3 fantasy football takeaways from Patriots preseason so far

The Patriots pass rush is helping boost the defense's value.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady signals a thumbs-up during a preseason game against Eagles, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. –AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Through half of the Patriots’ preseason schedule, what’s clear about the team so far is that much remains unclear. This is particularly apt in fantasy football terms.

Position battles remain thoroughly unresolved among wide receivers and running backs. This provides both opportunity and risk for fantasy players. The glimmering potential of a late round fantasy pick emerging as a starter in a Tom Brady-led offense is a tantalizing thought for those drafting in the next few weeks.

But who and what should you know about so far from Patriots’ preseason? Here’s a quick fantasy football analysis from a New England perspective:

No signs of decline from Tom Brady

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Yes, strange as this might sound, Tom Brady can still play. The guy who threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl LII found a rhythm on Thursday in the preseason rematch facing Philadelphia.

He finished 19 for 26 with 172 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Beyond that, he remained as passionate as he’s ever been, exhorting teammates as if it was the fifth and six quarters of last season’s Super Bowl.

Brady, now 41, remains indisputably a top-tier quarterback.

Tempting as it might seem to pounce on the future Hall of Famer as quickly as possible in your draft, it’s wise to wait. This has nothing to do with Brady, and is more about the scarcity of premier running backs and wide receivers.

But if you wound up with Brady as your QB1, prepare for more of the same: excellence.

James White is a worthy later round option.

Attempting to suss out which Patriots running back will possess the greatest value in fantasy each season is an annual quandary.

Last year, it initially appeared Mike Gillislee was the running back to have as he trampled his way to four touchdowns in two games. Just as quickly as the expectations rose around Gillislee, they melted away. He saw an increasingly diminished role in the running game, culminating with his being listed inactive from weeks 9-14.

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In 2018, predictions run in a myriad of directions. It’s safe to expect that no single Patriots running back will monopolize the snaps. This is both good and bad, in a sense. It means there’s always opportunity for multiple backs to shine, but makes it impossible to tell whose number will be called each game.

White’s reception numbers have averaged 52 catches, 463 yards receiving and four touchdowns over the last three seasons. He’s been fairly consistent in that regard, even if his weekly stats are difficult to anticipate.

He showed what a good night can look like in the second preseason clash against the Eagles, hauling in six passes for 61 yards and a score.

His ceiling is that of a quality slot receiver, generally with the bonus of a few rushing yards. If you can take him late in a draft, hang on to White even if he doesn’t star in a given week. With the way the Patriots backfield evolves, his situation could improve quickly in the right circumstances.

Is the defense a solid fantasy bet?

Through two preseason games, the Patriots defense has amassed eight sacks on opposing quarterbacks.

Granted, some of those were totaled by backups, playing against other backups. And the overarching grain of salt to be accompanied with preseason analysis is that game plans are essentially non-existent and schemes are correspondingly simple.

That said, several of the major plays made by the Patriots defense happened when the starting defense (or the rough equivalent parts of it) were in the game. And sacks are often generated by winning one-on-one match-ups.

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In other words, the vital signs of the Patriots pass rush look good, preseason or not.

The secondary and – as Belichick calls it – the “marrying up” of the pass rush and coverage, it still an unknown quantity. So it’s too early to say that the Patriots will have a top fantasy defense.

Still, considering the turnovers that the Patriots are likely to generate, keeping an eye on them during the inevitable fantasy draft run on defenses could prove fruitful.

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