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Patriots Fantasy Football Preview: How much does Cam Newton change in New England?

The Patriots aren’t usually left holding the bag, and they managed to turn Tom Brady’s departure into another former MVP — Cam Newton. Newton was still available in June for a reason, but if he proves the shoulder and foot injuries that have derailed his career are behind him, we know how high the upside is. Whether that would be a good thing for Julian Edelman, James White, and Sony Michel is another question.

2019 Review

Record: 12-4 (5th in NFL)
PPG: 26.3 (7)
YPG: 354.0 (15)
Pass YPG: 247.6 (8)
Rush YPG: 106.4 (18)
PAPG: 38.8 (5)
RAPG: 27.9 (9)

2019 Fantasy finishes

QB: Tom Brady* QB12
RB: James White RB18; Sony Michel RB31; Rex Burkhead RB47
WR: Julian Edelman WR7; Mohamed Sanu WR58; Phillip Dorsett* WR69; N’Keal Harry WR123
TE: Matt LaCosse TE56
*No longer with team

Number to know: 0

In his career, Julian Edelman has caught 36 regular-season touchdowns and another five in the postseason. Zero of the 36 have come from quarterbacks not named Tom Brady. The next one he catches for the Patriots will be his first from someone other than the GOAT.

Additionally, Edelman has a career 63.6% catch rate from New England’s other quarterbacks through the years, grabbing 28 passes for 275 yards (9.8 yards per catch). With Brady, Edelman had a 66.6% catch rate for 10.9 yards per catch. Some good news? While Tom Brady ranked just 20th in the NFL in accuracy rate in 2019, Cam Newton was seventh in 2018.

2020 Offseason

Draft Picks 

2. (37) Kyle Dugger, S
2. (60) Josh Uche, LB
3. (87) Anfernee Jennings, LB
3. (91) Devin Asiasi, TE
3. (101) Dalton Keene, TE
5. (159) Justin Rohrwasser, K
6. (182) Michael Onwenu, G
6. (195) Justin Herron, OT
6. (204) Cassh Maluia, LB
7. (230) Dustin Woodard, C

Additions

QB Cam Newton; WR Damiere Byrd and Marqise Lee; DL Beau Allen; LB Brandon Copeland

Key Departures

QB Tom Brady, WR Phillip Dorsett; TE Rob Gronkowski; C Ted Karras; DT Danny Shelton; LB Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts; S Duron Harmon

Available Opportunity 

0 carries, 0 RB targets, 90 WR targets, 25 TE targets 

Rankings and Projections

PLAYER
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Jamey Eisenberg

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Dave Richard

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Heath Cummings

CAM NEWTON
TBA TBA TBA
JAMES WHITE
RB36 RB32 RB26
SONY MICHEL
RB46 RB40 RB37
DAMIEN HARRIS
RB58 RB59 N/A
JULIAN EDELMAN
WR32 WR30 WR31
N’KEAL HARRY
N/A WR59 N/A
MOHAMED SANU
N/A N/A N/A
PATRIOTS DST
DST5 DST7 DST6
Heath Cummings’ projections
QB Cam Newton TBA
RB Sony Michel 1,065 YD, 6 TD; 16 REC, 119 YD, 0 TD
RB James White 318 YD, 2 TD; 65 REC, 568 YD, 5 TD
RB Rex Burkhead 347 YD, 2 TD; 27 REC, 255 YD, 1 TD
WR Julian Edelman 136 TAR, 84 REC, 933 YD, 5 TD
WR Mohamed Sanu 81 TAR, 51 REC, 523 YD, 4 TD
WR N’Keal Harry 65 TAR, 34 REC, 345 YD, 4 TD
TE Matt LaCosse 27 TAR, 18 REC, 183 YD, 1 TD

Biggest Question

How real is N’Keal Harry’s breakout potential?  

“After a quiet offseason in New England, the 2019 first-round pick looks poised to contend for the top outside receiver role. Of course, Bill Belichick is all about competition, and Harry will have to earn it. Harry wasn’t great in an injury-shortened 2019, but his collegiate track record suggests the ability to produce at a high level is there. The potential for a second-year breakout resembling D.J. Chark’s 2019 makes him an intriguing sleeper.” – Ben Gretch

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

SLEEPER
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James White RB
NEW ENGLAND • #28
AGE: 28 • EXPERIENCE: 7 YRS.
2019 Stats
RUYDS

263

REC

72

REYDS

645

TD

6

FPTS/G

13.3

Maybe the best sleeper on the Patriots is the most obvious one. White’s role is as cemented as it gets as a reliable set of hands out of the backfield on nearly every passing-downs play the team runs. He gave Fantasy managers 10-plus PPR points in 12 of 15 games in 2019, an incredible feat. Problem is he hit 15-plus in PPR just twice. So draft him accordingly, as a reception-driven, low-ceiling, high-floor, safe Fantasy running back who can at least provide a little something most weeks in lineups. His late Round 8 ADP as of June is a fair price, especially if Newton brings some of the lessons he learned from playing with Christian McCaffrey in 2018 with him.

BREAKOUT
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N’Keal Harry WR
NEW ENGLAND • #15
AGE: 22 • EXPERIENCE: 2 YRS.
2019 Stats
REC

12

TAR

24

REYDS

105

TD

2

FPTS/G

5.4

It’s going to be tough trusting any Patriots receiver without Brady under center, but Harry has the size, power and catch radius to turn off-target throws into completions. He also represents the only big-bodied receiver with upside in New England. Last year was a disaster — injuries and low target share are a bad combination. This year, the Patriots aren’t going to be so choosy in how they operate offensively, especially if they fall behind in games. That should open the door for Harry to start getting at least five targets per game (he had seven in each of his last two). You’ll be able to confidently find him in Round 11 or later, making him the perfect kind of late-round risk to put on your Fantasy bench to begin the year.

BUST
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NEW ENGLAND • #26
AGE: 25 • EXPERIENCE: 3 YRS.
2019 Stats
RUYDS

912

REC

12

REYDS

94

TD

7

FPTS/G

9.5

If Michel couldn’t find 1,000 total yards when Tom Brady was his quarterback, how in the world is he going to do it with an unproven young passer or a proven mediocre veteran back there? By now you know the Patriots prefer to split up their rushing duties anyway, so at best Michel will handle rushing-downs work for however long he’s effective. Two questions: How long will he actually be effective? And, how many competitive games will the Patriots be in where Michel can get 15 touches? Keep in mind, Michel had 11 games with 15-plus touches in 2019 but scored 10 non-PPR Fantasy points in just five of them. It’s a mistake drafting Michel before Round 7.