In last night’s preseason game Patriots WR Julian Edelman injured his knee while running after a catch against the Lions. The initial reports are that his ACL is torn and will likely miss the season. What does this mean fantasy wise for the other Patriot WRs and for Edelman? As a Patriots fan I feel qualified to chime in on this as I watch just about every snap of every game and have for the length of Edelman’s career.
Overview – Edelman is a loss but others to pick up slack
If Edelman is lost for the season this will hurt the Patriots as he is a difference maker, especially on third down. While saying Edelman is a slot WR is not a truly fair statement, as he lines up outside quite often, he does a lot of damage on third down from the slot. At the very least Tom Brady trusts him and that in itself has a ton of value. Why? When the Patriots need a big play Brady will look to those he trusts the most. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare for the Patriots at WR as they still have Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcom Mitchell and Danny Amendola. In addition, they have Rob Gronkowski, James White, Dion Lewis and Dwayne Allen as pass catchers as well.
Stock Up – Brady’s Circle of Trust
There are a few Patriots players who I think this injury opens up opportunities.
Mitchell flashed last year as a rookie and seems to have Brady’s trust as he made several key catches during the Super Bowl in the 4th quarter. I think more than anyone he benefits if Edelman is out. With Edelman he was going to be behind Cooks and Hogan as an outside WR. With Edelman out it seems likely the Patriots will move Cooks around, including using him in the slot, meaning Mitchell will see more playing time outside. I would think the Patriots 3 WR set would be Hogan and Mitchell outside with Cooks in the slot. If Mitchell can continue to show the ability to win he could be a solid 50 catch player this season.
Much like Mitchell, the loss of Edelman will open some additional opportunities for Hogan on the outside. Hogan has shown an ability to get open, thus his nickname 7-11 because he is open all day, and creates big plays. Last year Hogan had 11 of his 38 receptions that went for 20+ yards and 4 for 40+ yards. Hogan also seems to have a good chemistry with Tom Brady and should see an between 50-60 catches with Edelman out.
Sometimes it seems like White is the forgotten man on the Patriots. Don’t forget that he was the MVP of the Super Bowl last year and finished the regular season with 60 receptions. However, I feel like his name is not one that comes up very often when talking about the Patriots weapons. The injury to Edelman will mean a lot of opportunities for White especially on third down. I would think Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels would look to isolate White on LBs to try and pick up some third downs to keep the chains moving. Last season over 20% of White’s receptions led to first downs. I would think one of the ways the Patriots would make up for the potential loss of Edelman would be to use the RBs more in the short passing game. Over the years the Patriots have been a matchup based team that looks to exploit the biggest mismatches. With all the talent the team has on the outside and at TE it is going to be hard, even without Edelman, for teams to matchup across the board. Based on that it would make sense that the RBs will find themselves with good matchups in the passing game often.
Stock Down – More Pressure to Produce
Here are a few players whose value might be hurt by the injury to Edelman.
This one might seem odd to you at first but bear with me. If Edelman had remained healthy it was within reason to think that the Patriots would ease back on Gronks usage during the regular season to try and make sure he was healthy for the playoffs. Now that Edelman is hurt the Patriots are going to need some more from Gronk. While that might seem like a good thing at first it also heightens the injury risk. While Gronk is a man among boys he has also had multiple back surgeries, a knee injury and various other injuries over his career. The more he is used the more hits he is going to take and the lower the chance he plays every week. Best case scenario for Gronk is that he is still a featured red zone target but with all the other weapons he see less targets on a weekly basis. For a fantasy owner seeing Gronk play 16 games should be the first priority even if it means he “only” puts up 60-70 catches for 800-1000 yards and 10 TDs. That seems a whole lot better than 10 games with 50 catches for 800 yards and 8 TDs. In the case of Gronk this season it is my feeling that less is more for both the Patriots and fantasy owners.
Again this is going to seem a bit odd but stay with me. Edelman is Brady’s security blanket and without him you could see Brady’s number move down a bit. Now I am not talking about a massive decline but if he goes from 42 TDs passes to 38 that would be a decline. The loss of Edelman could also mean that the team relies on the run a bit more to try and keep drives alive. Putting Brady on this list is nitpicking at its finest, but anytime a QB loses his security blanket there will be some reduction expected.
The Edelman injury means there is much more pressure on Cooks. What Edelman offered was the ability for Cooks to not be the focus of the defense and draw the other teams #1 CB. Cooks is now the #1 WR with Edelman hurt. Now on the plus side this means more targets for him. It will be interesting to see what type of chemistry Cooks develops with Tom Brady especially early in the season. Brady already has established chemistry with Hogan, Mitchell, White, Gronk and others. It is possible Cooks gets off to a slow start while he and Brady get on the same page and then he sees an uptick in the second half of the year. I suppose I am just not ready, like many others, to just assume that due to Edelman’s injury Cooks is just going to blow up.
Beyond the obvious that his stock is down because he will miss the season this also really hurts his dynasty value. Edelman will be 32 years old going into the 2018 season coming off of a major knee injury. Dynasty wise this makes him a pretty scary option. While Edelman is a hard worker with a unique skill set one would have to think this injury makes him more of a dynasty afterthought moving forward. While I still think he has a couple of good seasons left in front of him, one has to wonder if his best days are now behind him. This would be especially true if this turns out to be Tom Brady’s last year.
No Change – Don’t overthink it
Danny Amendola and Austin Carr
I have seen several folks running to the waiver wire to add Amendola or Carr. To be honest, I think you are just wasting an add even in a deeper league like DSE. I don’t see any change in Amendola’s role this year and, while he might have a game or two where he shines, the majority are going to be useless fantasy wise.
As far as Carr goes I am not even sure he makes the team. The Patriots are fine at WR with Amendola, Cooks, Mitchell, Hogan and Matthew Slater. It is likely that Edelman’s injury will mean an extra TE/RB or another position. Don’t just assume it will be another WR. I think both of these guys are a trap for fantasy players who don’t look below the surface on things. Many will assume because Amendola and Carr are slot WR’s that they are just going to move into Edelman’s spot. As mentioned above, I don’t think that is how things will play out. This is especially true for this Patriots team that has many other good options available to get targets.
While the Julian Edelman injury hurts the Patriots chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions, it does offer some interesting fantasy opportunites for players like Malcom Mitchell and Chris Hogan. I would expect that the Patriots will attempt to make up for the loss of Edelman buy spreading his targets around to multiple players. What makes Edelman such a good player is his ability to be effective both inside and outside. This versatility will mean that the Patriots will have to use multiple players to fill his void. Early in the season it will be interesting to see how the team deploys its weapons to try and pick up the slack. I would especially pay attention to who Brady is looking for on key third downs. This will tell a lot about who he trusts. The reality is injuries happen in football and as a dynasty team owner you must be prepared for them. If you have Edelman hopefully you have either Malcom Mitchell, Chris Hogan or James White to help your team.