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Patriots Release Injured Reciever Jordan Matthews

JMatthews.jpgThings in New England haven’t gotten much better for a team riding the waves of a turbulent off season with the news that free agent wide out Jordan Matthews has been released.

A hamstring injury recently suffered by the mercurial receiver was deemed “significant” and the Patriots deemed it was time to move on. With lingering injury issues to Malcom Mitchell (knee) and Kenny Britt (hamstring), it’s likely the Patriots consider adding depth to aid a group that’s already without Julian Edelman for four games.

Veteran Eric Decker was recently worked out by the team, and has to be considered one of the better bets as his skill set works with how Brady operates, but it’s a situation to monitor.

In the meantime, the value on Chris Hogan should be bumped slightly as only he and Gronkowski return as reliable passing game targets among the receivers and tight ends group. Rex Burkhead and James White could see a bump in value as well due to their proficiency catching the ball from other areas outside of the backfield.

As usual, the Patriots will go into the preseason with questions fantasy owners would love to have answered.

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Julian Edelman’s Suspension Upheld

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The NFL recently denied the suspension appeal of New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Edelman will miss the first four games of the 2018 season, further muddying the waters in New England after a difficult  off season.

I’ve already begun the process of re-evaluating other key Patriot players, most notably quarter back Tom Brady. His insistence on avoiding off season team activities has put him behind the 8 ball as only Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski return as major passing game weapons from a year ago. With no Brandin Cooks or Dion Lewis, and new-to-me receiver Jordan Matt

hews receiving very little work with the veteran, drafting Brady is a risk I’m not sure is worth it as the QB3.

Looking Up: 

  • Jordan Matthews: His current ADP looks to be in the round 13 area, making him relatively low risk as he’ll likely command Edelman’s slot work early on.
  • Sony Michel: Already considered by many to be the front runner for lead back work, Michel may be called on heavily in the passing game early.
  • Chris Hogan: He’ll return as one of Brady’s favorite targets, and with Cooks out of town, he’ll be the primary down-the-field threat and should see a lot of red zone work.

Looking Down

  • Tom Brady: Still considered to be in the top 3 at the position, Brady’s value takes a hit with his favorite weapon sidelined. Not enough work in the off season could spark a slow start for Tom Terrific.
  • Rob Gronkowski: Similar to a big league slugger who loses the protection of an elite bat in the lineup, Gronkowski becomes opposing defenses biggest priority, and double teams could cause enough inconsistencies to keep him from paying off on a top 30 pick.

Julian Edelman Facing 4 Game Suspension

Ijulesf you hadn’t heard, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots is facing a four game suspension for testing positive for some kind of P.E.D. The details have not yet been released, but it’s a safe bet that the Patriots will be without their star slot receiver until week 5 of the season.

What does that mean in terms of fantasy?

There are two major factors when determining where to rank Edelman. First, is that he’s coming off a major knee injury. At 32 years old, and a year removed from meaningful football, Edelman is already behind the proverbial 8 ball. Second, he’ll be missing 25% of the fantasy schedule even if he DOES stay healthy for the year. My projections have him hovering around the WR50 mark, which would plant him in the 14th round.

But who is going to assume the production early on (and possibly ingratiate themselves to Brady)?

The least impact should be to the Patriots newest receiver, Jordan Matthews. While he may be the most talented receiver on the board in terms of athletic ability, he’s had very little time to work with his new QB, as Brady continues to avoid the Patriots practice facilities.

Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, should benefit only slightly, as he was likely in line for the lions share of targets anyhow even before the suspension. I expect that the Pats would rather involve other supporting cast rather than dump more on the oft-injured TE.

This leaves Chris Hogan as the receiver with the most to gain. We know Brady and Hogan have a bit of a rapport already, and with added expectation thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade, Hogan should slide in as the WR1 right out of the gates, and should see a more consistent usage in the passing game.

Of course, expect the running backs to see ample usage early on. Sony Michel, the Patriots first round draft pick, is a trendy name already but James White or Rex Burkhead should be more valuable considering where they are being drafted.

As always, keep an eye on the situation as things may change.

Hidden Gems (WR)

Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.

Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.

Surest Thing – Mike Wallace: Despite the appearance of a crowded receiver team, Mike Wallace is my surest bet amongst the late round WR picks based on his ADP (around 179!) Simply put, he’s hiding behind an unproven journey man in Kamar Aiken and a 35 year old Steve Smith Sr. and whatever mess at TE they decide to roll out (Maxx  is a competent NFL TE but he’s going to eat significant targets away from any of the players already mentioned, nor is Gillmore). If Aiken regresses and/or Smith Sr. misses time with injury, the speedfunchessy Wallace should find himself hooking up with the strong armed Flacco more and more often. For a late round pick, he offers the highest ceiling with the lowest floor.

Highest Risk Reward – Devin Funchess: Despite pedestrian numbers in 2015, Funchess showed that he could be a productive player in the NFL, and there are two sides to the coin surrounding the return of Carolina’s “main man” Kelvin Benjamin. The majority of fantasy players expect Benjamin to step back into his #1 role, and you’d be justified, but I expect there’s a decent chance that having extra time to work with Funchess will result in better numbers for a WR being drafted in the 12-14th round. Obviously with Cam Newton, there’s no
garuntee that skill player A performs the same week in and week out, as the play breaks down Cam’s on of the best in the game finding the open man. Still, the reward if he turns into Cam’s saftey blanket far outweighs the risks.

Big Ole’ Bust – Marvin Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but Marvin Jones has the easiest road to ruin of any WR in the entire league. For starters, Matthew Stafford is is entering his 8th NFL season, and his attempts have dropped significantly as his mileage piles up. With Golden Tate proving he can carry the mantle, it’s highly unlikely Jones (who has no history in the NFL of carrying an offense) will step in and replace the departing Calvin Johnson. It’s more likely that Stafford adjusts his targets to Tate, Ebron, and Abdullah and Jones is left as the 4th or 5th player in touches.

Bonus – Chris Hogan: It’s easy to overlook the former Bill as he dons the enemies attire with New England this year. Why? Well, Gronkowski, Edeleman, Lewis, and Amendola to name a few. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely the New England offense stays healthy, and each of the names just mentioned has a lengthy injury history. Hogan is a sure handed blue collar guy who is likely to slide right in and pick up where guys like Lafell fit (when he was productive). He’s being drafted in the final rounds of drafts, so feel free to take a flier on him.