2019 Fantasy Football Team Previews: What's life after Gronk like for the Patriots?

There's no replacing Rob Gronkowski, and the Patriots likely won't try to. Famous for their willingness to fit scheme to personnel rather than the inverse, the Patriot offense should look a little different in 2019 without their Hall of Fame TE. Rookie N'Keal Harry could fill some of the role, particularly as a red zone target, while we'll likely see the running backs continue to be a major part of the passing game in the short area of the field.  

2018 Review

Record: 11 - 5 (6th in NFL)
PPG: 27.3 (4)
YPG: 393.4 (5)
Pass YPG: 266.1 (8)
Rush YPG: 127.3 (5)
PAPG: 35.9 (11)
RAPG: 29.9 (3)

2018 Fantasy finishes

QB: Tom Brady - QB11
RB: James White - RB6; Sony Michel - RB34; Rex Burkhead - RB79
WR: Julian Edelman - WR22; Josh Gordon - WR47**; Chris Hogan* - WR70; Cordarrelle Patterson* - WR80; Phillip Dorsett - WR88
TE: Rob Gronkowski* - TE11
*No longer with team
**Played one game with CLE

Number to know: 1.1

Tom Brady averaged 1.1 more yards per attempt in games Rob Gronkowski played than didn't, since Gronk entered the league in 2010. Brady's 8.0 yards per attempt in games Gronk played would be the best mark since the merger among the 189 passers with at least 1,000 attempts; the 6.9 he averaged in games Gronk missed (a little more than one-fifth of all potential games since 2010) would sit right around 100th on that list, behind his backup Brian Hoyer's career mark. 

2019 Offseason

"Let's just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said 'Rob, I need you.' I wouldn't be shocked if he came back to play a few games." - Drew Rosenhaus, Rob Gronkowski's agent

Head Coach: Bill Belichick (20th year)
Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels (8th year)  

Draft Picks 

1. (32) N'Keal Harry, WR
2. (45) Joejuan Williams, CB
3. (77) Chase Winovich, DE
3. (87) Damien Harris, RB
3. (101) Yodny Cajuste, T
4. (118) Hjalte Froholdt, G
4. (133) Jarrett Stidham, QB
5. (159) Byron Cowart, DT
5. (163) Jake Bailey, P
7. (252) Ken Webster, CB

Additions

RB Brandon Bolden, WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Maurice Harris, TE Matt LaCosse, TE Benjamin Watson, DL Michael Bennett, DL Mike Pennel, LB Jamie Collins

Key Departures

WR Chris Hogan, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Jacob Hollister, TE Dwayne Allen, OL Trent Brown, OL LaAdrian Waddle, DL Trey Flowers, DL Adrian Clayborn, DL Malcom Brown, DB Eric Rowe

Rankings and Projections

Player
Tom BradyQB19QB17QB19
James WhiteRB16RB21RB24
Sony MichelRB27RB25RB30
Damien HarrisRB58RB47N/A
Rex BurkheadN/AN/ARB59
Julian EdelmanWR12WR15WR13
N'Keal HarryWR55WR57WR45
Stephen GostkowskiK3K1K3
Patriots DSTDST8DST4DST14
 
Heath Cummings' projected offensive stats
QBTom Brady4153 YD, 29 TD, 10 INT
RBSony Michel244 ATT, 1,100 YD, 8 TD
RBJames White72 ATT, 309 YD, 2 TD; 71 REC, 609 YD, 4 TD
WRJulian Edelman133 TAR, 90 REC, 1,021 YD, 6 TD
WRN'Keal Harry89 TAR, 58 REC, 778 YD, 6 TD
WRDemaryius Thomas55 TAR, 34 REC, 402 YD 4 TD
TEBenjamin Watson33 TAR, 22 REC, 200 YD, 2 TD

Biggest Question

Can James White reproduce his amazing 2018?  

"One reason why White had 87 catches on 123 targets was because the Patriots didn't have another running back capable of serving in that role. That really hasn't changed, so expect the catches to keep coming. The bigger issue is if he'll have the chance at replicating his 425 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. With Damien Harris in the fold, his rush attempts could slide to under 50 on the year." - Dave Richard

One sleeper, one breakout, and one bust

Sleeper: N'Keal Harry

The only first-round wide receiver in the 2019 draft, Harry found himself atop many Dynasty rookie drafts. His Average Draft Position in Redraft reflects more caution, perhaps owing to the Patriots' spotty drafting history at the position. That's likely unfair to Harry, the highest-drafted of any wide receiver in the Bill Belichick era, and someone with an elite prospect profile as an early declare who posted strong underclassman numbers and tested as a 98th percentile SPARQ-x athlete, per PlayerProfiler. At 6-2, 228, Harry profiles as a potential red zone threat to help replace Gronkowski. The Patriots brought in a lot of bodies at wide receiver, and Josh Gordon's status looms, but there's opportunity for an immediate impact.

Breakout: Julian Edelman

The only question with Edelman is health. He's played 16 games just twice in his career, but the last time he did, in 2016, he finished WR14 in PPR leagues despite just three touchdowns. Over the last five seasons, Edelman averaged a whopping 11.4 targets per game when Gronkowski was inactive, 2.2 more than when Gronk played. His ADP reflects the injury concern, but he's a great bet to beat it if he gets through the season. Surely at 33 years old he's learned he needs to avoid hits instead of seeking them out, right?

Bust: Sony Michel

It's a bit of a surprise early drafters haven't reacted more to the Patriots investing a third-round pick in Damien Harris, an Alabama product with a seemingly overlapping skill set to how Michel was used in his rookie season. Michel had a solid first year on the ground but caught just seven passes, and the presence of James White and a presumably healthier Rex Burkhead seem to ensure his value will remain tied to his rushing workload and goal line touches. Given the Patriots' history with committee backfields, word from camp Harris will compete for at least goal line work, and an offseason knee scope for Michel, there are plenty of reasons to question whether Michel will see enough work to justify his Average Draft Position. 

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