Patriots

Fantasy experts focus on Jonnu Smith, Jakobi Meyers as value picks in drafts

An insider also views a pair of Patriots running backs as potential sleeper picks.

Jonnu Smith appears to be a favorite among fantasy football experts. AP Photo/Steven Senne

If you’re looking to select a Patriots player in your upcoming fantasy football draft, experts have a couple in mind, especially in the later rounds.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen named tight end Jonnu Smith one of his 10 favorite targets for the whole draft. ESPN’s Mike Clay projects Smith to have 56 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns this season.

“I’m targeting Smith as an upside TE1 due to his receiving traits, formation versatility and overall fit in a Patriots offense that will utilize two-tight end sets,” Bowen wrote. “While fellow tight end Hunter Henry will see targets on middle-of-the-field throws this season in New England, let’s focus on Smith as a movable piece in an offense that lacks juice at the wide receiver position. That means seeing Smith removed from the core of the formation, or being utilized on pre-snap motion, to create both matchups and schemed opportunities.”

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Bowen likes Smith’s potential to get yards after the catch and as a red zone target in his first year in New England.

“Last season with the Titans, Smith ran a route on only 58.3% of dropbacks, yet he totaled eight touchdowns,” Bowen wrote. “And his 5.6 yards per reception after the catch ranked fourth in the NFL, ahead of Travis Kelce. With his physical makeup at the position, Smith can be deployed in New England as a seam stretcher, quick-game target out of empty sets and as a viable option in the low red zone. And, at TE13, I can wait until the later rounds to land a starter in my lineup.”

CBS Sports’ Jamey Eisenberg likes Smith as a late-round pick, too. While Smith barely played in the preseason due to an ankle injury, Eisenberg is hopeful Smith can replicate something similar to the 41 catches for 448 yards and nine touchdowns he had with the Titans last year.

“He should have the chance for a significant role in the offense along with [Jakobi] Meyers, and Smith has been productive when targets have come his way,” Eisenberg wrote. “In 2020 with the Titans, Smith had seven games with at least five targets, and he averaged 16.0 PPR points per game over that span. It’s doubtful he has that many targets on a consistent basis, but hopefully Newton or Jones will lean on Smith quite a bit. He’s one of the better tight ends to wait for on Draft Day with a late-round pick”

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The biggest sleeper Eisenberg is focused on is wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. In 2020, Meyers emerged as the Patriots’ top receiver, catching 59 passes for 729 yards. Even though he didn’t have a touchdown last year and the Patriots’ receiving room appears to be much better on paper this season, Meyers’s performance toward the end of the season is encouraging, according to Eisenberg.

“In 2020, Meyers started seeing significant playing time in Week 7, and over his final 11 games he scored at least 11 PPR points five times,” Eisenberg wrote. “When Edelman retired this offseason, it opened the door for Meyers to remain a priority in New England’s passing game, but the Patriots then added several pass catchers in Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.

“That apparently didn’t matter to Meyers, who reportedly has been fantastic in training camp. Cam Newton and Mac Jones continue to lean on Meyers, which was evident in New England’s second preseason game against Philadelphia. Meyers had three catches for 56 yards and a touchdown on three targets.”

ESPN’s Field Yates also listed Smith as one his “favorites” despite lacking eye-popping stats and playing alongside Henry, calling Smith’s skill set “one of the most special for any tight end in football.”

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“Go back and watch a Smith highlight from his Tennessee days and you’ll find a tight end who looks like a wide receiver at times and a running back at others in the open field,” Yates wrote. “As a matter of fact, Smith even took a pitch out of the backfield for 57 yards in 2019. He is an incredible player who is exceptional in the red zone and a mismatch waiting to happen. Yes, the Patriots double dipped at tight end, which has some cautious about either Smith or Hunter Henry becoming a weekly lineup staple. I’m of the mind that both can be useful, but I’m going in on Smith. This dude is unique.”

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter likes several Patriots for fantasy football this season. He named running back Damien Harris as a good middle-round pick and rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson as a good late-round pick.

Harris had a team-high 691 rushing yards last season. While Harris appears to be the Patriots’ top back for this season, there are a few potential downsides to picking him. He rushed for just two touchdowns last season and with Newton and Stevenson on the roster, Harris might not get enough red zone carries to score touchdowns this season. Harris also missed six games last season after not playing much his rookie year. He’s also not much of a receiving threat, catching just five passes last season.

As for Stevenson, he’s probably the biggest beneficiary of the Sony Michel trade. The rookie led the league in rushing through the first two weeks of the preseason with 194 yards. He also has four rushing touchdowns this preseason, adding more intrigue.

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Like many of his colleagues, Schefter lists Smith as a good late-round pick. He also lists Hunter Henry as a good late-round pick, too. Henry had 60 catches for 613 yards and four touchdowns. However, Henry’s dealt with injuries for much of his career, failing to play a full 16-game season once. He also dealt with a shoulder injury that’s kept him out of preseason action so far.

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