Ranking the Fantasy Football assets for the New England Patriots

Running back usage from Bill Belichick has been a source of consternation for Fantasy owners for a decade now. We reached a point five years ago where there was nothing he could do at the position that would surprise us. 

Apparently Belichick caught wind of this. His response?

"Hold my beer."

The Patriots went to new lengths this offseason and head into 2017 with more running backs than they have carries for, and more receivers than they have targets for. Oh yeah, and the best tight end in football. Seems like a perfect place to start our new series ranking the Fantasy assets for all 32 teams. 

What could go wrong?

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

New England Patriots
Player Expected FP Position Rank Expected PPR FP Position Rank
160.5 #1 231.5 #1
399.8 #1 399.8 #1
126 #33 186 #42
176.5 #14 181.5 #20
113.8 #45 191.8 #33
91.2 #41 141.2 #33
90.8 #42 120.8 #39

Breaking down the touches

Fantasy production starts with targets and touches, there's no way around it. Projecting those can be difficult, especially in an environment like the one that exists in New England. While I don't presume to have an inside track to Bill Belichick's 2017 game plan, I also don't think it's very productive to throw our hands in the air and proclaim the puzzle unsolvable. Let's start with the past three seasons.

Since 2014 the Patriots have averaged 596 pass attempts and 434 rush attempts per year. A little over 50 percent of those pass attempts have gone to receivers, with about a quarter going to running backs and tight ends, respectively. Last year pass attempts were down, with a majority of the drop off coming from the tight end targets. You could call that a trend, but I'd be more likely to credit a four game suspension for Brady and Gronkowski missing half of the year injured. 

I'm setting an expectation of 590 pass attempts and 454 rush attempts for 2017. Here's how I see them being distributed:

Patriots Touches
Mike Gillislee 57% 261 1% 7 5 9
James White 11% 50 12% 70 50 5
Dion Lewis 21% 95 7% 42 30 4
Brandin Cooks 2% 8 15% 90 60 7
Julian Edelman 2% 8 20% 120 78 5
Malcolm Mitchell 0% 0 8% 45 30 3
Rob Gronkowski 0% 0 19% 113 71 9

A few quick notes before we wrap up:

  • Why Mike Gillislee? Seems like he's the most well-equipped to take on the LeGarrette Blount role. I'm giving him a reduced version of Blount's workload, but yes, it could be someone else.
  • Yes, the targets are relatively low for Edelman and Cooks. If everyone stays healthy I don't see either dominating targets which means they both take a step back.
  • Where is Rex Burkhead? Chris Hogan? Dwayne Allen? Yeah, about that ...

The Leftovers

If you added up the numbers, you know there are about 100 targets and 40 carries left out. That sounds like a lot until you realize I didn't mention Burkhead, Hogan, Allen or Danny Amendola. Those players will all probably have some impact on the Patriots, but without an injury I don't expect them to have any type of Fantasy impact. Since I find it hard to have an expectation of an injury I find it hard to assign a definitive value to any of these guys. 

Burkhead is, of course, the most likely to come out of nowhere because he plays running back and nothing is ever set there in New England. My initial expectation is still that he's the fourth most valuable Patriots back and has no Fantasy value. Allen would be second in line among the leftovers, needing another Gronkowski injury to become a borderline top-12 option. 

The receivers are far less exciting. Sure, Hogan could beat out Malcolm Mitchell for targets, but I'm not exactly expecting Mitchell to light the world on fire. I wouldn't have even included Mitchell above if he wasn't likely to be drafted. In a standard 12-team CBS Sports league, that's probably a mistake.

If after looking at these expectations you come to the conclusion that all of the Patriots' receivers are going to be overdrafted, I wouldn't disagree with you.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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