Patriots

It's a 2nd-rounder ... so what? And four more takeaways from Mohamed Sanu trade

It's a 2nd-rounder ... so what? And four more takeaways from Mohamed Sanu trade

Mohamed Sanu is just what the Patriots needed. Is he all that they needed? The way they are playing defensively, probably.

Since 2012 when he entered the draft out of Rutgers fresh from a 115-catch season, he’s had Perfect Patriot written all over him. I thought he was a perfect fit for the offense back then (“This kid reeks to high heaven of David Givens-ness.") Nothing he’s done in his seven seasons in the NFL alter that.

He’s 6-2, 215, versatile, is happy to block, doesn’t drop the ball (one drop this year, one of the NFL’s most surehanded receivers since coming into the league) and can work inside (no receiver gave his QB a higher passer rating on in-breaking routes in 2018 than Sanu did for Matt Ryan). He isn’t fast. He doesn’t get in the end zone much. He’s a very good complementary wide receiver, not a game-breaker.

As for the Patriots giving up a second-rounder, I’ll get to that in the story. But I’d like to respectfully offer a pre-emptive, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..” on that front.

Here are five takeaways on the player who will likely stand as the team’s big 2019 trade deadline move.

TRICKLE DOWN HELPS

Julian Edelman’s been targeted 27 times over the past two games. He’s been targeted 68 times this season. For a guy that’s 33, he takes more physical punishment than just about any wideout in football and is the Patriots' most important offensive player not named Brady. Sanu can help lighten the load, especially on third down.

Both Edelman and Sanu can work between the numbers. Jakobi Meyers is showing a growing ability to do that as well. Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and N’Keal Harry are outside guys. The Patriots needed to become a little less predictable on third down and Sanu should help them do that. He’ll also help take the reliance away from James White. And he’ll make it so the urgency for Gordon and Harry to return is a little less urgent. One hope? Sanu doesn’t slow the progress of the glue-fingered Meyers.

WHAT SANU CAN DO FOR YOU

Coming into this season, Sanu was the fourth-best receiver in the league getting separation against press coverage according to Next Gen Stats. You’ll notice if you bang that link that Sanu was one of the first to respond to the tweet saying “7/11” as in always open. Last spring, Josh McDaniels noted that the team was better served getting Edelman more on the outside of the formation. "Julian plays a lot outside the formation," he said. "Does Julian do some of those things inside the formation? Absolutely he does. But he does a lot more on the outside in the running game and passing game. It's what he's become. There's a little bit of a difference based on the way we've used him than those other guys."

Sanu, according to Pro Football Focus, has the fourth-most yards from the slot position since 2016.

https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1186607938565222406?s=20

HE’LL MAKE THE QB SMILE

Tom Brady’s tepid embrace of the team’s offensive performances continued after the whacking of the Jets. Why? Production on third down and in the red zone. Since the first Jets game, the Patriots are 28 for 77 on third down. That’s 36 percent. And there are stretches – usually after teams out figure what kind of potion McDaniels is pouring down their throat – when the numbers dip even more.

Last night, the Patriots started 4 for 4 on third down and were 3 for 12 the rest of the way. In the first meeting against the Jets, the Patriots were 2 for 10 on their final 12 attempts. Don’t you, “Yeah but the score…” me! You don’t honestly think the Patriots aren’t trying to convert and keep their punter off the field?

As for the red zone, you can see how hard it is for the Patriots to scheme something up when they get in close to get somebody open. It’s a fact of post-Gronk life. They are 10 for 19 in the red zone over their past four games. They’d like to be better than that, especially when (presumably) better teams come calling. Sanu should help with that.

SO IT'S A 2? WHO CARES

I’m hearing a lot of, “Hmmmm…a second-rounder. Feels like a lot, Mike. No, yeah, really, feels like a looootttttt.”

A) The second-rounder will probably be about the 64th pick anyway.

B) If the receiver – and the offense in general – have the potential to be the Achilles' heel that prevents the Patriots from taking advantage of a historic season defensively (and it does), no price is too high.

C) The Patriots roll the dice in the second round anyway – which is probably why they took Tavon Wilson back in 2012 when Sanu was still on the board for them. Serves them right to have to spend a 2 on him now.

D) He isn’t a rental. He’s under contract for next season with a $6.4M salary. They are getting – potentially – 24 games out of him (plus playoffs), not eight. E) I’d rather see a season-and-a-half of Sanu than four years of Jordan Richards, Duke Dawson, you get the point. Always take the known NFL quantity.

MINDING THE BUSINESS

While a Falcon, Sanu was steadfast about not wanting his contract tinkered with. In July, when the Falcons were puzzling over how to pay Julio Jones, Sanu offered on Twitter that, “Ain’t no prices ever dropping over here this ain’t Walmart..” So what did it take for the Patriots to cram Sanu under the cap? Or what will it cost, since they are probably still trying to make it happen?

We’re going to find out, but Sanu’s deal called for him to make $3.529M over the rest of the season. It won’t be hard for the team to fashion a new deal for him, according to Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal. And if they can fire-sale Michael Bennett out of town, they can save some dough against the cap and – zing, zang – just like that it’s a clean move.

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NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

The New England Patriots added a veteran running back to their roster on Monday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, ex-Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller reached an agreement with the Patriots on a one-year contract.


