The Brady Bunch by @KennyGuruFF
We have officially entered the strangest timeline as the NFL got turned on its head with the Antonio Brown release. After weeks of drama in Oakland, Brown now journeys to New England to form the most dominant New England Patriots ever on paper. Tom Brady, James White, Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, and N’Keal Harry. Are we in store for a repeat of the utter dominance we witnessed in 2007?
Coming into this season the Patriots were still favorites to repeat and now it looks like we can just fast forward to February. The defense is upgraded, the offensive unit added arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. Over the last six seasons, Brown has never produced less than 101/1,284/8 in a season. But that line could come down a bit this year because in the past he was the only weapon in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, New England likes to spread the ball around more. Not to mention, Julian Edelman is known as Brady’s ultimate security blanket and Josh Gordon plays on either side of the field. When N’Keal Harry comes back midseason he’ll have a chance to learn from two of the most dominant wide receivers in the league.
From a fantasy outlook, Tom Brady immediately moves into consideration as a top-three QB and could easily see a path towards 50-plus touchdowns this season. It seems crazy with how run-oriented the Pats were last year but nobody is going to be able to cover this WR corps. In three wide receiver sets, Edelman will be underneath in the slot, Gordon at X and Brown at Z. This will likely open up even more scoring opportunities for the team and should raise Sony Michel’s value quite a bit while taking some added targets away from James White. Although chances of White getting 123 targets again this season were low.
Last season, Michel played in 13 games and had a 209/931/6 rushing line with minimal receiving impact. The second-year back should see an increase in his passing game utilization this year but he is going to probably face the lowest stacked box rate in the league. Last year Michel faced the 13th highest rate of 8-plus defenders in the box (8+D%) at 26.79%. That will now probably be one of the lowest in the league this year. Michel could end up with over 1,200 yards this year as defenses play a lot more nickel and respect the New England pass game on a whole new level. If he has 250 rushes this year at his 2018 YPC of 4.5 he would have 1,125 yards. Expect his efficiency to be even higher and barring injury, he should finish as a top-ten RB in fantasy. His lack of experience in the passing game is the only thing holding him back from being a top tier RB but if he gets enough goal-line work he could be destroy expectations.
All three of the Patriots starting wide receivers could finish the year as top-20 WRs in PPR if they stay healthy. However, the big caveat is that the top dog will vary by game script and defensive fronts. Edelman should still be the most consistent option with Brown and Gordon both fighting to be top scorer each week. The biggest impact will be the fact that you can’t really double team either one of them. If you do, Brady will just target the other in single coverage or hit Edelman. Brown may end up with more receptions this season but Gordon will generate more big plays, making him the slightly riskier play. Either way, in this offense – don’t expect any of the top dogs busting on a regular basis as Tom Brady could be in for his best season since 2007.
Unfortunately, this does mean someone is going to get cut and with N’Keal Harry set to come back after Week 8, expect Demaryius Thomas or Jakobi Meyers to be the odd man out. If not now, then definitely when Harry is activated. Since Brown’s signing won’t be official until Monday, I would expect to see the Patriot make some salary cap moves in the interim. Per, @Patscap they currently have $6.379 million in cap space, not accounting for Jonathan Jones extension. Guys like Van Noy, Hightower, McCourty or Harmon to restructure or get an extension to free up cap space now to fit in AB’s cap hit.
Let’s also touch on the fantasy implications of AB’s release in Oakland. J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant are expected to be the starting wide receivers across from Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow expects to slide into the slot. This move helps three players potential the most. Tight end Darren Waller, Williams, and running back Josh Jacobs.
Waller has been the buzz of the Raiders camp since early Spring. Now without AB – over 140 targets should be up for grabs. Last year, Jared Cook had 101 targets for 68/896/6. Waller could potentially finish with around 60 receptions this season. He’s an athletic tight end and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden loves to target the tight end.
Williams was quietly a stud for the Chargers. In 2016 he posted an 87th percentile success rate vs. man coverage in @MattHarmon_BYB Reception Perception. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has averaged the fifth-most yards per target in the NFL since 2015. He’s averaged a whopping 10.2 yards per target throughout his career.
Josh Jacobs, the electric rookie first-rounder already entered this year with big expectations. He was going at the back of the third round in redraft leagues, and now should be in for even more volume this year. With Carr likely to be under pressure a lot more, Jacobs should see even more short passes that he can use his burst and change of direction to break open some big plays. Jacobs should catch around 60 passes and carry the ball 220 times. He’ll likely be the driving force of this offense. Overall, Oakland takes a step back in total production but Williams, Waller, and Jacobs should still be reliable and consistent fantasy options moving into 2019. If Waller or Williams are still on your waiver wire, go add them.