bit of a spending spree this off-season. That Amazon TV money hits in 2023 so there might be some extra dough for a lot of teams to throw around.
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
New England Patriots Quarterbacks
The Patriots have three quarterbacks under contract for 2023.
Mac Jones - Age 24
Contract: Mac Jones is under contract through 2024. As a first round pick, they can pick up his fifth year option for 2026 as well.
Outlook: Jones had a promising rookie year, finishing with the second-highest completion percentage of any rookie QB of all time (behind only Dak Prescott). But it was also a fairly conservative year and he wasn’t asked to do much. He was expected to take a leap and was relatively accurate once again in 2022, but instead, took a big step back in terms of efficiency and production.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - At this moment, no one is going to give you anything worthwhile in either single quarterback leagues or multi-quarterback leagues. All hope is not lost however as we at least have the narrative that going from Josh McDaniel to Matt Patricia was a big setback for Jones and that Bill O’Brien might be able to right that ship. In superflex or two-QB leagues, he could bounce back with the upside of other non-mobile backend QB1s like Kirk Cousins or Jared Goff, but it’s hard to picture him having the volume we need to be a reliable starter in single QB leagues. In single QB you really need that mobile upside in the modern NFL unless it’s a guy capable of throwing 40-50 touchdown passes so we’re basically just hoping that he can flash a little bit so we can sell. Depending how deep your rosters are, you might not even need to hold him in single QB.
Bailey Zappe - Age 23
Contract: Bailey Zappe was a fourth-round pick and is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: After a promising rookie year for Mac Jones, the Zappe pick seemed strange. So naturally, Zappe not only managed to find the field but he looked pretty decent which stirred the pot of quarterback controversy. At the very least, the pressure is now squarely on Mac Jones
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - These “QB controversies” create a bit of a fallacy that you either need to be on one side or the other. You don’t. If Zappe had a different profile (especially in terms of rushing upside) then we’d jump on that wagon and root for him. He doesn’t. Basically, he seems like a Mac Jones who operates more out of shotgun and is maybe willing to take more chances. Day three QBs hit so rarely that his brief moment in the sun might have given you a rare chance to sell him to the Mac Jones owner for something. I’d go for it. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to hold him.
Brian Hoyer - Age 37
Contract: Brian Hoyer is under contract for 2023. He can be released with $240K in dead cap, $1.7 million in savings.
Outlook: Hoyer at this stage is more of an “on-field coach” than anything.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Hoyer has no value in fantasy football.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
As crazy as it sounds after taking a quarterback in the first and another in the fourth in back to back years, the Patriots are not necessarily out of the running for a quarterback move. Bill Belichick is both the coach and the general manager which allows him to operate with authoritarian rule and make decisions that others would never fathom. My guess would be they continue to ride it out with Mac Jones to see what he looks like with Bill O’Brien but would anyone at all be surprised to see them make a move for a veteran quarterback like a Derek Carr? This is the man who chose a sixth round Tom Brady over a Drew Bledsoe that they just gave a $10 year, $100 million dollar contract to, after all.
New England Patriots Running Backs
The Patriots have four running backs under contract.
Rhamondre Stevenson - Age 24
Contract: Rhamondre Stevenson is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: The Patriots have notoriously had a split backfield for Bill Belichick’s entire tenure - until now. Rhamondre Stevenson is the first Patriots running back to have 200+ carries and 35+ receptions under his reign. You have to go back to Pete Carroll’s Patriots days to find the last guys (which were Hall of Famer Curtis Martin and rookie Robert Edwards who famously tore his knee up in an ill-fated Pro Bowl beach flag football game). Stevenson has broken a pretTy Longstanding Patriots running back curse, in a way.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - You’d think that would have us clamoring to buy Stevenson after a season like this given Belichick’s proclivity to run the football. But there’s one major concern. The Patriots last year used a brand new system on offense that included entirely new terminology. Kendrick Bourne straight up told us as much. They also opted to not use a fullback for the first time in over a decade. And guess what? That didn’t work. Now that they brought Bill O’Brien back who was with the team from 2007 to 2011, they very well might go right back to the modified Erhardt Perkins system they won six Super Bowls with. And that might see them go right back to a split backfield. We are HOLDING Stevenson since he might be the every down back and he’s still valuable even if the role is split (we’ve seen RB1 seasons from both roles with LeGarrette Blount and James White). But we are hesitant to invest heavily right now until we get a little more clarity on the game plan.
Pierre Strong - Age 24
Contract: Pierre Strong was drafted in 2022 and is on his rookie deal through 2025.