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Miller, 29, missed the entire 2019 campaign after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. In 2018 with Houston, he rushed for 973 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games and was named to the Pro Bowl.

Miller's most productive NFL season came in 2014 with Miami when he tallied 1,099 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

With Miller now in the fold, he joins a Patriots running back depth chart that also consists of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris. Michel underwent foot surgery in May and was placed on the PUP list earlier this month.

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski leaving the New England Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't just send a shockwave through the NFL. It also altered the fantasy football landscape.

The fantasy values of both the Patriots and Bucs' skill players will be much different in 2020 following Brady and Gronk's departure from Foxboro. We've gone over what to expect from the go-to guys in New England's offense, so now it's time to go over Tampa's weapons.

The obvious benefactors -- at least one would think -- of Brady becoming a Buc are his primary wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. But will their numbers, along with Brady's, see a significant increase as expected, or should we pump the brakes on the hype?

And then there are the running back and tight end positions. Can Tampa's intriguing rookie running back take over the starting job? What can we really expect out of Gronk after a year off from football?

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Here are our projections for the Bucs' key offensive players with Brady and Gronk in the fold:

Tom Brady, QB
Projected Stats
: 4,300 yards, 29 TD, 9 INT
Projected Draft Round: 5-7

Brady is set up to be a really solid starting quarterback in fantasy football this year. That being said, those who expect Brady to put up elite numbers and draft him any higher than Round 5 are just asking to be disappointed. There are going to be some growing pains in Bruce Arians' offense. Sure, having his old pal Gronk around as a security blanket will help, but it's going to take time for the six-time Super Bowl champ to get comfortable down in Florida. There's little doubt Brady's numbers will be better in nearly every category now that he has some real weapons at his disposal, just make sure you don't reach when plenty of other QBs will do just fine in the middle rounds.

Ronald Jones II, RB
Projected Stats
: 650 yards, 4 TD
Projected Draft Round: 7-9

Jones was an OK flex play at points last season, but overall he simply hasn't been the running back Tampa Bay has hoped for these last few seasons. That led to the Bucs selecting Vanderbilt product Ke'Shawn Vaughn on Day 2 of this year's NFL Draft. Jones is the No. 1 guy heading into camp, though it doesn't look like that will be the case throughout the 2020 campaign. Wait until the mid-to-late rounds to take Jones, and maybe even consider passing entirely to take Vaughn if you're so inclined to take a Bucs RB.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB
Projected Stats
: 550 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

Speaking of Vaughn, he could be a major difference-maker for the Bucs in Brady's offense this season. He rushed for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns for Vandy last season and was pretty effective through the air too, tallying 270 yards and a TD. It's always tough to count on a rookie, but it's worth the risk and the ceiling definitely seems to be higher with Vaughn than it is for Jones. The addition of McCoy, however, makes Vaughn's fantasy outlook a bit murky.

LeSean McCoy, RB
Projected Stats
: 400 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

It's impossible to now as of right now how the Bucs backfield is going to shape up in 2020. Although McCoy is a shell of what he once was, Bruce Arians definitely should find some sort of role for the 32-year-old veteran. The obvious question is whether that role will be more significant than Jones' or Vaughn's. If you're really that compelled to draft a Bucs running back, something I'd avoid entirely, it's a total toss-up and a matter of personal preference.

Mike Evans, WR
Projected Stats
: 75 receptions, 1,250 yards, 7 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

There's no question the Brady-to-Evans connection is going to excite people heading into the new season. However, I'm somewhat skeptical about how their playing styles will mesh. Brady isn't one to take many risks, and Evans made a living out of catching Jameis Winston's ridiculous jump-balls downfield. It really is impossible to know how that'll work itself out, but nonetheless we're believers in Evans' elite talent and project him as a solid WR1 again in 2020.

Chris Godwin, WR
Projected Stats
: 90 receptions, 1,350 yards, 10 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

Godwin was the breakout star of the 2019 fantasy football season as he put up absolutely ridiculous numbers with Jameis Winston under center. Now, the question is whether he can do it again with Brady. That may seem like a silly question, but again we have no clue what to expect from Brady in Arians' offense and how it will differ from what Godwin thrived in a year ago. Regardless, he definitely should be one of the first WRs off the board.

Rob Gronkowski, TE
Projected Stats
: 50 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TD
Projected Draft Round: 6-8

How do you make stat projections for a guy who took a year off from football to party in Miami and join the WWE? With injury concerns to boot, that makes drafting Gronk in fantasy football an extremely risky move. Obviously, with that high risk could come high reward as Tampa's offense has the potential to be one of the best in the entire NFL and Brady is going to look to Gronk early and often as a security blanket. Draft the former Pats tight end in the middle rounds, long after guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz are off the board.

O.J. Howard, TE
Projected Stats: 25 receptions, 450 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

The Bucs are going to run two-tight end sets in 2020, so don't think that Gronk's presence will limit Howard's production. In fact, it could even help it. Howard was a huge fantasy disappointment in 2019 and is out to prove he isn't a bust this year. There's also still a chance he gets traded to a TE-needy team and benefits from a change of scenery. Either way, you could do worse than Howard in the later rounds of your draft.