Dallas Goedert

Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy football players seem to get smarter every year. The leagues get deeper. The competition gets 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 by providing you with information we've gleaned by being on the Patriots beat.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Carson Wentz vs. Bill Belichick
With the way the Eagles offense and Patriots defense are constructed right now, there's no way you can play Carson Wentz this weekend. Even in two-quarterback leagues, he feels like a borderline play. The Eagles simply have no explosive element to their offense at the moment. And that was when Alshon Jeffery was in the lineup. Jeffery could be out due to a calf injury, and there is no one else at the receiver position who will scare the Patriots defense. As a group, Philly receivers have 933 yards receiving this year, putting them on pace for almost 1,700 yards total. Michael Thomas of the Saints is on pace to break that mark all by himself. In their last six games, Philly receivers don't have a touchdown catch longer than six yards. It's not good for Wentz. And his favorite target, Zach Ertz, will certainly be getting extra attention from Belichick's defense. Yes, Wentz may find matchups he likes in Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders (more on them later), and he has the ability to scramble for fantasy points. But you simply can't depend on Wentz, against a very good Patriots pass defense, as anything more than a borderline top-20 option this week. I'd start Matthew Stafford replacement Jeff Driskel over him. 

POPPERS

Julian Edelman
According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles are allowing a league-low 7.6 fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers, but Julian Edelman still needs to be in your starting lineup. The Patriots will want to get the football out quickly against Philly's pass-rush -- led by the still-ridiculous Fletcher Cox -- and Edelman will be a big-time beneficiary. It's worth noting that Edelman is off of the injury report for the first time since Week 3. 

Mohamed Sanu
One more week in the system. One more week to gain the trust of Tom Brady. There's a reason why both Sanu and Brady have said they're "gonna have some fun" when they get on the same page. Sanu, who played outside against the Ravens but could eventually see more time in the slot, is coming off a 10-catch game in Baltimore and should see plenty more targets this weekend. Even if he plays outside for another week, that'd be a good thing against the Eagles, who allow 29.6 fantasy points per game to opposing outside receivers -- most in the NFL. 

James White
Philly has had some success against pass-catching backs this year. They rank second in success rate allowed to backs, per Sharp Football Stats, but this feels like a game where the Patriots will rely on their excellent receiving back. The Eagles have linebackers who've struggled in coverage at times, and if the Patriots can get a 'backer -- particularly linebackers Nigel Bradham or Nate Gerry -- aligned across from White, they'll have it made. The screen game, which could slow down the Eagles pass-rush, could also be key this weekend. If it's deployed, White is likely to be the beneficiary. Rex Burkhead is someone we have to see contribute regularly -- and stay healthy -- before we could consider starting him. 

Jordan Howard
The Patriots are 26th against the run this season, allowing 4.7 yards per carry through nine games. Couple that with the fact that the Eagles passing game could be stuck in neutral -- explained above -- and Howard could be looking at a nice little fantasy day. He has 42 attempts combined in his last two games and should be used early and often again this week. 

Dallas Goedert
OK so "popping" is a relative term here on the Fantasy Beat. Will Goedert have as many fantasy points as Ertz (mentioned below)? I don't think so. But I expect him to out-perform his expectations, if that makes sense. He's considered to be in Vance McDonald/Darren Fells territory this week by some experts. I'd have him ranked higher. I'd have him ahead of Noah Fant in Denver and ahead of Mike Gesicki in Miami. The reason? I expect him to play quite a bit, since the Eagles have been using more and more two tight end sets -- and since Jeffery is looking like he'll be out or really limited. Plus, the Patriots have had a helluva time trying to stop two tight end looks. We went into detail on the "how" and "why" of things here, but it wouldn't surprise me if Goedert ended up with a top-12 fantasy day at tight end against New England. 

Tom Brady
It looked like the Patriots found something in Baltimore. Their hurry-up offense was productive and allowed Brady and his teammates to get into a rhythm we haven't seen much from them in 2019. They could use it again in Philly to help slow down players like Cox or Derek Barnett or Brandon Graham. If that's the case, Brady will be chucking it all over the lot. He'll need time -- the numbers suggest he's as good from a clean pocket as he's ever been, but he's as bad when facing pressure as he's ever been -- and if he gets it, he'll be a top-10 play this week. The Eagles secondary is flawed and their middle-of-the-field players -- their linebackers and safeties -- have been so aggressive coming downhill that I'd expect Brady and Josh McDaniels to try to toy with them early with play action. 

