Top Patriots players' Fantasy Football projections for 2021

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Fantasy football: Projections for Damien Harris, Pats skill players originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots were a fantasy football black hole in 2020. 

Quarterback Cam Newton (QB19) was the only Patriots player to crack the top 40 at his position last season, as New England didn't come close to having a 1,000-yard running back or wide receiver and essentially didn't use its tight ends.

A lot has changed since March, however. Rookie Mac Jones is competing with Newton for the starting job, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are aboard to salvage the tight end position and Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne have arrived to bolster the wide receiver corps.

2021 Fantasy Football draft kit: Position rankings, sleepers and more

So... Will any of the new guys make a difference? Can Newton rediscover his mojo with upgraded weapons, or is running back Damien Harris still the only Patriots player worth serious consideration in your fantasy football draft?

Below are our 2021 stat projections for notable Patriots skill players -- keep in mind these are for a 17-game season -- and where we expect them to get taken in your draft. We'll start at the top.

Damien Harris, running back

2020 stats: 137 rushes, 691 yards, 2 TDs; 5 receptions, 52 yards, 0 TDs

2021 stat projections: 205 rushes, 963 yards, 5 TDs; 16 receptions, 158 yards, one TD

Projected draft round: Eight round (No. 77 overall)

Harris proved he can be a workhorse back in 2020, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 137 attempts in 10 games. The biggest concern is volume: Sony Michel, James White and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson all could steal touches from Harris assuming they're healthy (a big assumption for Michel), and Stevenson is a prime candidate to vulture some touchdowns.

The Patriots should run plenty in 2021, so you could make the case for Harris as an RB2. But if you're in a PPR/half-PPR league, he's probably best served as a backup given his limited role in the passing game.

Jonnu Smith, tight end

2020 stats: 65 targets, 41 receptions, 448 yards, 8 TDs

2021 stat projections: 72 targets, 58 receptions, 578 yards, 5 TDs

Projected draft round: 12th round

Henry has the better pedigree, but Smith is the more gifted athlete and pass-catcher who could emerge as Newton's tight end of choice. And unless the Patriots land a true No. 1 wide receiver during training camp, Smith could threaten Meyers for most targets on the team.

Smith is a fringe TE1 at best with Henry in the fold, but he's certainly worth drafting in the later rounds -- especially if he slips past Henry on draft boards.

Hunter Henry, tight end

2020 stats: 93 targets, 60 receptions, 613 yards, 4 TDs

2021 stat projections: 63 targets, 48 receptions, 514 yards, 3 TDs

Projected draft round: 14th round

The Patriots signed both of these guys for a reason. Don't be surprised if Smith and Henry combine for more than 100 catches and 1,000 yards. Durability is a concern with Henry, though: He's missed six games in the last two season after sitting out the entire 2018 campaign with a torn ACL.

Henry is a solid TE2 if he can stay healthy, but we'd still take Smith ahead of him.

Cam Newton, quarterback

2020 stats: 242 completions, 2657 yards, 8 TDs, 10 INTs; 137 rushes, 592 yards, 12 TDs

2021 stat projections: 200 completions, 2143 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs; 85 rushes, 421 yards, 6 TDs

Projected draft round: 18th round

There's a case for Newton as a solid QB2. His running ability gives him a high floor, and his connection with Greg Olsen in Carolina suggests he'll benefit from the tight end duo of Smith and Henry.

The case against Newton? Mac Jones. While Newton may enter Week 1 as the starter, you have to think Jones will see playing time at some point, with Bill Belichick perhaps following the Ryan Fitzpatrick-Tua Tagovailoa model in Miami. Newton is a late-round flier at best in two-QB leagues.

James White, running back

2020 stats: 35 rushes, 121 yards, 2 TDs; 49 receptions, 375 yards, 1 TD

2021 stat projections: 49 rushes, 196 yards, 2 TDs; 62 receptions, 494 yards, two TDs

Projected draft round: 18th round

White's best asset is his high floor: Even in his worst fantasy season since his rookie year, the pass-catching specialist was a top-50 running back last season. He won't be the same player without Tom Brady, but expect an uptick in receptions as the Patriots rely heavily on running backs and tight ends in the passing game.

If you're in a half-PPR or PPR league, White is worth having on your roster as a backup FLEX option.

Jakobi Meyers, wide receiver

2020 stats: 81 targets, 59 receptions, 729 yards, 0 TDs

2021 stat projections: 87 targets, 68 receptions, 791 yards, 3 TDs

Projected draft round: 19th round

Meyers is a great story: He went from undrafted free agent to the Patriots' No. 1 wide receiver who should occupy that same role in 2021. But the reality is that even the team's top wideout probably won't make that much of a fantasy impact.

While Meyers' touchdown drought should end soon, there are simply too many other wideouts with higher ceilings whose offenses feature receivers more prominently. Consider Meyers a WR3/4 at best.

Nelson Agholor, wide receiver

2020 stats: 82 targets, 48 receptions, 896 yards, 8 TDs

2021 stat projections: 87 targets, 68 receptions, 791 yards, 3 TDs

Projected draft round: 20th round

Agholor earned himself a nice payday with a huge season for the Raiders in a contract year. Don't expect those numbers to translate to New England, where the team's wideouts caught four touchdowns combined in 2020.

We can see the 28-year-old breaking out for a few big games, but as long as Newton is under center, there's just not enough upside here to justify Agholor as a starting wideout.

Honorable mentions: QB Mac Jones, RB Sony Michel, WR Kendrick Bourne, WR N'Keal Harry

Jones probably isn't worth drafting in non-dynasty leagues, but he's prime waiver wire material if Newton falters early in the season. We could see the rookie taking over as the full-time starter in November and averaging north of 200 passing yards per game.

Bourne could amass some targets in the slot, but his ceiling is capped behind Meyers and Agholor. Michel could be a trade chip if the Patriots like what they see in rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, and Harry already has one foot out the door.