The 2023 New England Patriots team should look more like the 2021 version of themselves rather than the 2022 version. It all starts with Mac Jones as he prepares for his third NFL season as their starting quarterback. Assuming he takes a step forward, after a sophomore slump last year, there is plenty of fantasy football value to be had on this Patriots offense this season.
New England Patriots Fantasy Football Preview
Key Subtractions and Additions
Subtractions: Jakobi Meyers (WR), Damien Harris (RB), Devin McCourty (CB), Jonnu Smith (TE), Nelson Agholor (WR), Isaiah Wynn (OT)
Additions: Juju Smith-Schuster (WR), Mike Gesicki (TE), Riley Reiff (OT), Jonathan Jones (CB), Christian Gonzalez (rookie CB), Jabrill Peppers (S), James Robinson (RB), Calvin Anderson (OT), Keion White (rookie DE)
Determining if Mac Jones is the future of the New England Patriots will be the number one goal of their 2023 season. We’re seeing teams move on from quarterbacks much sooner than in years past because the financial commitment to the position requires utmost faith that the player can lead the franchise in the direction of a championship. As a rookie, Mac Jones threw for 3,801 yards, the 13th-most amongst all quarterbacks in 2021. He is also the first New England Patriots rookie quarterback in franchise history to lead his team to the playoffs.
Reports out of the New England Patriots OTAs are that Mac Jones feels “refreshed” with his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons, Bill O’Brien. It’s no secret Jones took a step back under Matt Patricia in 2022 which obviously led to the personnel change. The New England Patriots also brought in capable pass catchers in Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki. Their skill sets, especially in the red zone, should help Jones take his game to the next level and put points on the board this season.
While this should all be great news for the Patriots franchise, for fantasy football purposes, Mac Jones is, at this point, simply bench depth in 2QB and Superflex leagues. He has more single-digit fantasy performances (9) than he does 20.0-point fantasy performances (4) in 31 starts for the Patriots. Additionally, Jones has just 29.1 total points from rushing in 31 starts. That’s less than one point per game from rushing. There’s no upside there. Until we see him comfortably excel in the passing game, he shouldn’t be a priority target for any fantasy football format this season.
Rhamondre Stevenson has all the makings of an RB1 in Points Per Reception fantasy football leagues. After finishing 13th on a points-per-game basis (14.7) in 2022, there’s plenty of reason to believe Stevenson cracks the top-12 this season. For starters, he was fourth in receptions amongst all running backs last season. Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki will command their fair share of targets in 2023 with the Patriots. However, Jakobi Meyers, New England’s team leader in targets (96) last season is no longer with the team.
Rhamondre Stevenson should maintain his 17% target share, if not improve upon it with hopefully more team pass attempts in 2023. Just 14.4% of his total fantasy points were from scoring touchdowns last season. That’s the lowest amongst last season’s top-15 running backs. Positive touchdown regression would boost Rhamondre into top-five consideration.
Stevenson’s biggest competition for touches in the backfield, Damien Harris, is also gone. He’s now on the Buffalo Bills. Harris’ 106 carries in 11 games last season account for one-third of the Patriots’ running back carries. New England is bringing James Robinson into the mix, though he’s no lock to make the team and has a torn Achilles in his injury history.
Stevenson should play the majority of snaps in his third season with plenty of pass-catching upside in addition to his strong running style. If at any point he were to miss time in 2023, I believe New England takes a heavy committee approach which is a guessing game I’m not willing to play at that point. Rhamondre Steveson is a top-10 option at the position without a true handcuff.
The New England Patriots’ top target from the 2022 season, Jakobi Meyers, is now on the Las Vegas Raiders. On a sometimes-dysfunctional passing offense, Meyers managed to lead the team in targets (96) and receiving touchdowns (6), which account for one-third of the team’s total last season. Juju Smith-Schuster is replacing Meyers on this offense after signing the same exact deal that Meyers got with the Raiders, but with less guaranteed money.
Juju’s competition for targets comes from Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton. He is the only wide receiver they added in free agency and they did not draft one until later on Day Three of the NFL Draft. I don’t foresee many fantasy managers targeting Juju or any pass catcher from this offense given the wait-and-see approach toward Mac Jones. That leads me to believe Juju Smith-Schuster will come at a value in 2023 drafts.
If you look back at Mac Jones’ rookie season, without Matt Patricia calling plays, he threw for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. Jakobi Meyers was his top target then, too, with 83 grabs for 866 yards on a team-leading 126 targets. He averaged 11.8 points per game even with just two receiving touchdowns on the season. Assuming Juju slides into this role, and Jones thrives under O’Brien, Juju should return at least WR3 value in PPR formats. Commanding red zone looks and finding the end zone will make his value that much sweeter. He will be a late-round pick in most leagues. Juju’s upside is worth grabbing to bolster your wide receiver depth with a chance to play as a weekly starter.
Mike Gesicki is a bounce-back candidate of mine for the 2023 fantasy football season. Under new head coach, Mike McDaniel, Gesicki’s typical receiver role was eliminated in favor of more blocking. I believe he is with the New England Patriots now as a big-body, reliable pass catcher who should see plenty of action out of the slot. From 2019-2021, Gesicki’s average depth of target was 11.1 yards, behind only Dan Arnold and Jared Cook at the tight end position. He doesn’t quite separate from defenders but can get downfield and make big plays.
In those three aforementioned seasons, Gesicki logged at least 85 targets, 51 receptions, and 570 yards in each of them. Last year in Miami, he caught just 32 of his 52 targets for 362 yards. After averaging 10.1 points per game collectively in the three previous seasons, Gesicki averaged just 5.6 points per game in 2022.
The tight end position during Mac Jones’ rookie season commanded a 23% target share. Hunter Henry is going to have a role on this offense, as well, but we know how much Bill Belichick loves two tight end sets. There’s reason to believe both Gesicki and Henry can flourish on the same field. I’m not trusting either of these New England Patriots tight ends to yield consistent top-10 numbers, but they may prove to be some of the strongest streaming options of the 2023 fantasy football season.
The New England Patriots defense is the top defense from last year’s fantasy football season on a points-per-game basis. In fact, they’ve finished inside the top five in four of the last five seasons, dominating the field with 14.5 points per game in 2019. Unfortunately, the AFC East is that much more difficult to win now with Aaron Rodgers joining a strong group of quarterbacks in this division. Facing Rodgers, Josh Allen, and Tua Tagovailoa twice each isn’t great when you’re relying on turnovers and low-scoring games for fantasy football purposes.
The New England Patriots also open their season hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s second-highest scoring offense. So, the Pats’ defense isn’t even a good Week 1 streamer. Still, Belichick and his staff are great at scheming up game plans to stop even the best quarterbacks, something they’ll have to do often this season. I don’t expect this unit to be a top option in fantasy football but should remain a strong streamer on reputation alone in 2023.
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023