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New England Patriots Fantasy Football News | Shark Bites

Fantasy Football News 2022

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Patriots insider Alex Barth writes, "initial reports suggest [RB James White] may not be fully cleared to play by the start of the season." White is working his way back from a significant hip surgery last September and was limited in spring workouts. We'll track his progress throughout the summer, but he's not a very appealing pick in early fantasy drafts. Barth believes rookie RB Pierre Strong is the "best fit" to fill White's pass-catching role if he's not ready for the start of the season.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss believes “there is potential for significant improvement in the deep passing game” for the Patriots this season. It appears Reiss bases this opinion primarily on how the deep-passing game has looked in early workouts. There’s certainly room for improvement. QB Mac Jones ranked just 26th among 31 qualifiers in deep-ball completion rate, according to ESPN Stats. He checked in above-average in on-target rate on downfield passes. In addition to more experience for the young QB and another off-season with his pass-catchers, New England added WR DeVante Parker via trade and speedy WR Tyquan Thornton in the 2nd round of the draft. Increasing his deep-ball production would be especially valuable for Jones, because he lacks rushing production and New England doesn’t figure to be a high-volume passing offense

Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson said Tuesday that his focus this offseason was "route running and being a third down back." That doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be New England's primary pass-catching back this season. But it's certainly possibly, especially if he's improved in that department after a promising rookie year. Stevenson caught 14 of 18 targets for 123 yards in 2021, ranking 12th among 89 qualifying RBs in yards per route run. The Patriots re-signed RB James White in March, but the 30-year-old coming off hip surgery is a big question mark.

Patriots beat writer Jeff Howe writes that WR Tyquan Thornton looks “noticeably skinny” at OTAs. “It’s fair to wonder how he’ll hold up against physical corners and through the constant hits from the 17-game regular season,” Howe concluded. The Baylor product goes 6’2, 181 pounds. So there’s a chance he puts on a bit of weight before Week 1. Still, Thornton — a true burner — will want to remain relatively light to play fast. He projects to play a rotational role as a rookie.

Based on OTAs so far, Patriots insider Evan Lazar believes "the early-front runners to dominate reps at wide receiver in 11-personnel are [DeVante] Parker (X), [Kendrick] Bourne (Z), and [Jakobi] Meyers (slot)." That'd leave 2nd-round rookie Tyquan Thornton and veteran Nelson Agholor as the 4th and 5th WRs. Lazar suggests that Agholor could be a trade or cut candidate if he doesn't climb the depth chart. None of these Patriots WRs are super exciting in fantasy drafts.

Patriots TE Jonnu Smith is soaking up all the reps he can get in OTAs after missing time last offseason. “My [2021 offseason] was choppy and I missed some quality time here. I recognize how valuable that time is. I’m here to take advantage of that," Smith said Monday. After inking a 4-year, $50 million deal with New England last year, Smith's 2021 campaign was a disaster. He turns just 27 in August, though, and is at least worth keeping an eye on this summer.

Patriots RB James White (hip) was on the field for voluntary workouts late last week, according to NESN's Zack Cox. White is returning from last September's season-ending hip surgery that had him "bedridden for months," per Cox. It's still unclear when White will be cleared for full-team work, but it at least looks like he's trending toward being available for the start of the season. If healthy, White is the favorite for pass-catching duties in New England's backfield.

Per league inside Jeff Howe, the Patriots “sound ecstatic” with QB Mac Jones’ “offseason dedication.” Jones exceeded year 1 expectations with 3,801 yards, 22 TDs and 13 picks across 17 games. He completed nearly 68% of his passes. A lack of rushing hurts his fantasy outlook, but the former ‘Bama standout at least projects as a bye week fill-in. Jones, 24 in Septmeber, finished as the QB18 in 2021.

WR Nelson Agholor said he’s feeling more comfortable entering year 2 as a Patriot. “Whereas a year ago, I was learning, so you do things at a certain learning tempo,” Agholor said. “You never get to go full speed, because you want to make sure you're doing it right, so you kind of move with caution. Now I know what it looks like and I get to just put my flavor on it.” The veteran signed a 2 year deal worth $22 million last March but posted only 37-473-3 on a 12.2% target share. With the Pats adding DeVante Parker and 2nd-round rookie Tyquan Thornton, odds are Agholor will remain off the fantasy radar.

Pats beat writer Khari Thompson believes the team won’t re-sign RB Damien Harris, unless both sides agree on a “very team-friendly deal.” New England has a promising RB already paired with Harris in Rhamondre Stevenson. And just last week, RBs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris arrived inside the first 6 rounds of the draft. For 2022, Harris slots in as an RB3.

