Patriots RB Sony Michel had arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Michel had been missing workouts without explanation. It's not yet clear which knee had the operation, but his left has been the problem since he tore the ACL on that side in high school in 2011. Michel also had a "minor" procedure on the knee last August that cost him the preseason and the regular-season opener. And he later missed 2 more games with an issue in the same knee. Howe reports that this latest surgery is also "minor" and that Michel's expected to return for training camp. But it looks worrisome from here that Michel is averaging a knee surgery a year so far. We've already been low on the 2nd-year Patriots RB, who might be in for a move further down the rankings given positive reports on rookie Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead so far.
Patriots TE Ben Watson has been suspended 4 games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Watson admitted in a Facebook post that he took a banned substance after he announced his retirement earlier this offseason. The Pats knew of the impending ban when they signed Watson, so it shouldn't impact his odds of making the team. But it makes him pretty much undraftable in fantasy drafts. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse figure to open the season atop New England's TE depth chart.
The Patriots have signed WR Dontrelle Inman to a 1-year deal. The 30-year-old caught 28 balls in 9 appearances with the Colts last year and has a 58-catch season on his resume back in 2016 with the Chargers. In New England, Inman will compete with Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas and Maurice Harris for snaps behind Julian Edelman and 1st-round rookie N'Keal Harry.
TE Ben Watson has inked a 1-year, $3 million deal with the Patriots. The 38-year-old has remained effective, posting a 74-825-6 line with the Saints in 2016, a 61-522-4 with the Ravens in 2017 and a 35-400-2 back in New Orleans last year. He spent his first 6 NFL seasons with the Patriots, including 3 under current OC Josh McDaniels. Watson will battle with talented but oft-injured Austin Seferian-Jenkins for targets this season. It's worth noting that ASJ's 1-year deal is for less than a million bucks. Consider Watson the early favorite.
The Patriots grabbed Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Stidham started his college career at Baylor, completing 75 of 109 passes (68.8%) for 1,265 yards, 12 TDs and 2 INTs in spot duty. He then transferred to Auburn, where he started the past 2 seasons. Stidham turned in an impressive 2017, completing 66.5% of his passes and averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. But his numbers sunk across the board this past year: 60.7% completion rate and 7.6 yards per attempt. Stidham will be the latest to attempt to become Tom Brady’s successor in New England.
The Patriots added Alabama RB Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The #1 RB in the 2015 recruiting class led talented ‘Bama backfields in rushing in each of the past 3 seasons: 1,037 yards in 2016, 1,000 in 2017 and 876 this past year. He leaves school with a strong 6.4 yards per carry (half a yard better than Josh Jacobs) and also totaled 52 catches across his 4 years on campus. Harris isn’t a flashy back, but he packs a punch at 5’10, 216 pounds and registered a solid 46th percentile SPARQ score at the Combine. The pick feels a bit redundant for the Patriots, who have Sony Michel coming off an impressive season as lead ball-carrier. But Michel has a long injury history, including a knee injury last August that cost him the season’s first 3 games.
The Patriots spent a 3rd-round pick in the NFL Draft on edge player Chase Winovich from Michigan. Winovich outproduced 1st-round teammate Rashan Gary, including 34.5 tackles for loss over the past 2 years. He then blew up the Combine with the class' 6th-best speed score, the 3rd-best 3-cone time and the top short-shuttle time. He also ranked 4th in the class among EDGE players in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush win percentage and 2nd in run-stop percentage. We'll see whether Winovich settles in as a DE or LB for New England, but there's clearly IDP upside either way.
The Patriots selected Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with the 32nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. The #1 WR in the 2016 recruiting class led the Sun Devils in catches and receiving TDs as a true freshman. Then he busted out for 82 grabs, 1,142 yards and 8 scores as a sophomore. The catches and yards both ranked top 14 in the country. Harry posted a 73-1,088-9 line this past season, accounting for 32.0% of Arizona State’s receptions, 37.6% of the receiving yards and 47.4% of the receiving TDs. Those market shares rank 4th, 6th and 5th among the 48 WRs invited to this year’s Combine. The 6’3, 225-pounder ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical in Indianapolis to earn a 75th percentile SPARQ score. The tape shows a guy who’s dominant in contested situations and dangerous after the catch. Harry was the #1 player in our Pre-Draft Dynasty Rookie Rankings and will very likely stay there in the post-draft list. He has a clear path to 2019 fantasy value in a WR corps consisting of Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas and Phillip Dorsett.
