Shark Bites

Patriots QB Tom Brady will not be in attendance as the team kicks off OTAs on Monday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. These are voluntary workouts, but Brady has showed up for them in years past. He's reportedly aiming to spending more time with his family this offseason and is presumably preparing for the 2018 campaign with trainer Alex Guerrero. This story figures to be overblown only because it's Brady. He's already committed to playing this year, and skipping May OTAs won't impact his performance.

The Patriots waited until Round 7 to take a QB, then chose LSU's Danny Etling with the 1st pick of the round. Many expected New England to take a potential successor to Tom Brady in this draft. We'll see what Etling becomes, but chances stand against it being the next Patriots starter.

The Patriots selected Georgia RB Sony Michel with the 31st overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. It’s the first 1st-round RB for New England since Laurence Maroney in 2006. That didn’t work out so well, but Michel has the potential to fare much better. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry across his 4-year college career and flashed pass-catching ability with seasons of 26 and 22 grabs. Michel is electric in the open field with surprising power. The biggest concern is a lengthy injury history that includes a torn ACL and a pair of ankle injuries. This is a exciting landing spot for Michel. New England’s backfield is crowded on paper, but Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee are all role players. Consider Michel the odds-on favorite to lead the 2018 backfield in touches.

The Patriots have agreed to a 1-year deal with WR Jordan Matthews, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Matthews endured a terrible 2017 that included just 25 receptions and ended early for knee and ankle surgeries. The Eagles traded him to Buffalo in August, but Matthews immediately suffered a sternum fracture -- losing crucial preparation time -- and also lost mid-season time to a thumb fracture that required surgery. New England can be a charmed situation for offensive skill players, but the Patriots stand crowded at WR right now. The corps will take some sorting before fantasy football owners can know who to trust. Matthews is an OK shot to take near the end of best-ball drafts but a big risk earlier than that. Matthews has been much better in the slot than outside as an NFL wideout and thus looks more like a candidate to take over for Danny Amendola rather than direct competition for Kenny Britt and Malcolm Mitchell.

TE Troy Niklas has inked a 1-year deal with the Patriots. A 2nd-round pick of the Cardinals back in 2014, Niklas has totaled just 19 receptions across 4 NFL campaigns, missing time with 4 separate ankle sprains and a wrist injury. He's still just 25, though, and goes 6'6, 270 pounds with a 70th percentile SPARQ score. Niklas will push Dwayne Allen for #2 TE duties in New England.

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reports that Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is expected to continue his career in 2018. Sources close to the veteran TE reportedly say he has yet to make a formal decision but that Gronk is more likely to continue playing than retire. Fantasy football owners should operate under that assumption for now. It’s a good time, however, to at least look into the seller’s market on Gronkowski in dynasty leagues. Gronk carries solid value in 2018 best-ball drafting so far.

The Patriots on Sunday traded a 5th-round pick to the Raiders for WR Cordarrelle Patterson and a 6th-rounder. This looks like a special-teams move. New England already retained WR Kenny Britt as part of a crowded WR corps, and Patterson has achieved little as a wideout with the Vikings and Raiders. Don't expect him to become a fantasy factor in 2018.

The Patriots have signed RB Jeremy Hill. It's 1 of the few landing spots that could resuscitate his fantasy value. New England has ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, in rushing TDs over the past 2 seasons and just lost RB Dion Lewis in free agency. Hill totaled 27 scores over his first 3 seasons before last year's goose egg. Of course, he's averaged a pathetic 3.6 yards per carry across the past 3 years after going for 5.1 as a rookie. Hill won't be guaranteed anything in a Patriots backfield that also includes Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and James White.

The Patriots on Wednesday agreed to a 3-year deal to keep RB Rex Burkhead on the roster, NFL Network reports. Burkhead finished top-20 in points per game among RBs in PPR scoring last season. Dion Lewis has left town, and Mike Gillislee looks like less of a factor than anyone expected heading into 2017. We'll see if New England adds any other significant backfield pieces, but Burkhead looks like a solid RB2 in fantasy football drafts at the moment.

The Patriots have exercised their 2018 option on WR Kenny Britt's contract. He's set to earn $1.5 million this year -- but none of that is guaranteed. It basically lets New England see what Britt can offer this offseason at no risk. He was a colossal flop in Cleveland last year but is also just a couple of seasons removed from a 1,000-yard campaign with the Rams.

The Patriots expect WR Julian Edelman to be ready in time for training camp this summer, according to the Boston Herald. Edelman tore his right ACL in August, timing that seemed unlikely to threaten his 2018 readiness all along. We'll certainly keep tabs on him as the coming season approaches. Edelman's a potentially strong value in early best-ball fantasy football drafts.

Josh McDaniels will not accept the Colts' HC job and instead stay on as the Patriots' OC, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The decision obviously blindsided the Colts, who announced the hiring of McDaniels earlier today and had a press conference scheduled for tomorrow. Per Schefter, the Pats "sweetened" McDaniels' contract -- but McDaniels also had reservations about moving his family from New England. The decision is sure to fuel speculation that HC Bill Belichick is about to step down, but Schefter is adamant that that's not the case. McDaniels' return as OC is good news for QB Tom Brady and the rest of the Pats offense. We'll see who the Colts hire as Plan B.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has cleared the concussion protocol. He'll play in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Eagles, who finished the regular season 14th in fantasy points allowed to TEs and 17th in Football Outsiders' TE coverage rankings. Gronk has posted lines of 2-26 and 6-68-1 in 2 Super Bowls.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (concussion) put in a limited practice on Wednesday. It means that he's made progress through the protocol but still has at least 1 more stage to clear. We'll continue to track his progress leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski returned to practice on Saturday. While he remains in the concussion protocol, this development puts the 28-year-old on track to play in the Super Bowl.

Patriots QB Tom Brady (right hand) put in a limited workout Thursday, when New England had it's 1st practice ahead of the Super Bowl. The QB also had his stitches out this week and seemed to have no trouble getting through the conference-championship win over the Jaguars. There should be no reason for injury concern here.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski missed the team's 1st real practice Thursday ahead of the Super Bowl. New England also listed him as "DNP" for Wednesday, but the team didn't actually practice. It's not surprising that Gronk has yet to get back onto the field after leaving Sunday's win over the Jaguars with a concussion -- given that there's still more than a week until game time. We'll certainly keep tabs on his progress through the protocol.

The Patriots are "optimistic" that TE Rob Gronkowski will be cleared from his concussion for the Super Bowl, according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe. (Frankly, it doesn't matter how the team feels about Gronk's chances considering he needs to pass through the league's protocol, but we're short on things to write about this time of the year.) He'll have 2 full weeks to gain clearance from the 1st known concussion of his career.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has been ruled out for the remainder of the game against the Jaguars. He suffered a concussion in the 2nd quarter on a hit by Jacksonville S Barry Church.

Patriots RB Rex Burkhead (knee) is active for today's game against the Jaguars. He still has yet to put in a full practice since returning from his knee sprain, but New England clearly has a role in mind for him in the AFC Championship game. RB Mike Gillislee (knee) is inactive after entering the day questionable. Having Burkhead back in the lineup threatens the goal-line role for RB Dion Lewis, but Lewis still figures to easily lead the backfield in touches.

 
 
 

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