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New England Patriots 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

It's going to be a whole new offense for the Patriots in 2021. Here's a breakdown of the roster for fantasy this season.

It has been a long time since the Super Bowl, and remembering exactly how things left off last year can be a challenge. So, I’ll be writing up a fantasy preview for each NFL team to give us a quick refresher on what happened last year, and what changes took place in the offseason. All fantasy stats will be in ESPN scoring format unless otherwise noted. 

If I missed any change or left out any big notes, throw them down in the comments for me!

What Did They Do Last Year

The Patriots coming back to earth and Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the 2020 season feel a little more disastrous than it truly was. The Pats went 7-9, their first losing campaign since Bill Belichick’s inaugural season where the Pats went 5-11. 

Looking back on Warren Sharp’s amazing strength of schedule work, New England played the 19th easiest schedule (so, a little harder than average for you math fans) based on opponent win total. The Patriots had the most players opt out of the season (eight total), brought in Cam Newton, who was coming off of a variety of potentially serious injuries, and went in to the season, intentionally, with Julian Edelman as their top pass catcher. Now, to be clear, Edelman had a great career, but relying on him at his age to be your No. 1 is… noteworthy. 

The biggest loss, of course, was letting Brady go. For the past five or so years, Brady had covered the Patriots complete lack of offensive weapons and dearth of creativity from a play calling standpoint. While the Patriots did nothing to address the play calling problem, they’ve at least attempted to address the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball. 

Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office have had a busy offseason, though, apparently now fully aware that most offenses will benefit from having several competent contributors. We’ll hit on those additions below. 

Quarterback
OVR
Rank
PlayerGCOMPATTYDSTDINTATTYDSTDFFPFFP/G
17Cam Newton152423682,65781013759212247.516.5
55Jarrett Stidham522442562377012.92.6
71Brian Hoyer115241300118022

Josh McDaniels has made a career out of looking clever with Tom Brady as his quarterback. We’ve seen McDaniels strike out on his own with a head coaching stint in Denver, and then as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. His efforts, sans Brady, have been unimpressive to say the least. 

Enter, Cam Newton. 

It is difficult to tease out if the Patriots lackluster attack was the result of Cam having finally fallen off the cliff, relying on Jakobi Meyers as your top target, or reliance on a play caller who traded up to draft Tim Tebow

Watching the tape from last year, I’d wager Cam has enough left in the tank to beat out first-round pick Mac Jones. I’d double up on that bet and say that Cam, along with the impressive free agent class will see New England back in the playoff tournament in 2021. Cam is currently ranked our QB19 for 2021 ahead of guys like Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, and Tua Tagovailoa.

Wide Receivers
PPR
Rank
STD RankPlayerGTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
5866Jakobi Meyers128159729071.86130.810.9
6772Damiere Byrd147647604167.94.9114.98.21
98106N'Keal Harry135833309240.93.173.95.68
114112Julian Edelman63921315033.75.654.79.12
159152Gunner Olszewski65562114.52.419.53.25
189182Isaiah Zuber42229051.371.75
205202Donte Moncrief2211501.912.91.45

Last season was a complete gong show for the receivers in New England. I feel like I’m being mercifully brief saying we learned Jakobi Meyers should be a nice contributor for years to come and that N’Keal Harry is a long way away from being the first-round stud many hoped he’d be after the 2019 draft. 

The Patriots signed Average Depth of Target (aDOT) leader Nelson Agholor to a 2-year, $26 million dollar deal, and Kendrick Bourne to a 3-year, ‘up to’ $15 million dollar deal. Neither of these receivers are absolute world-beaters, but both are big improvements over what New England trotted out in 2020. 

Rumors of Julio Jones being traded to New England are all the rage at the moment and that would truly be a game changer. 