DROPPERS

N'Keal Harry
Going hurry-up might help Brady's numbers. I'm not sure it'll do wonders for Harry's. The rookie first-rounder was kept on the sidelines in Baltimore as Brady orchestrated a fast-paced offense in a hostile environment. Will one more week of prep have Harry ready to go if the game plan is similar in Philly? It sure sounds like Harry is going to play this weekend, but until we see what kind of role he'll have, you could only play him in the deepest of leagues as you hope for a red-zone target. (That is the type of thing Harry could help them with so it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.)

Zach Ertz
I think there's a decent chance we see Stephon Gilmore take Ertz the way we saw Aqib Talib take Jimmy Graham back in 2013.b

Miles Sanders
I wouldn't hate Sanders as a FLEX play in deep leagues, but if you're doing that, you're doing it in the hopes that as Wentz and the Eagles get away from receivers in the passing game, they start to move targets towards someone like Sanders. Still, he's had just three targets in each of Philadelphia's last four games. He could hit them for a few long ones, as he did in Minnesota in Week 6, but so far the Patriots have been pretty effective against backs in the passing game. They're fifth in the NFL, allowing just 5.0 yards per target to opposing backs. If they come at Wentz with zero-blitz pressure, that might be an effective way to neutralize Sanders in the passing game since it would likely require him to stay in the backfield to help as part of the pass-protection scheme. Wentz is smarter than most of the passers the Patriots have seen this season, but all the Patriots have to do to generate pressure is confound someone like Sanders or fellow rookie left tackle Andre Dillard. 

Sony Michel
If you're playing Sony Michel, you're hoping for a touchdown. And there's a chance you'd get one on the goal line, but the Patriots have been throwing more lately from down in close, which has meant fewer opportunities for New England's big back. He has just five red-zone carries in the last two games, and he's averaging 1.2 yards per attempt on those, with no touchdowns. What happened to Michel in the passing game in Baltimore, with one drop and one snap where it looked like he ran an incorrect route, there just doesn't seem to be much opportunity looming for him. 

Phillip Dorsett
The hurry-up might be a good thing for the Patriots passing offense, but the emergence of Sanu and a potential Harry debut make Dorsett's role a little less certain. He's dependable when he's thrown to, but he doesn't see enough targets to make him a must-start in any week. This week is no different. 

Eagles receivers
Just don't do it. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Why this Eagles package looks built to give Bill Belichick's defense headaches

Why this Eagles package looks built to give Bill Belichick's defense headaches

FOXBORO — Typically the number 12 is one that elicits happy memories for football fans in New England. But those two digits arranged in that order could be what has Patriots supporters scattered throughout region ripping follicles from their skulls this weekend.

As things stand right now, the Patriots defense is looking at its second consecutive game where an opponent's offense has the ability to deploy a particularly annoying personnel package.

Against the Ravens in Week 9, it was a three tight end grouping that made an already-challenging Lamar Jackson-driven run scheme even more so. This week, the Patriots could have their hands full when they see Eagles 12 personnel packages — one back, two tight ends, two receivers — in Philadelphia.

The answer as to why is simple enough: A) No team runs more "12" than the Eagles with their tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and B) no team has had more trouble against "12" over the course of the last month than the Patriots.

According to Sharp Football Stats, the Eagles have used two tight ends on 40 percent of their plays this season, significantly more than the next heaviest "12" team (Houston, 33 percent). That number has seen a real uptick over Philly's last two games, wins over the Bills and Eagles, as they've gone with two tight ends on 58 percent of their snaps. 

"I think they play two tight ends more than any other team in the league," Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "Those two guys play a lot. It's usually Ertz in 11 personnel, but not always. Goedert plays in there a decent amount. Obviously they're both on the field when they go to 12.

"I would say they're interchangeable. They move guys around to different spots. I would say [Goedert] plays a little more tight end than Ertz does. But they both play it. They both can extend outside and in the slot. They play off each other ... they're versatile. They're obviously smart. They can do several different things and run the same play from different formations and different looks so it's the same but it doesn't really look the same to the defense."

While the Eagles haven't been tremendously successful with "12" over the last two weeks — they averaged 6.3 yards per pass attempt and 3.4 yards per carry against good defenses from Chicago and Buffalo — overall it's been productive for them. For the season, with "12," they've averaged 7.2 yards per pass attempt and 4.2 yards per carry. Both of those numbers are better than what the Eagles have produced with "11," their other primary package (6.6 yards per attempt, 4.1 yards per carry).

Even with only reasonable success out of their two tight end packages lately, there are a couple of reasons the Eagles would make "12" a staple of their game plan on Sunday. 

