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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 New England Patriots

NFL Fantasy



Nick Makowitz

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The New England Patriots.


Below, Nick Makowitz and Daniel Kelley tackle the Patriots, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: New England Patriots

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Makowitz: Mike Gesicki
Kelley: Tyquan Thornton

Biggest Bust

Makowitz: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Kelley: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Bold Prediction

Makowitz: Rhamondre Stevenson leads the team in targets and receptions
Kelley: Ty Montgomery finishes in the top 10 in RB receptions

The Explanations


Makowitz: Mike Gesicki

Mike Gesicki’s snap percentage in Miami decreased from 72% in 2021 – when he set career highs in targets (112), receptions (73) and receiving yards (780) – to just 45% in 2022. He wasn’t a huge part of Mike McDaniel’s game plan, but he should see the field more often, and in more high-fantasy-value situations, in New England. Early camp reports suggest the Patriots will be using a lot of two-TE sets, and the super athletic Gesicki should separate himself from Hunter Henry as the best receiving tight end on the team. 

Gesicki put together back-to-back top-12 tight end finishes in 2020 and 2021, and he ranked 10th in fantasy points per 100 snaps last season in limited action. When he’s on the field and getting opportunities, he’s one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL. His TE21 ADP suggests he’s not even worth a flier in redraft leagues, but I think he could push for another top-12 finish.

Kelley: Tyquan Thornton

Tyquan Thornton New England Patriots 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

We’re almost a year removed now from when this was more or less my hot take for the 2022 season, but then he got banged up and made his rookie season something of a wash, so I’m rolling it back: Tyquan Thornton will be the top-scoring fantasy receiver on the Patriots. 

It’s not so much that Thornton is good (though he is) as much as is the only receiver here with a unique skillset. As I’ll get to below, the rest of the pass-catchers all more or less do the same thing, while Thornton’s blazing speed makes him capable of being a deep threat/home-run option that the Patriots absolutely do not have otherwise. Maybe he’s not consistent all season, but he’ll have enough breakout games and breakaway plays to be the top receiver on this offense in 2023.



Makowitz: JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster played 16 games with Patrick Mahomes and ran a route on over 70% of dropbacks, yet he still finished as just the WR37, rendering him a WR4 for the full season. He’s not a deep threat, as illustrated by last season’s 1.51 air yards per route (80th among receivers), he’s playing in a much worse offense, and he has a history of nagging lower body injuries.

Even though he’s being drafted as the WR44, he’s not worth it. There’s virtually no upside for a guy who isn’t very explosive, specializes in the short receiving game and is catching passes from Mac Jones. To return any serious value, he’d need to approach double-digit touchdowns or solidify himself as the unquestioned No. 1 receiver who never comes off the field. Mac Jones already has a rapport with almost all of the other receivers plus Rhamondre Stevenson, who might actually be the best receiver on the team, so both of Smith-Schuster’s paths look unlikely. His best-case scenario is that he’s the type of guy that you bench when he plays well and start when he’s awful.

Kelley: JuJu Smith-Schuster

I expect JuJu Smith-Schuster to be “eh, fine” in New England, because he’s basically the same player as Jakobi Meyers, who was “eh, fine” in New England. Meyers was treated as a revelation with the Patriots because he was an undrafted free agent from whom very little was expected, but in four seasons, he never reached 900 yards in a season, and when his touchdown total went up to 6 last year, his yardage fell to 804. Smith-Schuster has a higher Q-rating than Meyers, and he’s a better player in the aggregate (in his “disappointing” 2022, he had 933 yards, more than Meyers has ever reached), but not by much. And the problem with being that style of player in New England is … virtually all of the Patriots are “that style of player.” DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki. They aren’t field-stretchers by any means. They’re a bunch of guys who will catch short targets, do a little with them. And when you have a whole herd of the same guys, it will be hard for any one of them to differentiate himself.


Bold Predictions

Makowitz: Rhamondre Stevenson Leads the Team in Targets and Receptions

On the surface, this seems pretty bold, but Rhamondre Stevenson actually led the Patriots in receptions last season and finished second in targets behind Jakobi Meyers, who is no longer on the team. As opposed to any of the new weapons or young pass-catchers taking over a massive role, it may just be Stevenson who fills that void. According to our Splits Tool, he averaged over six targets and almost five receptions per game from Week 6 on. 

Rhamondre Stevenson New England Patriots 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

Per FTN’s advanced receiving stats, there were just 13 running backs who ran a route on more than 45% of their teams dropbacks last season. Of those 13, only three were targeted at a higher rate than Stevenson – Austin Ekeler, Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. As a bigger back, Stevenson isn’t thought of in that tier of elite pass-catching backs, but his workload and target-earning metrics suggest he’s close to it, if not a part of it. Right now, you can draft a workhorse running back who doubles as his team’s best receiver at the top of the third round.

Kelley: Ty Montgomery Finishes in the Top 10 in RB Receptions

Last year, Rachaad White was 11th in receptions at the running back position, with 50, so let’s call that our threshold for simplicity’s sake. On the one hand, Ty Montgomery is 30 and has a career high of 44 receptions (in 2016), with 35 total over the last four seasons. On the other hand, Montgomery’s debut season with the Patriots included only 21 snaps in Week 1 before about a half-dozen different injuries (seriously, check out the news reports about Montgomery around the injury and it’ll take about a dozen updates before you get from ankle to knee to shoulder) … and in that 21 snaps, he had 4 targets, 3 receptions and a touchdown.

Rhamondre Stevenson is going to be the starter and likely bell cow in New England. Behind him are Pierre Strong, Kevin Harris and J.J. Taylor — none of whom have done much in their respective careers to inspire much excitement — and Montgomery, who at least one connected person has said has a chance to be the third-down back in New England. Give him 50-55 receptions, and Montgomery will definitely flirt with fantasy relevance for the first time since he carried joint RB/WR eligibility in his Green Bay days.

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