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Fantasy Football News 2021

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Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald this week led his list of potential "breakout" Patriots for 2021 with WR Jakobi Meyers. Callahan points to the "only" potential hurdles for Meyers being injury or "dominant summers from Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne," whom New England paid up for in free agency. "But those free-agent additions undoubtedly saw what everyone else did at OTAs and minicamp this spring: Meyers was the best receiver on the field," Callahan writes. We've certainly read other similar offseason buzz for Meyers, who claimed 28% of Patriots targets from Week 7 on last season. At WR68 in current FFPC best-ball drafting and a mid-13th round price on Underdog, Meyers at least looks worth some shots in your drafts. We'll see how things go for him and the rest of the Pats offense through training camp and preseason. Mac Jones taking over for Cam Newton at QB would also likely be good for Meyers' target volume.

Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson has been placed on the non-football injury list. We don't have any other details, but ESPN's Mike Reiss notes that the rookie dealt with "a couple nagging things" this spring. We'll see when Stevenson is able to get back on the field. He figures to be battling RB Sony Michel for the backup job behind RB Damien Harris.

NBC Sports' Tom Curran believes Jakobi Meyers will be the "most reliable and productive Patriots wideout in 2021." New England added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to the WR room this offseason, but Curran believes Meyers' understanding of the offense, route-running ability and reliable hands will give him the edge. It's a situation to track in training camp and preseason action, but Meyers is a nice target right now at his late ADP.

WR N'Keal Harry has requested a trade out of New England, his agent announced. The 32nd pick of the 2019 draft has been a disaster over the past 2 seasons, totaling just 45 catches and averaging 9.2 yards per reception. Harry is still just 23 years old and was a nice-looking prospect coming out of Arizona State, so the light is still flickering. But he's not worth a pick in fantasy drafts right now and is just an end-of-bench stash in dynasty.

Patriots QB Cam Newton is expected to handle a "full complement of reps" at minicamp this week, according the The Boston Globe's Jim McBride. Newton suffered a bone bruise to the right hand at OTAs a couple of weeks ago, but it's obviously not a concern. Early reports out of New England have Newton a strong favorite to open the season as the starter, ahead of 1st-round rookie QB Mac Jones.

After watching spring practices, The Boston Globe's Ben Volin believes Patriots QB Mac Jones still has "a long way to go" to beat out QB Cam Newton for the starting job. Even with Newton sidelined the past week with his hand injury, Jones worked behind QBs Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. “There’s a lot going on in my brain,” Jones admitted. “You’re trying to see everything; sometimes you see too much or whatever, and then you see nothing. I have to figure out in this offense how I can break down the plays, what’s my job, what I have to do on this specific play and slot the plays individually. I did that obviously good in college or whatever, but this is the pros and I have to figure out how to do it here. So that’s what I’m going to do.” We'll see how much ground Jones can make up in training camp and preseason action, but bet on Newton being under center for New England come Week 1.

Patriots QB Cam Newton suffered a "slight bone bruise" to his right hand when he banged it on a helmet at OTAs on Friday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "Not considered major at all," Rapoport adds. But Newton might not hit the practice field again until training camp. That'll give 1st-round rookie QB Mac Jones a chance to build some momentum.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson goes to the Patriots in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Stevenson bloomed late in college, averaging 7.2 yards per rush across 2 seasons at Oklahoma after 2 years at a California junior college. He took over the Sooners backfield for 6 games in 2020 after opening 2019 behind Trey Sermon (pre-transfer) and Kennedy Brooks. Stevenson missed the beginning of his final season because of a suspension for a positive marijuana test, but even his college coach, Lincoln Riley, railed against the “archaic” rule that produced the situation. So there’s no off-field concern with Stevenson. On the field, he’s a big runner who also averaged 3 receptions per game as a senior. Stevenson lacks big-play speed and isn’t likely to turn into an NFL workhorse. But he has the upside to lead his backfield for stretches and/or emerge as a favorite option in the red zone. New England's current RB depth chart includes Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White and JJ Taylor, among others.

The Patriots nabbed DT Christian Barmore with the 38th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. After redshirting as a 2018 freshman, Barmore collected 15.5 tackles for loss in 2 seasons at Alabama. He blew up last year, racking up 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections. Pro Football Focus gave him the top pass-rushing grade in the nation among interior D-linemen, a group he also led with 39 total pressures. Barmore lands in a New England system that tends to deploy its weapons well.

The Patriots sat at #15 and landed Alabama QB Mac Jones. A 1-year starter following the departure of Tua Tagovailoa, Jones went off for 4,500-41-4 last fall. His 84.2% adjusted completion rate led the nation. While Jones played with top-tier talent (Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris), his accuracy was on point at all levels of the field. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones even led the nation in deep yards (1,355). The 6’3, 217-pounder brings below average athleticism, so don’t expect much rushing production in the pros. But his profile might have him as the 2nd most pro-ready passer in this draft, behind only Trevor Lawrence. Jones will battle QB Cam Newton for the starting job this summer. Our early money is on Jones being under center come Week 1.

RB James White is expected to re-sign with the Patriots, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports. We'll see what the contract looks like, but it seems like White was met with a cool market. The 29-year-old caught just 35 balls last year -- his fewest since 2015 -- in his first season without QB Tom Brady. White should remain New England's lead pass-catching back in 2021, but a run-heavy offense under QB Cam Newton would make it tough to White to find enough volume to be a real fantasy factor.

