Julian Edelman suffered a knee injury on Friday night, in Week 3 of the preseason, and early speculation is he tore his ACL. This is the absolute worst thing about preseason football. To be clear, Edelman's injury has not yet been confirmed by an MRI, but we'll still take a look at what you should expect from the Patriots if Edelman is indeed lost for 2017.

The first thing I did was remove Brandin Cooks from my busts column. I had concerns about Cooks' volume with both Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman established as high-volume options in the offense. Now Cooks looks like a low-end No. 1 wide receiver who you should draft in the second round. But Edelman was expected to receive north of 100 targets; Cooks can't absorb all of those.

I'd expect a small uptick in volume for Rob Gronkowski and the running backs but as of now the biggest bump goes to Chris Hogan. Hogan is in his second year in the offense and caught two touchdown passes from Brady on Friday night. Here are the updated expectations for the Patriots without Julian Edelman

*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
PlayerExpected FPPosition RankExpected PPR FPPosition Rank
166.4 #1 243.4 #1
162.4 #11 248.4 #13
387.8 #1 387.8 #1
134.8 #24 139.8 #39
92.9 #44 146.9 #33
88.1 #46 111.1 #47
80.8 #53 110.8 #48
114 #48 174 #51

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' worth of data.

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, as well as Gronkowski's injury costing him eight games. 

I'm setting an expectation of 596 pass attempts and 454 rush attempts for 2017. Here's how I see them being distributed:

Patriots Touches
Mike Gillislee 45% 195 1% 7 5 8
James White 11% 43 13% 77 54 5
Rex Burkhead 25% 109 6% 36 23 4
Dion Lewis 20% 86 7% 42 30 4
Brandin Cooks 2% 8 22% 130 86 8
Chris Hogan 0% 0 15% 90 60 4
Malcolm Mitchell 0% 0 9% 55 36 3
Rob Gronkowski 0% 0 20% 123 77 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. At the same time, I've cut my expectation of his share of the carries over camp. Rex Burkhead has looked like a player who will very much be involved. And, of course, with Burkhead sitting out and Gillislee getting his first action of the preseason, here's how the playing time shook out: 

Thanks, Bill.

  • I've not given Danny Amendola the Edelman role, and that may surprise some people. I just feel he's clearly behind Hogan, Mitchell and the running backs in terms of what he brings to this offense. But it wouldn't be surprising if Amendola had a couple of high-target games

The Leftovers

Amendola and Dwayne Allen are the two players not mentioned above who have the biggest chance to make an impact. I question Amendola's upside and his ability to stay healthy, while Allen has been quote verbal about how much trouble he's had learning this offense. There will be weeks when Allen scores,I'm sure, but they're impossible to predict as long as Gronkowski is healthy.