Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2024 New England Patriots

Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2024 fantasy football season. Our Chris Meaney and Daniel Kelley are going to go team-by-team around the league all summer. They’ll pick sleepers, busts and bold predictions for each team. Sometimes they’ll agree! Sometimes they will go completely opposite one another! And that’s fine, because they’ll defend their positions, and you can decide for yourself who to side with. Up today: The New England Patriots.

Below, they tackle the team, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2024 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: New England Patriots

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Meaney: Ja’Lynn Polk
Kelley: Jacoby Brissett

Biggest Bust

Meaney: Rhamondre Stevenson
Kelley: Rhamondre Stevenson

Bold Prediction

Meaney: Antonio Gibson Leads the Patriots in Receptions
Kelley: The Patriots Have 2 Top-20 Tight Ends

The Explanations

Sleepers

Meaney: Ja’Lynn Polk

There’s not a lot to like about this Patriots team, as they enter the season with a 4.5-win over/under. In fact, the Patriots are underdogs in all 17 of their matchups. Jacoby Brissett is expected to open up the season as the team’s starter, and I think that’ll be a good thing for some of their young weapons like Polk. The Patriots’ wide receiver room consists of DeMario Douglas, Kendrick Bourne, K.J. Osborn, JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie Javon Baker. There isn’t much to work with, and Polk figures to be a starter as early as Week 1. We have him for a team-high 81 targets, 52 catches, 643 yards and 3.5 touchdowns, which is good enough for WR68 (111 points in a half point setting). That’s hardly fantasy relevant, but someone has to catch the ball and this team will be playing from behind often. Polk is a well-rounded wide receiver who can play both inside and outside, so that should keep him on the field. He can create with the ball in his hands and his catch radius is off the charts. 

Kelley: Jacoby Brissett

I would have taken Drake Maye second in this year’s NFL Draft. But I also think the Patriots can (and likely should) comfortably slow play the UNC rookie. The situation for New England this offseason was such that there really wasn’t a path for them to be division or playoff favorites, and probably not even a path for the team to even be realistic contenders, barring collapses around them. 2024 needs to be a transitional year from the team, setting itself up for the future. So there’s no need to through a lightly used rookie into the fire right away. Better to build up the surroundings (two rookie receivers) and offensive line, let the new coaching staff get its feet under it, and have Maye ready to go for 2025.

Which brings us to Brissett. We saw the veteran play very well for Cleveland in 2022, well enough that he could have kept the job if the Browns hadn’t already committed enough money to buy off Dr. Evil to Deshaun Watson. Instead, he was cast aside, but after some fits and starts to his career, when he started before he should have, Brissett has established himself as one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks, the kind of guy who can be a top-25 quarterback in the league easily but likely will never crack the top 12. But right now, he’s the QB34 in ADP (there are, you might have heard, 32 teams). In a single-QB league, I’m not drafting Jacoby Brissett, but in a two-QB league, I expect Brissett to put up starter-level numbers as long as he’s under center, and I expect him to be under center pretty much all year.

Busts

Meaney: Rhamondre Stevenson
ATLANTA, GA Ð NOVEMBER 18:  New England running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs past Atlanta cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) during the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on November 18th, 2021 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
ATLANTA, GA Ð NOVEMBER 18: New England running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs past Atlanta cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) during the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on November 18th, 2021 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

I hate to do this to Stevenson, but let’s be honest here: It’s hard to identify a bust in New England when only one of their players is getting drafted inside the top 150 picks. Stevenson’s currently the 20th running back off the board at pick 78.5 on average. I think that’s a fair price, and I like Stevenson’s game, but I’d much rather have a David Montgomery or Zamir White, and both of those backs are going later. Rhamondre has averaged over three catches per game over the past two seasons, and his 88 targets along with 69 grabs were inside the top four at RB in 2022. He’s a great pass-catching running back, and it’s not a stretch to think he could lead his team in grabs, but there are so many question marks with New England. Who will be the quarterback? Does the new regime want to make Stevenson a bell-cow back or will they use Antonio Gibson as their third-down RB? On top of that, the Pats finished dead last in points per game last season (13.9). Do you really want a running back on the worst offense in football? 

Kelley: Rhamondre Stevenson

Rhamondre Stevenson is the only Patriots who realistically can be a bust. The team doesn’t have a quarterback in the top 30 of ADP, a receiver in the top 70, a tight end in the top 17. There’s no way anyone at those positions can be a “disappointment,” given nothing is expected of them in the first place. Meanwhile, Stevenson is available at RB20, and while he finished as RB7 in 2022, there are some signs of concern. His fantasy success in 2022 came in large part as a result of his 88 targets (third among RBs) and 69 receptions (fourth). The offseason signing of Antonio Gibson, who has had 50-plus targets and 40-plus receptions each of the last three years, should cut into Stevenson’s receiving work. Meanwhile, Rhamondre isn’t a big goal-line or scoring threat, with only 15 career touchdowns and no more than 5 on a ground in any season. It’s hard for Stevenson to clear a path to get back to his RB7 or even that close. He’s only going as RB20 in drafts, but even that is close to a ceiling pick, and I expect him to come up shy of that.

Bold Predictions

Meaney: Antonio Gibson Leads the Patriots in Receptions

I almost made Gibson my sleeper, but the ceiling for Polk is much higher. I don’t mind the RB50 price for Gibson, especially in PPR formats. As much as I like Stevenson as a pass catcher, Gibson excels in that department as well. Gibson was a wide receiver early in his college career and those pass catching skills were on full display in his four seasons in Washington. He had at least 36 grabs in each campaign, and he has at least 42 in three straight seasons. The Pats may decide to line Gibson out wide, they could use him in the slot, and they could have both him and Stevenson on the field at the same time. As discussed, the Pats’ wide receiver room is thin and young. This team will be throwing a lot in the second half of games, which benefits Gibson. 

Kelley: The Patriots Have 2 Top-20 Tight Ends
FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 17: New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) checks with the line judge during a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on September 17, 2023, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

The Patriots have 11 wide receivers on their roster. The only one of those over 6-foot-1 is Tyquan Thornton at 6-2, and even if Thornton does eventually develop, there’s no version of Thornton that becomes “end zone weapon.” Rhamondre Stevenson has not shown to be a big goal-line threat in his career, and now his No. 2 is Antonio Gibson and not Ezekiel Elliott. Basically, the Patriots have no obvious goal-line threat among the running backs and receivers. What they do have, though, is a tight end duo who can do that job. Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper are almost 13 combined feet of red zone weapon, and any time the Patriots get even close, those are the guys they are going to look to.

Important note: Yes, I think they’ll both finish in the top 20 at tight end. No, I don’t think either one will be top 12. High floor, extremely low ceiling.

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