The New Look New England Patriots will have someone other than Tom Brady under center for the first time in team history, While that’s not true, it certainly feels that way; that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are synonymous and symbiotic. Yet, for the first time in a long time, Brady is not a Patriot. It’s Cam Newton under center for the New England Patriots this year, along with a familiar cast of characters. What can we expect out of these guys this year? Who will be their 2020 sleeper, breakout, and bust candidates?
Sleeper – N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver (WR61, 117 overall)
Let’s go back one calendar year and think about the fantasy football buzz surrounding N’Keal Harry. Dynasty fantasy players tabbed him as the #1 overall pick in their rookie drafts, and glowing sleeper pieces flowed like wine from our fingertips. We glossed over the Tom Brady and N’Keal Harry style mismatches (Brady is a calculated passer and a Sexy Rexy Grossman-esque “f*** it I’m going deep” style better suits Harry’s skillset). Injuries limited Harry in the preseason and he hit the IR, not returning until week eleven. So, he was thrown in feet-first into a season in full swing without a real preaseason. People are confused that he suddenly played poorly? What’s more likely, that he was behind the 8 ball in 2019 or that he suddenly forgot how to play football?
N’Keal Harry is essentially free, as far as wide receivers. He’s going deep enough to snag him as an upside play. After all, Cam Newton’s style (deep passer) fits Harry to a T. It’s going to be one of those things we really should have seen coming, like D.J. Chark’s 2019 breakout campaign. Don’t get scared off by his first 24 career targets, get on board with his next 124 targets.
Breakout – James White, Running Back (RB38, 98 overall)
James White has finished as a top-24 running back in each of the last two seasons in half-PPR, and losing Tom Brady will apparently cost him enough dump-offs to make him an afterthought in fantasy football drafts? That’s it. That’s the justification. James White is the second-most targeted running back in the league since 2016, with 376 targets over the last four years. In any sort of PPR league, in a just universe, he goes inside the top-30 at the position. He certainly goes before Sony Michel (more on that later).
James White is likely the casualty of Tom Brady leaving the Patriots going too far in our minds. He’s going to get a ton of targets and has a higher yard per reception than guys like Zeke, Kamara, and CMC (the only guy with more targets than him in the last four seasons). He’s a steal at RB38 and is a player I intend on stealing onto my rosters. I’m not too worried about Cam Newton’s addition stealing too many targets from James White. Cam is getting up there in age and has the best coach to ever do it in his ear telling him to save his body because Bill doesn’t want to turn to Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer.
Bust – Sony Michel, Running Back (RB31, 82 overall)
If I was a running back, I would fear to play with a quarterback like Cam Newton, who is a running back in his own right. Now I know I just said that I don’t fear Cam Newton tucking and running above, but I’ll tell you where I do fear him: the goal line. Sony Michel was wholly inefficient last season, turning in the RB40 season on the ninth-most carries and the fourteenth-most goal-line carries. What happens in 2020 when he gets just the ninth-most carries, and fewer touchdowns? He would have to return to his rookie year efficiency but would have to do it without getting a lot of breakaway runs (he ranked #43 in that last season) and without hitting a lot of jukes (#40).
What are you left with, then, as a Sony Michel acolyte? A two-down plodder who doesn’t catch passes and who will have his goal-line carries stolen by Cam Newton. That’s a recipe for ending the year around RB35. He will get plenty of carries, and if you need 4 or 5 points, I guess he can get you that but don’t expect much more than that on a weekly basis. Michel simply doesn’t have the skills, and could even have his touches eaten by sophomore running back Damien Harris and the vampire-level immortal Rex Burkhead. No thank you, I am not red e to overcome that level of production.