Shark Bites

Patriots RB Mike Gillislee is dealing with a hamstring injury, according to insider Jeff Howe. He was also reportedly bothered by the hammy in OTAs. Gillislee is the favorite for early-down work in New England but can't afford to miss much time in a crowded backfield. Although there's big TD upside here, he's overpriced at his current 6th-round ADP.

Fantasy drafters are confident that Mike Gillislee will operate as the Patriots' early-down back this season. He's going in the early 6th round of recent MFL10 drafts. Rex Burkhead, meanwhile, is lasting into the 17th. While we're still betting on Gillislee producing more fantasy points, the situation isn't as clear as those price tags would suggest. In fact, Burkhead has been receiving goal-line reps in training camp -- as well as impressing as a pass-catcher. He might just be the most well-rounded back on New England's roster. Insider Phil Perry went as far as predicting that Burkhead will lead the team's RBs in snaps this season. He's well worth a look late in drafts.

Patriots WR Chris Hogan has been a prominent part of the 1st-team offense early in training camp. Per The Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Hogan leads the team with 16 catches from QB Tom Brady through 5 practices. With Brandin Cooks joining Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman atop New England's totem pole, Hogan won't lead the squad in catches this season. But he looks like the favorite for #3 WR duties in what figures to be 1 of the best offenses in the league. Hogan could present spot-start value this season -- and is definitely worth a look late in best-ball drafts.

Patriots DE/LB Rob Ninkovich retired this week. His evolving role didn't promise much IDP impact for 2017, as the veteran appeared to be moving away from DE reps. His departure, however, adds a little clarity for upside candidate DE Kony Ealy and takes 1 guy out of a still-jumbled LB mix.

Patriots HC Bill Belichick has been impressed by how quickly WR Brandin Cooks has picked up the playbook. “[He] pays attention to all of the little details, tries to get things exactly the way we’re coaching them, the way we want to do them,” Belichick said. “It’s very good.” Cooks has been a standout early in training camp, making plays from both the outside and the slot. Volume is a concern in a loaded Patriots offense, but Cooks will boast massive weekly fantasy upside.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (back) is a full-go for the start of training camp. "No limits that I'm aware of," HC Bill Belichick said. Gronk participated in spring workouts and has had a smooth recovery from December back surgery. He remains an elevated injury risk but is also still the clear top TE in fantasy football whenever he's on the field. Plus, he's cheaper than he's been in a while, going in the late 2nd round of 12-team PPR drafts.

The Patriots will open training camp with LB Dont'a Hightower on the PUP list. Hightower missed offseason workouts after dealing with knee and shoulder issues last season. The knee cost him 3 games and landed him on the injury report 8 times, but New England re-signed him in the offseason after the Jets and Steelers took seemingly serious looks at the vet. Durability has been a perennial issue for Hightower, who should continue to present more value to the Patriots than IDP owners when on the field. The team can activate Hightower from the camp PUP at any time.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (back) was on the field for Thursday's OTA session, hauling in a TD from Tom Brady. Gronk, coming off December surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, deemed himself "ready to roll" back in April. And the Pats letting him participate in OTAs means they're comfortable with his status. Durability remains a concern for Gronkowski, but he'll be healthy heading to training camp.

The Patriots and TE Rob Gronkowski have agreed on a restructured contract for the 2017 season. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronk will earn $6.75 million if he reaches 70% of the offensive snaps, 60 receptions, 800 receiving yards or 10 TDs this season.? He'll get $8.75 million if he plays 80% of the snaps, catches 70 balls, tallies 1,000 receiving yards or scores 12 TDs. And getting to 90% of the snaps, 80 catches, 1,200 receiving yards or All-Pro honors would net him $10.75 million. For reference, Gronkowski's career highs in each category are 91.2% of snaps, 90 catches, 1,327 yards and 17 TDs. He's been named All-Pro 4 times. Extra monetary motivation certainly doesn't hurt his 2017 fantasy outlook. Gronk is as cheap as he's been in a long time, with an ADP currently sitting in the late 2nd round.

The Bills declined to match the Patriots' 2-year, $6.4 million contract offer to restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee. So he's off to New England, while Buffalo receives a 5th-round pick as compensation. Gillislee joins an extremely crowded backfield that includes Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis. Gillislee and Burkhead figure to be battling mostly for early-down, ball-carrying duties. And, most importantly, the goal-line role. Patriots RBs have averaged 16.4 rushing scores over the past 5 seasons, with 18+ in 3 of those. In Buffalo, meanwhile, talented 2nd-year RB Jonathan Williams now has a big opportunity to step in as LeSean McCoy's backup.