Update: White signed a 1-year, $2.5 million deal with the Pats.

The Patriots re-signed K Nick Folk. He drilled 93% of his FG tries last year but finished just 18th among Ks in fantasy points because New England's offense was so bad. The unit at least looks better on paper heading into 2021 after the additions of Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

The Patriots are bringing back LB Kyle Van Noy on a 2-year deal worth "up to" $13.2 million, according to NFL Network's Mike Garofolo. Van Noy spent 3 full seasons and part of 2016 with the Patriots before signing with Miami last offseason. He delivered a career-high 6.5 sacks his last year in New England (2019). We'll see how all the roles settle out in an LB corps that differs significantly from that one. Van Noy has generally not been a high-level IDP option, though. Don't expect that to change in his age-30 season.

After signing TE Jonnu Smith, WR Nelson Agholor and WR Kendrick Bourne on the 1st day of free agency, the Patriots kicked off Day 2 by inking TE Hunter Henry to a 3-year, $37.5 million deal with $25 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Henry's $12.5 million average annual salary is identical to Jonnu Smith's -- although Smith got a 4-year deal. New England suddenly has the league's top TE tandem after trotting out a completely unforgettable group last year. The easy comparison here will be to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who were both top 14 PPR TEs in 2010 and top 3 in 2011. That, of course, came with Tom Brady slinging the rock. Last year's Patriots ranked 31st in pass rate, 31st in pass attempts and 30th in pass yards. HC Bill Belichick is clearly gearing up to chuck it more in 2021, but it's tough to imagine there being enough to go around for both Henry and Smith to post TE1 numbers.

The Patriots signed WR Kendrick Bourne to a 3-year, $22.5 million contract, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Bourne spent the past 4 years in San Francisco and is coming off his best season as a pro -- but one that still amounted to just 49 catches for 667 yards and 2 scores. He might find a bit more opportunity in New England but still seems unlikely to emerge as a real fantasy asset. The Patriots have now added Bourne, WR Nelson Agholor and TE Jonnu Smith to their pass-catching corps on the 1st day of free agency. That doesn't bode well for WR Julian Edelman, who's uncertain for 2021, or WR N'Keal Harry. WR Jakobi Meyers' stock has also taken a hit today.

The Patriots signed WR Nelson Agholor to a 2-year, $26 million deal, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Agholor is coming off a solid 2020 in Vegas, posting a 48-896-8 line on 82 targets. He ranked 21st in yards per route run among 84 WRs with 50+ targets. That, of course, followed 5 mostly disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. It makes this a risky signing for New England -- but Agholor has a real chance to lead the team in targets in 2021.

Buffalo
3:03pm EDT 3/15/21

The Patriots have agreed to a 4-year, $24 million deal with DB Jalen Mills, including $9 million guaranteed, per multiple reports. We'll see how Mills fits into New England's defensive plans. He spent his first 4 Eagles seasons as a CB, 3 of those as a starter. Then Mills moved to SS last year after Philly released Malcolm Jenkins. The Pats still have veteran safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung under contract, with Chung set to return this year after opting out for the 2020 season. They added Kyle Dugger in the 2nd round of last year's NFL Draft and played him regularly as a "box" safety over the 2nd half of the season.

The Patriots have agreed to a 4-year, $56 million deal with EDGE Matt Judon, according to multiple reports. The deal includes $32 million guaranteed over the 1st 2 years, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Judon produced 8, 7, 9.5 and 6 sacks over 4 seasons of starter-level duty with the Ravens. He sports double-digit sack upside, but his production dipped last year vs. a 2019 high point that garnered him the 2020 franchise tag. New England's financial commitment certainly shows the Pats believe in his rush ceiling. The Patriots posted the 6th-fewest sacks and the 8th-lowest sack rate in the league last year. But they also delivered the 5th-highest pressure rate. Judon should quickly become the team's top pass rusher and might be in a better situation than New England's 2020 sack total suggests. We'll see how the rest of the edge rotation settles in around him.

The Patriots have agreed to a 4-year deal with TE Jonnu Smith, agent Drew Rosenhaus tells ESPN. The pact includes $50 million, with $31.25 million guaranteed. Smith flashed intriguing athleticism and receiving ability across 3 seasons with the Titans. He has yet to eclipse 41 receptions or reach 450 receiving yards in a season, though. Smith saw particularly odd usage with last year, garnering just 12 more targets for the season than teammate Anthony Firkser. The size of this contract suggests New England plans to feature him more as a receiver. And a roster that saw only WR Jakobi Meyers reach 50 receptions last season presents plenty of opportunity for Smith. The TE will turn just 26 this August and looks like a high-upside fantasy prospect going forward. His arrival is bad news if you were hoping for a Year 2 breakout from TE Devin Asiasi.

The 1-year deal QB Cam Newton recently agreed to with the Patriots falls well short of being clear starter money. Newton starts out at $5.1 million for the coming season. That number rises to $6.6 million if he starts all year, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss, and $8.6 million if he starts and the Pats reach the playoffs. With all incentives, the contract could climb as high as $13.6 million. Rather than committing to Newton as the 2021 starter, though, the Patriots appear to be committing to him as QB insurance. We'll see whether competition comes via the draft. Newton's deal does suggest that New England likely won't sign another big-name QB in free agency (or trade) -- but certainly doesn't rule out that option. Treat Newton as the likeliest Patriots starter in best-ball drafts for now.

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