Cam Newton got off to a pretty good start in his first season with the Patriots, but the lack of weapons around him proved too much to overcome. The Patriots addressed that problem in free agency -- along with a lot more as they tried an on-the-fly rebuild -- but it's still not clear if this offense is going to be any better than average, whether Newton or Mac Jones starts.
Record: 7 - 9 (17)
PPG: 20.4 (27)
YPG: 327.3 (27)
Pass YPG: 180.6 (30)
Rush YPG: 146.6 (4)
PAPG: 27.5 (31)
RAPG: 31.4 (3)
2020 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 420.7
That's how many points the Patriots running backs scored last season. You might be shocked to know that was good for 10th among all teams. The reason you would be shocked, of course, is that no RB had more than 142 touches for the Patriots, and four had at least 84. If a hierarchy emerges earlier in 2021, this could actually be a sneaky valuable role, especially if Newton remains the quarterback, given how much room the threat of his running opened up last season. Harris could be a very nice value in the eighth/ninth-round range, James White remains a solid PPR option you can start in a pinch, and Sony Michel and Rhamondre Stevenson could be worth a late-round flier, especially in deeper leagues.
1. (15) Mac Jones, QB
2. (38) Christian Barmore, DT
3. (96) Ronnie Perkins, DE
4. (120) Rhamondre Stevenson, RB
5. (177) Cameron McGrone, LB
6. (188) Joshuah Bledsoe, S
6. (197) William Sherman, OT
7. (242) Tre Nixon, WR
67 carries, 47 RB targets, 79 WR targets, 208 TE targets
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Cam Newton||PA: 494, YD: 3560, TD: 23, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 108, YD: 544, TD: 9|
|RB||Damien Harris||CAR: 183, YD: 786, TD: 4; TAR: 15, REC: 10, YD: 78, TD: 0|
|RB||Sony Michel||CAR: 164, YD: 701, TD: 4; TAR: 10, REC: 6, YD: 52, TD: 0|
|RB||James White||CAR: 39, YD: 163, TD: 2; TAR: 77, REC: 54, YD: 467, TD: 2|
|WR||Jakobi Meyers||TAR: 74, REC: 48, YD: 603, TD: 4|
|WR||Nelson Agholor||TAR: 69, REC: 41, YD: 519, TD: 3|
|WR||Kendrick Bourne||TAR: 47, REC: 29, YD: 364, TD: 2|
|TE||Hunter Henry||TAR: 94, REC: 62, YD: 732, TD: 6|
|TE||Jonnu Smith||TAR: 89, REC: 61, YD: 714, TD: 5|
How will they use their tight ends?
It was easy to get excited when the Patriots signed Jonnu Smith, but they almost immediately buried that excitement with the subsequent addition of Hunter Henry. Smith and Henry both have the potential to be must-start tight ends in the right situation, and New England could have been that, given the lack of receiving talent. With both in house now, it might be tough for either to stand out, though it wouldn't be unprecedented in this offense.
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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
Very quietly, Michel actually played quite well in 2020, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and averaging 11.1 PPR points per game in his six starts. Harris was quite good in his own right -- 5.0 YPC -- but actually averaged just 9.1 Fantasy points in his starts. We didn't get to see much of them together, but Harris did have more touches in their two overlapping games, and he was the first running back to get work at minicamp practices, so it's safe to assume he's in line to start. And, with rookie Rhamondre Stevenson reportedly impressing, Michel may not have much margin for error. But he showed more than I think most expected in 2020, and if Harris -- who has played just 12 of 32 possible games in his two NFL seasons and never took on a huge role in college either -- gets hurt, Michel could step in and be useful yet again.
Newton may not even have the job when the season opens -- by all accounts, the Patriots are going to have a legitimate competition between Newton and Jones -- but as things stand, he's the leading candidate. And there's actually quite a lot to like about Newton. Obviously, it all starts with his running, as Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games last season. He'll need to be better as a passer, but the additions of Agholor and Bourne to the WR group and Henry and Smith at TE should make life easier in that regard. I think this offense has a higher ceiling with Newton in 2021, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ended up a top-12 QB.
There's really no good choice for a bust on the Patriots, because there's no player on their roster being drafted inside of the top 100 right now in NFC drafts, which is kind of stunning. I know they were bad last season, but someone on this team is going to be a huge value at their current price. I just don't think it's going to be Smith. Smith is a good player, one of the best playmakers at the tight end position with the ball in his hands, but I'm expecting him to be behind Hunter Henry in the receiving hierarchy here, because I think Henry is a bit more of a complete receiver, especially down the field and stretching the seams. Complicating that is the fact that Smith got the bigger contract, though the AAV for both is actually the same, it's just that Smith got an extra year and slightly more guaranteed money. I think they're both going to be the top targets on the team, but I expect Henry's targets to be more valuable, so if I want to take one of the two, I'll wait on Henry.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.