On the same day they signed Bills RFA RB Mike Gillislee to an offer sheet, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots signed RB James White to a 3-year extension. The Super Bowl star would have been facing unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2017 season but is now under contract through 2020. With White, Dion Lewis and the additions of Rex Burkhead and Gillislee (unless the Bills match), New England's backfield is looking quite crowded. It's a high-value situation, but the committee could prove tough to predict week to week for fantasy football owners. All 4 RBs carry some late-round intrigue -- especially in early best-ball drafting -- though White's new deal might threaten Lewis the most. We'll be watching this situation develop into and through the summer.

The Patriots signed restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee to a 2-year offer sheet worth $6.4 million. The deal includes $4 million in year 1. Buffalo has 5 days to match the offer, although a shortage of cap space might lead them to pass. In New England, Gillislee would join a loaded backfield that includes Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead. If you're drafting in MFL10s or FFPC Draft Experts leagues right now, we'd recommend avoiding LeGarrette Blount while the Gillislee situation plays out.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski said Sunday that he'll be "ready to roll" for the start of the offseason program. That was a few hours before he did this at Wrestlemania -- an appearance we're sure was fully endorsed by the Pats. Gronk is 4 months removed from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. It's unclear how much the team will let him do in spring workouts, but he's certainly on track to be a full-go when fantasy owners need him.

The Patriots signed RB Rex Burkhead. He joins Dion Lewis and James White in the backfield. (RB LeGarrette Blount remains a free agent.) Burkhead was mostly a special-teamer in Cincinnati but flashed when given a bigger opportunity this past year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per catch. That included a 144-total-yard, 2-TD outing against the Ravens in Week 17. At 5'10, 210 pounds, Burkhead is the biggest of New England's top 3 backs (5 pounds heavier than White). He could be a sneaky option for early-down work, although stealing significant passing-down action from White and Lewis will be tough. As usual, we'll need to keep a close eye on the Patriots' backfield this summer.

The Patriots have acquired WR Brandin Cooks from the Saints, sending a 1st- and a 3rd-round pick and getting back a 4th-rounder. Cooks caught 162 passes over the past 2 seasons, topping 1,100 yards in each campaign and scoring 17 TDs over that span. He finished among the top 13 WRs across fantasy formats in each of those seasons. The Pats control his rights for the next 2 years, including a team option for 2018. Cooks lands in 1 of the few offenses that approximates the efficiency of New Orleans and figures to quickly challenge Julian Edelman for the team target lead. His fantasy outlook doesn't change drastically from what it's been with the Saints. Other WRs in New England will have more trouble finding regular opportunities. Back in New Orleans, Michael Thomas should grab a larger share of targets, while Willie Snead stands to gain if the team doesn't add anything more than Ted Ginn to the corps this offseason.

The Patriots have acquired TE Dwayne Allen from the Colts. No word yet on the compensation. Allen turned in a promising rookie season, tallying 521 yards and 3 scores on 45 grabs. But he's missed 23 games and totaled just 81 catches over the past 4 seasons. He was passed by Jack Doyle on the depth chart last year. Allen remains just 27, though, and landing in New England gives him a chance to revive his career. If nothing else, he's a strong blocker and red-zone presence. Allen has scored on 19 of 126 career catches -- a 15.1% TD rate. He'll make for an intriguing TE2 pick in 2017 fantasy football drafts. Allen's arrival means TE Martellus Bennett won't be back in New England. Jack Doyle, meanwhile, appears locked in as the Colts' lead TE.

Update: New England shipped a 4th-round pick to Indianapolis in exchange for Allen and a 6th-rounder.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski said Friday that he has "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1. He underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back. It was his 3rd back surgery -- the 1st coming in 2009, the 2nd in 2013. It's still unclear how much Gronk will be able to do this offseason. Despite the durability problems, he remains fantasy football's #1 TE. We're curious to see where he'll go in 2017 drafts.

Patriots RB Dion Lewis injured his hamstring late in the Super Bowl victory over the Falcons, he told reporters after the game. Lewis actually said he "tweaked" the hammy early on, which at least partially explains why he finished with just 7 touches. The injury shouldn't impact Lewis' offseason. He'll be back with New England in 2017, the final year of his current contract, but his role is murky after an injury-riddled and inconsistent 2016.

Patriots WRs Chris Hogan (thigh) and Malcolm Mitchell (knee) are active for tonight's AFC Championship against the Steelers. WR Michael Floyd is a healthy scratch, leaving Danny Amendola as the #4 WR.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Patriots WRs Chris Hogan (thigh) and Malcolm Mitchell (ankle) are both expected to play against the Steelers today. They figure to join Julian Edelman as New England's top 3 WRs and are viable DFS plays.

 
 
 

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