Running Backs
PPR RankSTD RankPlayerGATTYDSTDTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
5344Damien Harris1013769127552086.38.691.39.13
4448Rex Burkhead106727433325192382.68.3107.610.76
6156Sony Michel879449197114168.38.575.39.41
4257James White143512126249375167.64.8116.68.33
127118J.J. Taylor5231100214011.42.312.42.48
112119Jakob Johnson7000983519.51.417.52.5

Perhaps the best unit for the 2020 Patriots offense was the running back room. While there is no absolute, dominant bell-cow, there is plenty of talent to form a dominant committee. The loss of Joe Thuney could be a big one, but Pro Football Focus’s fourth-ranked offensive line from 2020 should still be pretty good in 2021. 

Damien Harris is a bit of a forgotten man in fantasy. While he’s slated to the workhorse going in to the 2021 season, his ADP is holding pretty steady at the end of the 6th round (per FantasyFootballCalculator). This is an absolute steal. He’s currently ranked our RB33 in .5PPR.

Tight End
PPR
Rank
STD RankPlayerGTGTRECYDSTDSTD PTSSTD PTS/GPPR PTSPPR PTS/G
6263Ryan Izzo122013199017.91.530.92.58
8178Devin Asiasi4723919.92.511.92.98
100100Dalton Keene3531601.60.54.61.53

New England’s free agency bonanza really gets sizzling when we turn our attention to the tight end room. The Patriots opened free agency signing Jonu Smith, and then they doubled-down by inking Hunter Henry a day later.

Related: 2021 Fantasy Football Regression Candidates Based on Touchdown Dependency

Smith and Henry both are the type of athletic marvels that present impossible situations for defensive coordinators. Both men are too good of blockers for you to trot out big defensive backs and still hold up against the run. Both are too good of receivers to be contained by little linebackers. In a league getting smaller and faster, the Pats just told everyone their base formation will be a 2-tight end front.

This is going to be interesting. Currently, Smith ranks our TE12 for 2021 and Henry ranked our TE17.

2021 Draft

The Patriots only made 8 selections in the 2021 draft, but the big-time pick was selecting Mac Jones at pick No. 15 overall. Jones showed plenty of promise piloting perennial NCAA champion favorite Alabama to yet another title. And while he lacks the stellar athleticism some of his fellow first-round QBs possess, he seems to read the field well and get the ball out on time. 

After spending their next couple of picks on defense (trading up in the second to take defensive tackle from Alabama Christian Barmore), the Pats picked a big bodied back from Oklahoma, Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson is worth keeping an eye as a potential waiver wire addition in season and is certainly worth a late second in dynasty drafts.

The Schedule

The Pats had a tougher than average schedule in 2020, and Warren Sharp projects them to have about the same strength of opponents in 2021. Despite finishing third in their division, there don’t seem to be too many cupcakes outside of their two matchups with the New York Jets. The days of the Patriots dominating a soft division are over with the Miami Dolphins on the come and the Buffalo Bills establishing themselves as perennial contenders. 

What Does It All Mean?!?! (AKA – Bold predictions)

I am not a Patriots fan and have no vested interest in making excuses for them, no reason to think everything is sunny in New England despite the tone of this piece so far. Having said that, I believe the Patriots are set up to improve in ‘real’ football terms, and they are primed to take a gigantic leap forward in fantasy. 

Cam Newton is free (QB25, mid-14th round ADP). Buy Cam Newton. 

Nelson Agholor is free (WR56, mid-12th round ADP in .5PPR). Buy Nelson Agholor. 

Damien Harris is pretty dang cheap, as discussed, at his end of the sixth ADP. Buy Damien Harris.

Jonu Smith will cost you a seventh-round pick, and that is a little tough to swallow. Hunter Henry, though, is the TE11 with a ninth-round ADP. Buy Hunter Henry. 

BUY THE PATRIOTS DIP!

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Thanks to FFToday.com for hosting such great stats info!

Thanks to TheHuddle.com for their great Coaching Change Tracker