As the Patriots continue preparations for the 2018 season, their wide receiver depth has grown thin.
The retirement of Eric Decker — as well as the releases of Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell, and Kenny Britt — further underscores this question: Who will step up in the receiving corps? And will New England add another pass catcher via trade or free agency? (Dez Bryant anyone?) One veteran Patriots observer is skeptical.
“It takes a very special guy to come in and assimilate late to this system,” Christian Fauria, WEEI radio host and former Patriots tight end, said on WBZ-TV.
“It’s like you’d rather just work with the guys you have,” Fauria added.
Evaluating the remaining players from a fantasy football standpoint is difficult. Here’s what the experts have been saying about the Patriots’ receivers with the potential to make an impact on fantasy leagues:
A favorite wide receiver target of Tom Brady’s since 2013, Edelman has two limiting factors heading into 2018: His return from a torn ACL and his four-game suspension for violating NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Both have affected his average fantasy draft position.
Still, there is a belief that Edelman could come back and be a value pick.
“The fact that Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, [and] Brandon Cooks left, that is over 200 targets leaving that offense,” NFL Network’s Kay Adams said.
And Scott Spratt of Pro Football Focus summed it up like this: “Aim to snag [Edelman] as your third receiver or primary flex option and trust your abilities as a manager to fill in the gaps, when or if they come.”
Hogan, the only returning Patriots receiver playing in Week 1, has averaged as the 25th receiver picked in fantasy drafts. Yet his ceiling is higher, especially in Edelman’s absence.
Here’s what Matthew Berry of ESPN said about Hogan: “This one might be even more baffling to me. People have clearly forgotten what Hogan did last season before getting hurt, as he’s currently going as WR29, in the eighth round. Hogan was a top-10 WR at the point when he got injured, he was tied for fourth in the NFL in red zone targets and that included two more targets than teammate Rob Gronkowski. Among the 73 WRs with at least 70 catches since the beginning of 2016, Hogan ranks fourth in terms of fantasy points per catch (3.3). So, he just needs volume. Well, now that he is fully healthy and with Brandin Cooks in L.A. and Julian Edelman suspended for four games (and coming off injury), whom do you think Tom Brady is going to throw to? Exactly.”
Dorsett presents an uncertain fantasy option. He isn’t being drafted in most leagues, but could be an early waiver wire pickup and is worth monitoring.
As Bobby Sylvester of Fantasy Pros noted, “Dorsett has been on the field the majority of the time with Tom Brady this preseason and obviously has flex-appeal from week to week as long as that remains the case.”
And Brady has had good things to say about Dorsett, which carries weight.
Since the Patriots first acquired Patterson earlier this year, there’s been talk that he could have some breakout fantasy potential given New England’s creativity in personnel usage.
More realistically, there’s a chance Patterson could make a fantasy impact in a standard receiver role. Like Dorsett, he’s largely going undrafted (he’s on just 3 percent of ESPN rosters).
Bluntly citing “attrition” as a primary factor for his possible fantasy value, CBS Sports explained the former NFL first round pick’s route to fantasy relevance: “While Patterson may not see consistent volume out of the gate, the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder has the size, athleticism and run-after-catch ability to become a playmaker for QB Tom Brady. As a result, he has some sleeper potential and should be kept on the radar as a potential September pickup.”