The Patriots have signed WR Demaryius Thomas to a 1-year deal that could be worth "up to" $6 million, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Thomas is currently rehabbing a torn Achilles suffered in late December that has his availability for the start of the 2019 campaign in doubt. He seemed to be in decline even before that injury, posting his fewest yards per game (45.1) since his rookie season. That said, this is just about the best landing spot Thomas could have hoped for. The Patriots have lost over 220 targets from last year and have just Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris sitting behind Julian Edelman on the WR depth chart. If Thomas can get healthy, he has a good shot of emerging as the #2 WR.
WR Phillip Dorsett has re-signed with the Patriots on a 1-year deal. The former 1st-rounder evolved into a short-range target in New England last season, hauling in 76.2% of his targets but averaging just 9.1 yards per catch. He has a shot to take on a bigger role in 2019 with Chris Hogan a free agent and Cordarrelle Patterson off to Chicago. But we'd bet on the Pats making some additions to their WR room.
The Patriots have placed an original-round tender on restricted free agent WR Josh Gordon. That means he'll get a 1-year, $2.025 million contract from New England if he doesn't sign elsewhere. And signing elsewhere seems unlikely for Gordon, whose status remains uncertain following his latest drug-program violation. The Browns originally spent a 2nd-round pick on Gordon in the supplemental draft, so it looks like any new team would have to give such a pick to New England to sign Gordon.
The Patriots have reached a deal to acquire DL MIchael Bennett from the Eagles for a mere swap of picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Philly gets a 2020 fifth-rounder in exchange for a 2020 pick in Round 7. New England gets a veteran D-lineman capable of playing on the edge or inside. Bennett played the large majority of his snaps in edge spots for the Eagles last year. Pro Football Focus credited him with 68 total pressures, tied for 5th most among edge players. And that came with Bennett turning 33 in November. He has played all 16 games the past 2 years and 6 of the past 7 years. Bennett hasn't posted big sack numbers -- reaching 10 just once and never exceeding that total. But he's a real-life asset and capable of DL2 production. He'll help a New England front 7 that might yet lose DE Trey Flowers to free agency.
The Browns announced Wednesday that they've released LB Jamie Collins. The move provides $9.25 million in cap space ahead of free agency. Collins arrived via trade midway through the 2016 season and then signed a 4-year extension the following January. He made it through just 2 years of that contract. Collins rebounded from losing 10 games to injury in 2017 and played every contest last season. He finished in high-LB3 territory for fantasy purposes. Collins should garner at least 1 more starting opportunity. He'll turn 30 in mid-October.
WR Demaryius Thomas is currently in custody in Colorado on vehicular assault charges. Pro Football Talk notes that Colorado defines vehicular assault as "driving recklessly or under the influence of alcohol and causing serious bodily injury to another person." Thomas was involved in a 1-car accident on February 18 that reportedly caused serious injury to a female passenger. We'll see where this goes. Thomas was released by Houston a couple of weeks ago after his 2018 campaign ended with a torn Achilles.
The Texans have released WR Demaryius Thomas. It was a no-brainer move with Thomas set to make $14 million in 2019. Now 31 and coming off a torn Achilles, DT isn't worth nearly that much coin. He'll probably need to prove he's recovered from that injury before landing a job elsewhere. Houston has a young, talented WR trio in place in DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee.
NESN's Doug Kyed reports that a return to the Patriots is "still possible" for WR Josh Gordon. He's currently serving an indefinite suspension after turning in diluted drug test samples. Gordon is reportedly in a Gainesville-area rehab center, where his treatment is being paid for by the Pats. We wouldn't consider him any better than 50/50 to get back on an NFL field -- but the 27-year-old is still worth stashing in most dynasty leagues.
Saints TE Ben Watson (appendicitis) is out for Sunday's game against the Rams. He's averaged just 2.2 targets per game over the last 5 while playing less than 50% of the offensive snaps, so it's not a major loss. Josh Hill should serve as New Orleans' lead TE this weekend, and TE Dan Arnold figures to be active after being a healthy scratch in the Divisional Round.
Colts WR Dontrelle Inman is expected to play today against the Texans, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Inman's officially questionable with shoulder and finger injuries but in limited practices all week. Inman caught 9 balls over the past 2 games and scored in each. He finished 5 of his past 8 games with 4+ receptions.
Eagles DE Michael Bennett (foot) is questionable for Sunday's game against the Bears. Bennett has played through "questionable" tags for weeks and put in a full practice Friday. Expect him to be in the lineup.
Colts WR Dontrelle Inman (shoulder, finger) was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable for Saturday's game against the Texans. WR Zach Pascal (knee) is also listed as questionable. He was sidelined on Tuesday, limited on Wednesday and a full-go on Thursday. We're expecting both of these guys to play but will find out for sure around 3 pm ET on Saturday. WR Ryan Grant (toe) has been ruled out.
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