Welcome to my annual New England Patriots article! That’s right. I write ONE article a year, and this is it!
So let’s get to my team preview about the Patriots’ RB, Rhamondre Stevenson…oh wait…I kind of already wrote that article.
Well, then, I guess it’s on to my team preview about WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Crap. I already wrote that one too! (See? THIS is why I shouldn’t write more than one article a year.)
Shoot. I guess that only leaves one option — Patriots tight ends! Recently, Josh has decided we need to focus on one player for our “A Look Inside” articles. But, as the first female member of the team, I’m gonna do what I want. As per usual. 😉
So, let’s get started.
Patriots Tight Ends 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
Whenever One Door Closes, I Hope One More Opens
Last year, Jonnu Smith was the Patriots’ TE2 behind Hunter Henry. Smith had 38 targets for 27 receptions and 245 yards, an average of 9.1 yds/rec, and a 71.1% catch rate.
Hunter Henry almost doubled that performance with 41 receptions on 59 targets for 2TDs and 509 yds, for an average of 12.4 yds/rec and a 69.5% catch rate.
However, during the Patriots’ garage sale this offseason, New England traded Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 seventh-round pick. (NE used that pick to draft CB Isaiah Bolden.) Just seven days after sending Smith south, the Patriots signed free agent Mike Gesicki from the Miami Dolphins. In 2022, Gesicki had 32 receptions on 52 targets for 5TDs and 362 yards, averaging 11.3 yds/rec and a 61.5% catch rate.
This is Not the (Tight) End; This is Not the Beginning
Also arriving in 2023 is new Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien isn’t exactly new, though — he began his coaching career in New England as a coaching assistant in 2007. After leaving the Patriots in 2011, he bounced in and out of the NCAA and NFL — Penn State, Houston Texans, Alabama — until rejoining the Patriots this year.
Bill O’Brien is back, and he brought his love for tight ends back with him. While the new offensive coordinator seemingly kept the majority of the offense under wraps over the past few weeks, the two tight end sets that O’Brien made prevalent back in 2011 seem to be back in Foxboro. Throughout every practice, the duo of Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki shared the field the majority of the time. They were a favorite target of Mac Jones while out there, as Gesicki specifically impressed with his quickness as a natural pass catcher. It will be interesting to get a more complex look at O’Brien’s offense and the elements he brings from Alabama as we enter the summer, but early indications point to the two tight end package being a large part of that new scheme.”
In his final three seasons with the Texans, O’Brien often used 12-personnel (2 WR/2 TE) plays on passing downs, so it’s highly probable that both Henry and Gesicki will see the field often. Especially Henry.
|Second Most (31%)||Third Most (28%)||Seventh Most (24%)|
It’s Just a Sweet, Sweet Fantasy, Baby
What does all this mean for fantasy? In 2022, FantasyPros ranked Hunter Henry as TE22 with 103.9 FPPG, while they ranked Mike Gesicki TE23 with 98.2 FPPG. Though Gesicki had fewer catches and yards, he had a higher catch percentage and touchdown total. (In 13 games, Tua Tagovailoa had a 64.8% completion percentage, while Mac Jones had a 65.2% completion percentage in 17 games.)
If you break down the total number of targets, it’s not Gesicki’s fault he didn’t have more. When you have both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to throw the ball to, you’re less likely to toss it to your tight end. Hill had 170 targets while Waddle had 117, both of which greatly overshadowed Gesicki’s 52. New England doesn’t have that powerhouse WR duo, so that won’t be a target thief.
On Sleeper, Hunter Henry has an ADP of 245 (TE35), while Mike Gesicki sits at 177 (TE24). Club Fantasy’s own Ryan Weisse projects Henry as the TE16 and Gesicki as TE28, while FantasyPros has Gesicki ranked TE20 and Henry as TE26.
It’s The Final Countdown
Is Mac Jones better than Tua Tagovailoa? Statistically, no. But with the addition of Bill O’Brien in NE (and the lack of strong WRs), I can see Jones targeting the TEs more often. So that should increase their completion percentages and FPPG. (Right?!)
I’m not saying that you should draft either one of them as your TE1, but if you find yourself streaming tight ends, I think either (both?) of these two would be solid options.
Thank you for reading my New England team preview article, spotlighting the Patriots’ tight ends in fantasy football!
A Look Inside the New England Patriots
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Faith focused on those Patriots’ tight ends, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Patriots by Ryan Weisse.
Mac Jones is good enough. He is not great and likely never will be for fantasy football. If you’re playing in a Superflex or 2-QB league, you’ll probably still feel more comfortable with him as your 3rd QB.
Rhamondre Stevenson is GREAT! At 6 feet tall, 230 lbs, he’s built like a workhorse but can catch the ball as well as any back not named McCaffrey or Ekeler. He was a top-10 fantasy RB last year, and that was in a quasi-timeshare with Damien Harris. Harris is gone, and Stevenson might just play every snap this season. Hyperbole? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. He is a steal in Round 3 of your fantasy drafts.
Someone has to be the WR1 on this damn team, and I like Juju. Jakobi Meyers was a top-30 WR for the Pats last year and only played in 14 games. That makes Smith-Schuster a backend WR2 in most leagues, and he can be had for much cheaper than that in most drafts. He won’t win you many weeks, but slow and steady wins the race. For a better look at the new Patriots’ WR1, check out this article from Faith.
We could have easily stopped this article after Smith-Schuster and been done with it. The cast of WRs behind him is comically average. Between DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne, it’s clear that Rhamondre Stevenson is the most likely WR2. However, Tyquan Thornton is a player to watch. He has a lot of green flags that fantasy managers love. He is blazing fast, running a 4.21 40-yard dash at the combine, and he was drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2022 NFL draft, giving him premium draft capital. He was average as can be in his rookie year, but the offense was a MESS. With an actual OC on staff now, it will be interesting to watch his growth.
We will cover every team this offseason, so check here often for all of our “A Look Inside” articles.