Outlook: Strong was drafted in the fourth round last year but didn’t contribute much last year outside of special teams. He did flash a bit when given the opportunity in games vs. the Cardinals and Raiders and he caught all five of his targets on the season.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - We mentioned some concerns for Rhamondre Stevenson in the section above and, if those concerns prove to be true, Strong is the most likely candidate to be the beneficiary. He has blazing speed (99th percentile, per PlayerProfiler) and decent pass-catching chops so, where he needs to prove himself worthy, is in the pass blocking game (only four pass blocking snaps last season compared to 88 for Stevenson). If Bill O’Brien does return this team to its roots, that is how Strong can carve himself out a role as the James White or Kevin Faulk of this offense. We’re willing to take a stab on that at the right price.
Kevin Harris - Age 22
Contract: The Patriots drafted Kevin Harris in the sixth round but released him when cutting down to the 53 man roster. They then signed him to the practice squad and elevated him to the active roster. He is now signed through 2023 then they can keep him as an exclusive rights-free agent in 2024 (and pay him the veteran minimum). He can be cut in 2023 with zero dead cap, $870K in savings.
Outlook: Through all that contract jockeying, Harris still somehow managed to get more carries than Pierre Strong (though he had zero receptions). Harris was used in limited capacity on run downs when Damien Harris was out with an injury.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Being drafted in the sixth round was a red flag and it was an even bigger red flag when he was cut and passed through waivers with no one signing him. Harris is a bigger back at 5’10” 221 but fairly slow so he’s not likely to be more than a bruiser in this league (if Stevenson were to go down, we’d expect a split backfield at best between Harris and Strong with Strong getting the pass downs). In deeper leagues, you can hold but it’s not a necessity.
Ty Montgomery - Age 30
Contract: Ty Montgomery is under contract through 2023 though he can be released with $1.43 million in savings and only $150K in dead cap.
Outlook: Montgomery has had an interesting career. He was a wide receiver that was converted to a running back. Then, when the Saints had him, they used him as a wide receiver again. The Patriots then signed him and, in his first game, he played 20 snaps at running back before going on season-ending IR. Now we are here.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - No one is trading you for Ty Montgomery and you don’t need to hold him. He seems like an obvious-cut candidate for the Pats but, if he does make this team, he annoyingly NEEDS to be on your radar. It really did seem like the Pats were going to use him in the James White role - he got four targets in that first game before leaving. It was reported that Montgomery might not have only had the ankle injury but a mysterious upper-body injury which adds to the strangeness surrounding his situation.
Lynn Bowden, JJ Taylor
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
It’s incredibly unlikely they bring Damien Harris back at this stage. And they have a clear cut stud in the backfield with Rhamondre Stevenson. The only question now is whether they want to add a complimentary piece to this backfield to help on either early downs or pass downs (as Stevenson proved he can do both). You really can’t rule anything out here because Damien Harris was a surprise pick after selecting the first-round Sony Michel and then Stevenson himself was another surprise pick after selecting Harris. Trying to guess what Bill Belichick is going to do is quite the fool’s errand.
New England Patriots Wide Receivers
The Patriots have six wide receivers under contract with another three signed to reserve/future contracts.
DeVante Parker - Age 30
Contract: They acquired Parker via a trade with the Dolphins so they are not responsible for any guaranteed money tied to him. He is under contract for 2023 but can be cut with zero dead cap and $6.2 million in savings.
Outlook: Parker had a definitive role within this offense as the split end and played 97-100% of the snaps at times. The problem is that, whether it was the playcalling or the quarterback play, they struggled to get him the ball on the outside. He did look solid at times, especially with a 156 yard performance vs. the Ravens, but he was far too inconsistent to trust in fantasy.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Again, the idea here is that Bill O’Brien might be able to bring this team back to prosperity. Some folks are asking for the Patriots to bring in a top-tier WR, but DeVante Parker came out and said himself that he is that top-tier guy. We aren’t believing him at face value but the reality is that there aren’t many split ends available in free agency outside of DJ Chark and Allen Lazard and those would be fairly lateral (and expensive) moves for the Patriots. So there is a good chance Parker is starting at split end and playing a big snap share next year. The upside is limited but this guy is likely on waivers in a lot of leagues so he falls into the “why not” category for us. That said, he could also be straight-up cut by the Pats in which case you just drop him.
Kendrick Bourne - Age 27
Contract: Kendrick Bourne is under contract through 2023. He can be cut for just under $5.5 million in savings with $1.4 million in dead cap.
Outlook: There were high hopes for Bourne after some big plays in 2022 but he seemed to sour with the coaching staff. He found himself in a limited role despite owner Bob Kraft expressing that he wanted to see Bourne on the field.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Again, the real problem with this team is uncertainty right now. But no one is buying the pieces so your only options are to hold them or drop them. If the Pats can’t bring Jakobi Meyers back in 2023, Kendrick Bourne could be in-line for that valuable slot role in this offense. So, if you have enough bench spots, it’s worth holding just to see if that is a possibility. But don’t feel like you have to.