Patriots RB James White is unlikely to participate in voluntary team workouts this month, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I still have a little while to go [after] a pretty rough injury,” White said this week. The veteran back needed surgery following a September hip subluxation. New England added RB Pierre Strong in the draft, but White will project as the passing-down favorite when healthy. Still, there’s just not much fantasy upside to chase here.

The Patriots spent a 4th-round pick on Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe – notably ahead of North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Nevada’s Carson Strong. Zappe started 4 seasons for FCS-level Houston Baptist before transferring to Western Kentucky last year. He stuffed the stat sheet for the Hilltoppers, racking up 5,967 passing yards and 62 scores. Zappe is considered a refined and smart QB, but he lacks arm strength. He looks like an NFL backup, which is what he’ll be in New England behind Mac Jones.

South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong went to the Patriots in the 4th round of the NFL Draft. Strong brings stellar speed for the position (4.37-second 40) in a frame similar to Tony Pollard’s. He racked up three 1,000-yard rushing seasons over 4 years (plus a redshirt campaign) at South Dakota State, averaging 7.2 yards per carry for his career. Strong added decent receiving production, including 42 total receptions over his final 2 years. He led all of FCS in rushing yards and ranked 2nd in rushing TDs. Strong joins a crowded New England backfield alongside Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, James White and others – although Strong’s speed is something those other guys can’t match.

The Patriots traded up to select Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton with the 50th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Thornton goes 6’2, 181 pounds and blazed a 4.28-second 40 time at the Combine. No, surprise then, that he averaged 15.7 yards per catch across 4 college seasons. Thornton also has strong hands (3.1% drop rate last year) and a nice catch radius. We’ll see if he can develop into a more complete receiver, but Thornton at least has a shot to emerge as a downfield weapon. It’s a major surprise that he landed in Round 2, but his fantasy stock is certainly on the rise.

The Dolphins traded WR DeVante Parker and a 2022 5th-round pick to the Patriots for a 2023 3rd-rounder. Parker was on the outs after Miami traded for WR Tyreek Hill and signed WR Cedrick Wilson. In New England, Parker will battle for outside snaps with WRs Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Parker has the most raw talent of that trio but has mostly disappointed since the Fins selected him 14th overall in the 2015 draft. Also hurting Parker's 2022 fantasy outlook is that the Patriots ranked 28th in pass rate and 27th in situation-neutral pass rate last year. They figure to throw more in QB Mac Jones' 2nd season, but this will still likely be a run-leaning offense.

Former Giants S Jabrill Peppers is joining the Patriots on a 1-year deal. Peppers is still just 26 (until Oct. 4) and a former 1st-round pick, but he's likely headed for a reserve/rotational role with New England. His playing time dipped even before an ACL tear and high-ankle sprain ended his 2021 campaign early. Peppers lands in a crowded Patriots secondary. His best path back to IDP relevance would be if New England envisions some sort of hybrid safety-LB role for a guy who has played both and looks better in the box than in deep coverage.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots are signing CB Malcolm Butler to a 2-year deal that could be worth up to $9 million. The money suggests they hope Butler can start for them but doesn't necessarily lock him into their top 3 at the position. Butler missed last season after "retiring" but has clearly been inspired by Tom Brady. When active, Butler is capable of delivering useful IDP numbers -- at least in part because QBs like to throw at him.

RB James White has re-signed with the Patriots for $5 million over 2 years, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. That's not enough money to guarantee that White will make the 2022 roster. But he's available through the end of drafts right now and is thus a low-risk option with significant PPR upside. White caught 40+ passes in 6 straight seasons before the hip injury that knocked him out in his 3rd game last season. White was averaging 4 receptions per game when he went down.

QB Brian Hoyer has agreed to a 2-year, $4 million deal with the Patriots, including $3 million guaranteed, ESPN reports. That will keep Hoyer in place as the backup to Mac Jones.

Patriots beat writer Khari Thompson writes that the “next step” for RB Rhamondre Stevenson is “getting better as a pass blocker and receiver.” As a 2021 rookie, Stevenson excelled as a rusher, posting 4.6 YPC and excellent broken tackle metrics. But he graded out as a below average pass protector and pass catcher from Pro Football Focus, dropping 1 of 18 targets and fumbling on another. Still, the fact that Stevenson effectively matched Damien Harris in routes per game (7.2) is encouraging. There’s also not a receiving RB currently on the roster, assuming James White, 30, gets to free agency. Look for the 1-2 punch of Harris-Stevenson to continue in 2022.

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