Shark Bites

Patriots QB Tom Brady played the entire 1st half of Thursday night's preseason game against the Eagles. He finished 19 of 26 for 172 yards and 2 TDs -- 1 to WR Chris Hogan and 1 to RB James White. Brady had been limited in training camp with a back issue but looked no worse for wear in this one. He remains 1 of the top QBs in fantasy football -- and worth a look if he gets into the 7th round of fantasy drafts.

Patriots RB Rex Burkhead missed the preseason opener and the last 2 practices with an undisclosed injury. We'll see how long he remains sidelined, but it's worth noting after he struggled staying healthy last year. Burkhead missed 4 games with a rib injury and 3 more (including a playoff game) with a sprained knee. RB Sony Michel remains out with his knee issue, leaving James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee as New England's healthy backs. Hill out-played Gillislee in the preseason opener and has reportedly gotten more 1st-teams reps since.

Patriots QB Tom Brady is dealing with a sore back, according to the Boston Globe. He's reportedly been limited in training camp for about a week. "Not much cause for concern," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted. Brady, of course, has been remarkably durable throughout his career. He hasn't missed a game due to injury since his torn ACL in 2008. Brady turned 41 earlier this month, though, so any issue like this is worth monitoring.

Patriots WR Cordarrelle Patterson has drawn raves from multiple beat writers early in training camp. Mass Live's Andrew Callahan wrote Thursday that it's been "The Cordarrelle Patterson Show" so far. "He's made contested catches at every level of the field and carried the ball with the first-team offense," Callahan adds. The Patriots' WR corps is wide open behind Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman, who's suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Patterson hasn't clicked as a WR through 5 NFL seasons but still has theoretical upside thanks to his supreme athleticism. We'll be keeping a close eye on him this preseason.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe projected New England's 53-man roster Monday and did not include Kenny Britt among the WRs. Volin projects Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Eric Decker and Cordarrelle Patterson making the roster, with Julian Edelman opening the year on suspension and Riley McCarron going to the practice squad. Britt has yet to practice in training camp because of a hamstring injury. "If Britt can't get on the field soon, his time with the Patriots might end swiftly," Volin writes. This is just 1 writer's opinion, of course, but we have to weigh all these opinions from regular observers of the team this time of year -- especially when deciding how to treat murky situations such as New England's WR corps in our fantasy football drafts. For now, Britt's a risky late-round option in any format. If he does get the boot, there's no guarantee he catches on elsewhere. Among the 3 new veterans listed, Patterson is probably the best bet to stick because of his value in the return game.

Patriots rookie RB Sony Michel will require a "procedure" for a knee injury he suffered in practice Wednesday, according to The Athletic's Jeff Howe. The recovery is expected to cost Michel the entire preseason and might keep him sidelined "into the start" of the regular season. That's obviously terrible news for the fantasy outlook of a rookie back, especially one competing with Rex Burkhead and James White for backfield snaps and touches. We'll see how sharply Michel's ADP falls. He'll likely need to get to the Round 8 range or so in 12-team drafts to be worth the risk. Burkhead, meanwhile, should climb from an ADP that has already been ascending. Don't be surprised if we start to see him regularly go in Round 4.

Update: ESPN's Mike Reiss reports that Michel had fluid drained from the knee and that the situation "is not expected to affect Michel's availability for a significant portion, if any, of the regular season." We've moved Michel down our RB rankings and Burkhead up, but we'll keep watching for any further updates on this issue.

The Patriots have signed WR Eric Decker. The 31-year-old is clearly past his prime, averaging just 10.4 yards per catch in Tennessee last year. But he was still a reliable possession receiver, hauling in 65.1% of his targets. He finished a decent 48th among 116 WRs in Pro Football Focus' 2017 receiving grades. "Decent" is all Decker needs to be to have a shot at early-season fantasy value in New England. He'll compete with Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson for snaps behind Chris Hogan while Julian Edelman serves his 4-game suspension.

ESPN's Mike Reiss considers RB Rex Burkhead the early favorite for goal-line duties in New England. "Burkhead filled that role at times last year, so he'd be more likely to get the initial nod over [RB Sony] Michel, who had 12 fumbles in college and might need to prove himself from a ball-security standpoint before the team gives him that responsibility," Reiss writes. Burkhead was good near the end zone last year, converting 4 of 7 carries inside the 5-yard line into TDs. We wouldn't rule out Michel here -- he's a 215-pounder who scored 16 times at Georgia last year -- but losing goal-line work would obviously cap his fantasy upside. As usual, the Patriots backfield will be 1 to monitor closely when training camp gets underway.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman is facing a 4-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Edelman has appealed the ban, so we'll see if it gets reduced. But fantasy owners should now be drafting as if he'll miss the first 4 games of the season. Edelman is returning from last August's torn ACL but had averaged 9.6 targets per game over the previous 3 seasons. So this is a big opportunity opening up in an offense that's finished top 12 in passing yards in an incredible 16 straight years. WR Chris Hogan is a good bet to serve as New England's #1 WR during Edelman's suspension. Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson will battle for snaps behind Hogan.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski will attend this week's mandatory minicamp, he told reporters during a charity event on Monday. "I’ll be full go. I’m looking forward to it," he added. "Can’t wait to get back to work. I’m excited.” Gronk stirred up retirement rumors after the Super Bowl and didn't take part in OTAs. But he's fully committed for the 2018 season and deserves to be atop his position in fantasy football rankings. Gronkowski has come off the board in the early 3rd round of best-ball drafts over the past 2 weeks. He's a value there.

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.

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.

 
 
 

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