First, their receiving group is one of the least productive in football. They recently signed veteran Jordan Matthews off the street to help a group that doesn't have a player in the NFL's top 50 of Pro Football Focus' yards per route run metric. Alshon Jefferey — who's "day-to-day" with an ankle injury, according to coach Doug Pederson — has been their most efficient receiver at No. 56 in the yards per route run category. Nelson Agholor is next at No. 80. Getting an extra tight end on the field to replace a wideout is, with this group of receivers, addition by subtraction. 

Second, the Patriots have had particular difficulty against teams that have used multiple tight ends lately. Going back to a Monday Night Football matchup with the Jets in Week 7, the Patriots have allowed a staggering 86 percent success rate, worst in football, in the 21 plays they've seen 12 personnel. In that time, they're allowing a 142.4 passer rating, 9.2 yards per pass attempt and 6.7 yards per carry against those looks. 

That's a relatively small sample size, but it includes plays like Demetrius Harris' 21-yard touchdown for Cleveland in Week 8, and Nick Boyle's five-yard touchdown in Baltimore in Week 9.

Further complicating the picture for the Patriots is that the Eagles tight end pair of Ertz and Goedert is the best they've faced from a receiving-talent perspective. Ertz has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons and recorded 116 catches in 2018. Goedert was a second-round pick in 2018 out of South Dakota State. His player comparison at the time, as determined by NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein? Ertz.

"He's pretty good," Belichick said of Ertz. "He's really good at everything. In the passing game, man routes he can get open against a variety of defenders. He's a tough guy to match up against. He's got a good feel in zone coverage for spacing, when to do the right thing, when to slow down, when to speed up, when to go behind or in front of, how to adjust his routes and so forth. 

"He's a really good player. They move him around a lot. He's in a lot of different positions. Until they come out of the huddle, it's hard to really know where he's going to be. Sometimes he lines up at the tight end, traditional location, but not a high percentage of the time. He's in different spots. They use a couple different personnel groups so you have to find him within each group. He's a good player."

The Patriots have had to deal with Ertz before. He was targeted nine times in Super Bowl LII, catching seven for 67 yards and a touchdown. Patriots coverage plans were out of sorts that day — they didn't play one of their starting corners, you'll remember — but Devin McCourty saw Ertz quite a bit, holding him to two catches on four targets for 13 yards, with one of those targets resulting in a late-game touchdown.

How will the Patriots go about defending Ertz this time around? If what Matt Patricia and the Lions did in Week 3 is any indication, Ertz will be doubled on third downs and in the red zone, and Belichick will try to force Carson Wentz to go elsewhere with the football in critical situations. Then they'll have to worry about Goedert, who's averaging 10.5 yards per catch this season, and will likely find himself in one-on-one scenarios matched up with safeties or linebackers.

Against the Patriots, avoiding their corners at all costs is typically the way to go. Their secondary has been the best in football at limiting opposing wideouts this season, allowing just 5.1 yards per attempt to that position, per Sharp Football Stats. Success targeting tight ends has been easier to come by, even without Belichick having to prepare for household names at the position through nine games. The Patriots are allowing 7.8 yards per target to tight ends this season, which is 17th in the NFL.

With the Eagles struggling the way they are at the receiver spot, they aren't sacrificing much if they largely excise that position from their Patriots plan and highlight their tight ends instead. Given the frequency with which they've deployed two tight end sets this year, and given the way the Patriots have struggled against those sets lately, expect to see a heavy dose of "12" on Sunday.

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE TO TOM E. CURRAN'S PATRIOTS TALK PODCAST:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Prototypical Patriots: Time to pick up some Gronk insurance?

Prototypical Patriots: Time to pick up some Gronk insurance?

The Patriots have a situation on their hands. 

Their future Hall of Fame tight end hasn't yet popped his head in on the start of the team's offseason training program, and after making almost $11 million on an incentive-laden deal last season, it would come as no surprise if he would like to see his $8 million base salary for 2018 get bumped up. He's supposedly contemplating retirement. 

Though Gronkowski is still at the top of his game, his waffling means it's time for the Patriots to consider re-investing at his position. Though the upcoming draft isn't loaded with surefire Day 1 tight end options, the Day 2 crop is loaded. That could be where Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio strike, hoping to land their next do-it-all threat. 

Before we get to some names, let's lay out what the Patriots like at this spot. They've drafted 13 tight ends under Belichick, and some trends have emerged. Size, obviously, is important. The "prototype" falls in the 6-foot-4 range and a shade over 250 pounds. Big hands (about 10 inches) are also preferred. Athleticism matters, too. Quick 40 times (4.7-second range) and three-cone drills (7.0-second range) will help a player find his way onto the Patriots roster, as will an explosive vertical (35 inches or thereabouts). 

