2020 Preview: New England Patriots


Former Patriots Pro Bowler shades Bill Belichick following Tom ...

The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36)).

            The Patriots started the 2019 season hot, mostly thanks to an incredible defensive effort. The Patriots didn’t lose in October, going 8-0 to start the season and 10-1 before a late season slide. The Patriots finished 12-4 and won the AFC East, hosting the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. In that game, the Patriots struggled again, losing at home to end their season.

            It turned out to be the end of an era, too, as the Patriots saw a host of players leave New England this off-season, including star quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots head into 2020 with a level of uncertainty they haven’t had in years, and the question is whether Bill Belichick re-loaded enough to make another post-season run.

Off-Season Changes

            It doesn’t get any bigger than losing a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame player. The Patriots did just that when Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady played 20 years for the Patriots, throwing for 74,571 yards and 541 touchdowns. He also won six Super Bowls and is largely considered one of the best, if not the best quarterback of all time. In addition, the Patriots saw tight end Rob Gronkowski unretire only to be traded to the Buccaneers. While the team welcomed veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer and receivers like Marqise Lee and Damiere Byrd, the big signing was free agent quarterback Cam Newton.

            Newton played his whole career with the Carolina Panthers and was, at times, an incredible producer. But injuries ended his 2018 season early and kept him to two games in 2019. So, the Panthers moved on. But the Patriots are hoping for something similar to 2015, when Newton was the league’s MVP while throwing for 3,837 yards and 35 TDs, adding 636 rushing yards and 10 additional TDs. In the draft, the Patriots didn’t make any huge splashes, but they grabbed a few tight ends. The most notable is Devin Asiasi, who caught 44 passes for 641 yards and four TDs for UCLA. He could well end up the starting TE.

In August the team also added free agent running back Lamar Miller, who previously played with the Dolphins and Texans. Miller’s a veteran with talent, but he’s struggled with injuries that kept him off the field the past two seasons.

Fantasy Impact

            The Patriots have the veteran Hoyer and second year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but it figures that Newton will be the starter if healthy. The Patriots still have questions on the offensive line and among their weapons, but I’d cautiously take Newton as a QB2 with upside. In the backfield, the team has a group that includes James White, Sony Michel, Miller, Rex Burkhead and second year back Damien Harris. I wager all five will be involved at times, but the most fantasy relevant seem to be White and Michel. I like White as an RB3 with his receiving prowess. He caught 72 passes for 645 yards and five TDs a year ago, and could have low-end RB2 upside. Michel is more of a question. He’s probably an RB3, too. He ran for 912 and seven TDs in 2019 and could be relied on heavily this season. He could also split with Harris or miss time with injury. Hence the RB3 hedge. The wild card is Miller. His signing made waves, but I think it’s possible he doesn’t even make the final roster. Right now, I’m still betting on White and Michel if I need a Patriots’ back.

            Among receivers, the top option is Julian Edelman. He caught 100 passes for 1,117 yards and six TDs in 2019, good enough to be WR6. I think he takes a step back and is more of a WR2 this season. The Patriots also have veteran Mohamed Sanu and second year receiver N’Keal Harry in the mix. I don’t trust either as a week-to-week starter, but Harry is the one I’d be most likely to take a chance on late in drafts. Harry’s also still a decent dynasty prospect. Asiasi is a good dynasty prospect, but I’m not relying on a Patriots’ tight end in 2020.

Prediction

            The Patriots have been one of the most bankable teams in football for 20 years, and with Belichick at the helm they can’t be counted out. That being said, a lot more talent seemed to go out the door—on offense and defense—than came in, and that’s tough to overcome. The Patriots looked like Fools Gold at times in the second half of 2019, and I think they face a serious challenge in 2020. If Newton is back to his vintage self, the team can still make some waves. If not, this might not even be a winning team. For now, I’m saying eight or nine wins and just missing the playoffs. But with the Patriots, you never know.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.

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