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32 in 32: New England Patriots

In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!


Mac Jones (QB - New England Patriots):


After a promising rookie season in 2021 with over 3,900 yards and 22 TDs to 13 INTs (QB18), Mac Jones’ sophomore season was destined to fail with Matt Patricia serving as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, seeing Jones fall to just over 3,000 yards and 15 TDs to 11 INTs.


The good news: 2023 offers a very different situation for Jones.


Matt Patricia is out as offensive coordinator with Bill O’Brien in, meaning a far more appealing (and pass-oriented) offensive scheme for Jones in 2023. That goes with a greatly-improved supporting cast between the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki via free agency, a fully-healthy DeVante Parker, a more developed 2022 2nd rounder in Tyquan Thornton, and two draft picks invested at WR in 2023.


With the best supporting cast in his career, 2023 will be a make-or-break season for Jones’ career. He’s not a player that should find his way onto fantasy rosters on draft day (unless in a 2QB/SuperFlex league), but he is worth keeping an eye on as a potential waiver wire/streaming option mid-season.

 

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB - New England Patriots):


2022 was a breakout season for Stevenson, taking over the Patriots’ backfield with 279 touches, over 1400 yards, and 6 TDs in a year that saw him finish as the RB7 in PPR scoring.


He was that productive even despite Damien Harris poaching carries, especially around the goal-line, contributing to six games of single-digit carries. With Harris gone (and James Robinson released), it appears that Stevenson will control the rushing duties in New England with Pierre Strong taking the occasional change-of-pace opportunity and Ty Montgomery potentially eating into the receiving work out of the backfield.


Either way, it’s difficult to imagine Stevenson seeing less work than he did last year and with an actual offensive coordinator this year, it is highly likely that he exceeds his 6 TDs from last year, especially with an expanded red zone role without Harris in the picture.


He looks like a fair value on draft day, going as the RB8 in the 2nd round on both ECR and ADP. Given his production last year, the likely expanded role in 2023, and more high-value touches with a better offense, I’m comfortable with Stevenson as a low-RB1 or as a truly elite-RB2.

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR - New England Patriots):


If you told anyone before 2022 that Mahomes would go for 5,500+ yards and 45 TDs, they would’ve likely thought JuJu saw a massive season as his WR1, but it was shown that top-end QB production doesn’t necessarily equate to top-end WR production, even from the team’s top WR.


It was only a decent season for JuJu, finishing with 78 catches for 933 yards and 3 TDs as the WR27 on the season – overall decent numbers that seem underwhelming when considering Mahomes’ monster season.


A large reason for JuJu’s limited production was the competition for targets in Kansas City over the center of the field between slot WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and TE Travis Kelce. Very rarely was Mahomes going away from his go-to target in Kelce, especially if another weapon wasn’t wide open.


Now in New England, JuJu won’t have the QB quality that he saw in Kansas City or Pittsburgh before that, getting a relatively unproven Mac Jones. The good news is that the offense is wide open for targets with only two players exceeding an 11% target share in 2022 – one of which being RB Rhamondre Stevenson and the other being WR Jakobi Meyers, who departed this offseason.


The opportunity is certainly there for JuJu to be a sneaky volume-based WR once again if he can establish a rapport with Mac Jones, offering potential WR2 upside.


I’m all for targeting New England’s slot receiver in JuJu as a projected WR4/5 option on draft day, going in the late-9th/early-10th round range. Of course, that all goes out the window if free agent WR DeAndre Hopkins opts to sign with New England.

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