5 Patriots Fantasy Football Takeaways From FFBDPod Interview ft. WEEI's Ryan Hannable - Roto Street Journal
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5 Patriots Fantasy Football Takeaways From FFBDPod Interview ft. WEEI’s Ryan Hannable

In the recently-released 81st edition of the Fantasy Fullback Dive, our guy The Wolf sat down with friend of the program and WEEI Patriots writer Ryan Hannable to talk about New England’s fantasy potential for the upcoming 2019 season. The pair dissected the major gains and losses from free agency and the key guys from April’s draft that could make an impact in their first season. You can subscribe and listen to the episode on iTunes here, but here are my primary takeaways.

1. N’Keal Harry is a solid player, but won’t be a world-beater on day 1

” I just think, when you look at the Patriots and the way they draft, they always say they don’t draft for need and always take the best player available, but I don’t think that was the case this year. I think they saw what their roster looked like, knew they needed to get some help for Tom Brady, and they didn’t get anybody in free agency that’s going to make an impact, so that’s why they went with N’Keal Harry.” – WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Fantasy Fullback Dive Episode 81

If you, for whatever reason, turned Episode 81 off at the 2-minute mark, you’d probably think Hannable was the biggest N’Keal Harry hater ever. His review of the 32nd overall pick doesn’t begin glowingly, as he questions if Harry truly should’ve been a 1st round pick or if the Patriots uncharacteristically reached for him at #32. But Hannable goes on to describe Harry as a strong guy with good hands who will line up primarily on the outside for New England, especially early on, and make an impact even if he doesn’t necessarily stretch the field from the wideout position. Hannable compares Harry to Josh Gordon, citing the physical similarities between the two, and indicated the Patriots may use Harry in a similar role as Gordon was used in last season.

Personally, my takeaway from this insight is to lower expectations a bit for Harry, at least for the first half of the season. Being a rookie is tough enough, but being a rookie in New England is a whole other beast, and it very well may take Harry the majority of his rookie season to be mentally and physically in position to make a major impact.

2. The tight end position will be a fantasy wasteland in 2019

“I don’t think any Patriots tight end is going to be relevant for fantasy this year.”

WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Fantasy Fullback Dive Episode 81

This isn’t a total shock to hear, but after the downplayed signings of guys like Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and old friend Ben Watson this offseason, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that a New England TE could be fairly valuable as a late-round pick or waiver pickup in 2019. But Hannable did not believe that to be the case, even going so far as to say that any one of the top 3 TEs on the roster — ASJ, Watson, or Matt LaCosse — could be cut before Week 1. Coincidentally, a week after this interview was released, Sefarian-Jenkins was cut by the Patriots as he steps away from football for personal reasons. The Wolf had expressed some hope that ASJ could be the guy that comes forward and makes a strong contribution in Gronk’s old spot, while Hannable believes that if anyone can actually produce at the tight end position, it’ll be Watson, even as he faces a 4-game suspension to start the year.

Barring any training camp/pre-season injuries or more roster moves that drastically change the outlook of New England’s TE situation, I’d steer clear of the whole group until well after your draft.

3. Out of the newly acquired WRs, Dontrelle Inman is the safest pick

“If I had to pick one out of the new group, I think it’s Inman. I think he’s an intriguing guy. You look at the numbers at the end of last year with the Colts, he was their #2 wideout, performed pretty well, had some decent games. I think if you look at the whole season, he’s the guy to look at from the Patriots to make an impact.” – WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Fantasy Fullback Dive Episode 81

Now keep in mind, this endorsement of Dontrelle Inman came from pinning him up against only Demaryius Thomas and Maurice HarrisJulian Edelman is obviously still the top guy fresh off a Super Bowl MVP performance and a 2-year extension, and Phillip Dorsett should continue to build off last season’s success as the #2 guy. N’Keal Harry will obviously be fighting to make an impact in his rookie season, and if/when Josh Gordon is able to return, his presence would significantly shake up New England’s receiver situation. But out of the new guys, Hannable likes Inman the most, primarily citing his history of being a steady and reliable target and his solid season in Indy last year. Hannable went on to say he believes Demaryius Thomas still has something left in the tank at 30 years old, but at his age and coming off a torn Achilles, we’re unsure of how many games he’ll be able to play and how many snaps he’ll actually see in the games he’s active for, so he’s a riskier pick from a fantasy perspective.

Inman may have the highest floor of the 3 newcomers in New England, but I’d still likely wait for the post-draft waiver process to get going before snagging him as a potential FLEX option.

4. Draft Julian Edelman like a potential WR1

“I think it’s a big year for [Edelman]. I think if you look at the loss of Rob Gronkowski, and you look at Tom Brady and who he’s going to trust most, there’s really not anybody out there besides Edelman… Edelman’s stock might be as high as it’s ever been.”

WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Fantasy Fullback Dive Episode 81

As the Wolf so elegantly put it, Julian Edelman is the true heartbeat of the Patriots passing game. Brady is gonna Brady, but without a steady target like Edelman on his side, New England’s aerial attack isn’t the same. Over the last 6 seasons, Edelman has led the Patriots in receiving yards 3 times, finished 2nd to Gronk twice, and missed a season to injury, so Hannable declaring his fantasy stock may be “higher than it’s ever been” is significant. He was the 12th best WR in fantasy last year from Week 5 on and went on to average almost 130 yards per game in New England’s 3 playoff games, and with a new 2-year extension on the books, he should be more ready than ever to continue pacing the team’s passing game.

Edelman’s currently slated as a mid-4th round pick for 2019 drafts, but taking a chance on him a bit earlier could net you a WR1 with top-10 potential.

5. Sony Michel is still the top back, but Damien Harris could cut into his production

“I don’t think they trust Sony Michel to be able to produce like he did last year from a durability standpoint. I don’t think [the Patriots] went into the draft saying we’re going to select a running back, but because Harris fell to where he did, I think the Patriots looked at that as a great value pick… I guess from a fantasy perspective, it probably takes away a bit of Michel’s value.”

WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Fantasy Fullback Dive Episode 81

Sony Michel missed 3 games of his rookie season and got off to a slow start production-wise but still finished the season as the 25th RB in fantasy. And after 336 yards and 6 TDs in the team’s 3 postseason games, it’d make sense to assume Michel was headed for a bellcow role in 2019. But after the Patriots took Bama’s Damien Harris in the 3rd round, the picture is a little less clear. The Patriots are clearly worried about Michel’s durability, and that concern could cause Harris to eat into Michel’s workload throughout the entire season. Michel will still be the #1 back in New England, but may not produce at the rate that potential fantasy owners may be hoping.

Michel is still a very draftable back, currently the Wolf’s RB26 and being drafted as high as the mid-30s, but expectations should be kept reasonable with Harris in the picture. Harris, meanwhile, is the Wolf’s RB53 and should be left alone until his regular role is established.

Our two experts go on to discuss Rex Burkhead‘s potential future, James White‘s all-important role, and many more topics that’ll impact how you draft in likely a few short months.

The entire interview is on YouTube here. Be sure to subscribe to RSJ’s YouTube page if you haven’t already, and while you’re there check out our interview with 49ers insider Grant Cohn, Bucs writer Trevor Sikkema, and more.

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