Tyquan Thornton - Age 22
Contract: Tyquan Thornton is a second round pick and is on his rookie deal through 2025.
Outlook: Thornton struggled with injury, especially in the early going, but he finished the year playing a snap share in the 90% range. The biggest thing Thornton has going for him is his speed - his 4.28 yard official 40-yard dash at the combine is literally in the 100th percentile per wide receivers. It doesn’t get much faster.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - This is the one guy from this wide receiver group we are willing to buy right now. If a 6’2” wide receiver with his speed was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by any team other than the New England Patriots we would be all over them. But the Patriots have a stigma surrounding wide receivers and for good reason - here is a quick look at the numbers:
The bet we are making here is pretty simple. If Jakobi Meyers does not come back, there are targets available. This offense was PROLIFIC the last time Bill O’Brien was here. We know who DeVante Parker is and we know who Kendrick Bourne is but we’ve yet to really see what this kid can do. I’ll take a shot on that mystery box at this price (can likely be had for a late second or even a third). They aren’t bringing back Nelson Agholor so the flanker/field stretcher role opposite DeVante Parker is wide open.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
We mentioned in the intro that Bill Belichick hinted that the Patriots could be in line to throw some cash around this off-season. Unfortunately, it just so happens to be one of the worst free agent markets we’ve seen for wide receivers. Their own Jakobi Meyers might be the best option available out there. The draft has a number of intriguing slot/flanker options like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Jordan Addison but it lacks in high-end size (Quentin Johnston is intriguing at 6’4” but he’s right around the 200-pound mark so might need to bulk up some to tether his foot to the line and beat the jam). There is a lot of wait-and-see with this team but there is no question they need to do something outside of signing Matthew Slater to a one-year special team deal for the 16th year in a row.
New England Patriots Tight Ends
The Patriots have two tight ends under contract and one signed to reserve/future contracts.
Hunter Henry - Age 28
Contract: Hunter Henry is signed for this year then he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2024. He could be released for $5 mil in dead cap with $10.5 mil in savings.
Outlook: Hunter Henry continues to be the best tight end in football to not quite do anything in fantasy. Even in 2021, when he tied for the league lead in touchdowns with nine, he wasn’t quite consistent enough to start. He doesn’t have high end speed (his best comparable player is Zach Ertz) so he really needs those targets and touchdowns to deliver.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - From the day they were both signed, we preferred Hunter Henry to Jonnu Smith. And a huge part of that is Henry’s ability in man-to-man coverage where he still remains one of the better tight ends in the league. In goal line situations, most defenses go “zero” coverage to stack the line which means locking everyone down in one vs. ones. Beating your guy in that situation is crucial to red zone success and Hunter Henry just so happens to be pretty good at it. The last time Bill O’Brien was calling plays for this team, Rob Gronkowski caught 17 touchdown passes. Now, Hunter Henry isn’t Gronk and Mac Jones isn’t Tom Brady. That’s obvious. But I bet Bill O'Brien still remembers a few of those plays. So I’m willing to buy at his super cheap market value. He’s at least a guy you can throw in for bye weeks and feel alright about it.
Jonnu Smith - Age 27
Contract: Jonnu Smith is under contract through 2024. He can be released in 2023 with $6.4 million in dead cap, $12 million in savings.
Outlook: Jonnu Smith has been quite the disappointment for the New England Patriots and fantasy gamers alike. Not only has he struggled with injuries but he also seems to struggle with the playcalling a time, committing mental mistakes on a routine basis.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Twitter was enamored with his athleticism but you can’t really blame yourself because Bill Belichick was too. Jonnu Smith is still incredibly dangerous in space with the ball in his hands (especially vs soft zones) but it’s been a struggle to create that environment for him. He’s a threat to break a big play at any time but that type of inconsistency is tough to stomach in typical leagues. He’s worth hanging onto in best ball leagues or even standard but he likely needs a fresh start somewhere to become relevant. Of all positions, tight ends can have late breakouts so I wouldn’t rule it out but you might not have the space or time to wait.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
Barring the surprise release of Jonnu Smith (which we don’t anticipate) the Patriots are pretty set at the top of their depth chart. They will likely have to fill the roster out somehow but that should primarily be just depth pieces that contribute on special teams (Scotty Washington didn’t look bad and they have him on a futures deal). Or, knowing Bill Belichick and how unpredictable he is in the draft, watch him take a top prospect like Michael Mayer or Dalton Kincaid and bury him on the depth chart. That sounds like something Bill Belichick would do.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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