Patriots

Fantasy Beat: Can't take a flier on Rex Burkhead in your fantasy playoffs

Fantasy Beat: Can't take a flier on Rex Burkhead in your fantasy playoffs

Fantasy football owners seem to get smarter every year. The leagues seem to get deeper. The competition seems to get better. That's partially because of the sheer amount of information available to fantasy geeks willing to put the time in. But it's not always easy to find sound fantasy advice on players making up the back ends of fantasy depth charts. That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps. 

Every week, we'll look at the Patriots matchup and try to help you decide which players to start and which to sit -- or which to invest in if you're playing in a daily format. You know you're rolling with Julian Edelman on a weekly basis this year, but otherwise...? There are plenty of questions that hopefully we'll answer here. 

START

SONY MICHEL, RB, PATRIOTS

You can trust Sony Michel in your fantasy playoffs. At least, I think you can. I know he had two touchdowns vultured by James Develin last week. I know he's looked bad in short-yardage and goal-line situations. I know he only had 63 yards last week against the Vikings. But the Dolphins aren't the Vikings. The Dolphins are one of the league's worst run defenses, allowing 5.0 yards per carry. Michel is an RB2.  

JAMES WHITE, RB, PATRIOTS

Time to worry about James White's workload with Rex Burkhead back in the mix? In a word, no. He touched the football 13 times last week for 118 total yards. After a couple of down weeks against the Titans and Jets, White was right back in the thick of things. Despite the depth at his position in New England, there's still plenty of work available for White, who is likely the best one-on-one option in the short passing game for Tom Brady these days. He's an RB2 and a borderline RB1 in PPR leagues.

JOSH GORDON, WR, PATRIOTS

Josh Gordon has been very efficient the past two weeks, catching all eight of his targets. We know he has the ability to break a tackle and break a long play any time he touches the football, and the fact that he says his conditioning has improved has to be viewed as a sign that he'll have more big-play opportunities moving forward. His hard-charging running style was on display last week as he picked up an average of 12 yards after the catch on his three grabs. He's a WR2 this week. 

ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE, PATRIOTS

You can't start Rob Gronkowski expecting the old Gronk. Especially now that the Dolphins have top-tier safety Reshad Jones back from injury and patrolling the middle of the field. But do you have to start him? Yes. One encouraging note for Gronkowski fantasy owners? The Patriots may have dialed back his workload purposefully against the Vikings. There were instances when he had one-on-one coverage -- and even had room to run -- yet didn't see the football. He's not the player he was. There are weeks when opposing defensive coordinators treat him like any other tight end (though not every week, as we saw against the Jets), but Brady still trusts him, and he still has the ability to put up more fantasy points than most at his position. That's what matters here. 

SIT

TOM BRADY, QB, PATRIOTS

Brady cracked the 300-yard barrier last weekend, but he still has just four touchdown passes in his past five games. The matchup against Miami, which appears as though it'll be without Xavien Howard, is a very good one on paper. But Brady's numbers in Miami -- particularly in Miami in December -- are brutal. His career December rating drops about 20 points when in Miami. His touchdown-to-interception ratio in Miami in December is 9-to-10. He's 1-5 in Miami in December in his career. You can't be blamed for looking elsewhere this week.

KENYAN DRAKE, RB, DOLPHINS

If fantasy is as much about opportunity as it is about talent, you can't feel good about rolling with Drake. He had nine touches last week in a close game with the Bills. In Weeks 9 and 10 he combined for 17 touches. He's had a nose for the end zone lately -- three scores in his past two games -- but with your fantasy playoff lives on the line, I wouldn't feel great about him. 

REX BURKHEAD, RB, PATRIOTS

Do I think Rex Burkhead will have fantasy value before the regular season is through? Yes. Do I think it'll be this week in Miami? I think there's a chance. Do I think you should start him this week? No. Look, the Patriots had their backs touch the football a whopping 45 times the other night. (Burkhead had seven carries for 20 yards and two catches for 21.) They're OK with dinking and dunking given their personnel there. And if either Michel or White were ever to miss time, Burkhead would become a solid fantasy option. But until he establishes a greater role for himself, it's too risky to start him this late in the year. 

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Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

The Kansas City Chiefs could be without their star quarterback for an extended period of time.

Patrick Mahomes left Thursday night's game vs. the Denver Broncos with a right knee injury. The 2018 NFL MVP injured himself attempting a QB sneak in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game shortly thereafter.

Mahomes was able to walk off the field under his own power, but this looks like it could be a serious injury for the 24-year-old. If that's the case, the Patriots' path to another AFC title just got infinitely easier.

Mahomes will undergo an MRI on Friday.

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