We look ahead to the 2019 Patriots, Fantasy style.
Following Super Bowl LIII, we take an advance Fantasy-style look at the Patriots and Rams for 2019 purposes, in various types of Fantasy formats. First, we will examine the Patriots for the upcoming offseason, with the next installment focusing on the Rams.
Tom Brady is going to return, but in 2019 seasonal drafts, he will no longer be picked as a top Fantasy starter, it seems. He finished as QB14 over a regular 16-week Fantasy season in 2018. In the second half of the Fantasy season, he had just two games with more than two TD passes. He had three 300-yard games during that span. Right now, it’s hard to see him as a keeper in leagues where your selections are limited or you get penalized a high round for holding him. In a dynasty league, you should want to at least have another respectable QB so you can stream him and Brady.
The Patriots have Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson as free agents and Josh Gordon’s status is obviously very unclear. New England is in the bottom 10 of available salary cap space as the offseason begins. It’s obvious that Brady can use some more difference-making playmakers to help him in the passing game and possibly boost his outlook a bit. An impact guy to pair with Julian Edelman should be an objective. The top free agent WR available will be Golden Tate, but New England already has the best slinky elusive type slot WR in the game in Julian Edelman. Adam Humphries, Donte Moncrief and Tyrell Williams could all fit the bill for less money than Tate and might see their Fantasy outlooks rise in New England as a No. 2 WR. Keep a close watch on free agency, as whoever the Pats sign to pair with Edelman will likely have increased Fantasy appeal in any format. New England got it done with Edelman and a bunch of easily replaceable question marks in 2018.
Then there will be the question if Gronkowski comes back, and if he does, he will also have lesser seasonal and keeper value than ever before. If he does return, it will be impossible to rank him ahead of the “Big Three” at TE and he will likely be behind O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, Jared Cook and Eric Ebron at minimum, which means he will be ranked as a bottom Top 10 guy after he was TE11 in 16-week formats in 2018. If he retires, Jared Cook and Tyler Eifert will be the top TEs available in free agency. Eifert might seem to be more affordable but he is obviously more injury-prone and at age 32, would Cook want to go more to a team like New England to get a shot at a championship than cash in bigger somewhere else? Guys make additional money for winning playoff games. The pass-catching crew may be undergoing something of a makeover this offseason, and who knows what the Pats might come up with in the draft, too?
The RB field seems set for 2019, especially after Sony Michel improved as the season progressed and reached his peak of play in the postseason. Michel was RB25 overall from Weeks 1 through 16 in PPR formats, and now his ceiling for next season seems even higher. He played his best when the lights were the brightest, which increases his appeal going forward. Those who shine under the biggest spotlight are often showing they are ready to be counted on heavily on the path leading up to the postseason in the future.
Michel, who appears to be on his way to being New England’s best featured ball carrier since Corey Dillon, did miss three games in his rookie campaign, though. Injuries have been an issue back to his Georgia days, and you can bet the Patriots will be careful not to overwork him as they move forward. His nee has been a chronic issue. Michel had 20 carries three times in 2018 during the regular season, and he caught only seven passes. Michel is obviously not a dual purpose threat and his role is clear. That would make him more of a high-end RB2 than a back-end RB1. He will definitely be picked after Nick Chubb and Joe Mixon, who are back-end RB1 types, and many Fantasy owners will take more versatile types such as Kerryon Johnson, Damien Williams and David Johnson ahead of him. So Michel could be the 14th to 15th RB off the board in many 2019 drafts. He does make for a good second overall keeper or with a second rounder or later in leagues where you must surrender a draft pick for retaining him.
James White was RB11 through Week 16, and his presence will ensure that Michel does not get overburdened. What the Patriots do in free agency will certainly affect his outlook for 2018. Bringing in a notable WR and the status of Gronkowski will dictate how heavy his role in the passing game will be again. At the very least, I would expect to get enough out of him that he will be a very viable flex play, but I have to envision the Patriots having a better pass-catching crew than they did in 2018. So I would not draft White or make keeper considerations on him based purely on his ’18 output, which was up and down in the second half of the season. I prefer him more as a PPR Best Ball player.
Rex Burkhead will return in 2019 and should be drafted as the handcuff to Michel. If the second-year RB goes down at any time, I would expect Burkhead to operate as more of a frequent ball carrier than White. The Pats can get out of his contract with a low cap hit if they so choose.