The Patriots probably won't find another Gronkowski any time soon. But by those parameters, they'll find a solid athlete with requisite size to handle the myriad tasks they ask their tight ends to execute. 

 

PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
DALLAS GOEDERT, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, 6-5, 256 POUNDS


Goedert didn't run the 40-yard dash at the combine or at his pro day, leaving teams to either have him run privately or . . . make their best guess as to how fast he is. The issue? He played a lower level of competition so while he looks like a dominant force on tape, some of those plays have to be taken with a grain of salt. Goedert's height, weight, hand size (10 inches) and arm length (34 inches) give him the makeup of a true dual-threat tight end in the Patriots system. And though we don't know his 40, his other testing numbers -- 35-inch vertical, 121-inch broad, 7.02-second three-cone -- indicate he's an explosive and agile athlete. Gronkowski was bigger (6-6, 264) and tested slightly below Goedert when it comes to those measures (7.18 three-cone, 33.5-inch vertical, 119-inch broad). They did the same number of bench reps at the combine (23). 

MIKE GESICKI, PENN STATE, 6-5, 247 


Gesicki's build gives him the look of a bigger receiver rather than a tight end capable of handling in-line blocking duties. The Patriots have taken players in the 245-pound range, but they've been more compact tight ends like Daniel Graham (6-3, 248), Garrett Mills (6-1, 241) and Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245). Unless Gesicki can pack more weight onto his frame, he'd probably fall into the "move" tight end category. Wherever he ends up, his rare athleticism will help. Gesicki's 4.54-second 40 would be the second-fastest among tight ends drafted by Belichick in New England (Ben Watson had a 4.53). Gesicki had a blazing three-cone (6.76 seconds) as well, which was almost a tenth of a second faster than Hernandez's. Explosiveness? Gesicki has you covered there, too. His 129-inch broad and 41-.5-inch vertical break the mold on typical tight end thresholds. Gesicki's frame is a question mark when it comes to his Patriots fit, but he checks every other physical marker the Patriots typically draft, including hand size (10 1/8 inches) and arm length (34 inches).

IAN THOMAS, INDIANA, 6-4, 259

 

Thomas hasn't received much hype leading up to the draft in part because he was injured last season and had just two years at Indiana. But physically he has it all: height, weight, length (34 1/8-inch arms) and hand size (11 1/2 inches). Athletically, he hits all Patriots marks and then some with a 4.74-second 40, a 36-inch vertical, 123-inch broad and a 4.20 short shuttle. His three-cone drill is a little slower than where they typically like (7.15 seconds), but it was still more than two tenths faster than Watson's. If the Patriots are willing to mold him into more of a technician when it comes to his blocking and route-running, he could end up as a true multi-purpose tight end in their system. 

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
HAYDEN HURST, SOUTH CAROLINA, 6-4, 250


Where to start here? When compared to some other tight ends Belichick drafted to New England, Hurst compares favorably. His 4.67-second 40-yard is a hair faster than Gronkowski's and a hair slower than Hernandez's. His 1.63-second 10-yard split was actually better than that of Hernandez (1.65) and 2006 third-rounder David Thomas (1.64). He showed some explosion in the broad jump (120 inches), recording a better distance than Graham (118), Thomas (109) and Hernandez (111), all of whom measured similarly at their respective combines. But Hurst's vertical (31 1/2 inches) and change-of-direction testing (7.19-second three-cone, 4.37 short shuttle) didn't wow anyone. He's also a little undersized in terms of what the Patriots typically draft (32 1/8-inch arms). He may be a first-round pick, but judging by Belichick's history, that might be a little early for the Patriots. 

MARK ANDREWS, OKLAHOMA, 6-5, 256

Andrews is an interesting prospect because he has a good combination of size and speed (4.58-second 40). His change-of-direction and explosiveness, however, don't necessarily indicate he's an ideal Patriots fit. His 7.34-second three-cone drill won't help him, his 31-inch vertical was unimpressive, his broad jump (113 inches) was about average in terms of what the Patriots have drafted in the past, and his 4.38-second short-shuttle was not blazing. Those aren't crippling numbers. The Patriots have drafted worse athletes. But Andrews is expected to go in the first couple of rounds, which may be a little rich for Belichick.

DALTON SCHULTZ, STANFORD, 6-5, 244 

Schultz is another long-but-light prospect at the position. And his athletic testing numbers don't necessarily match up with the number in the weight column. His 7.00-second three-cone is good, and his 120-inch broad jump indicates there's some explosion there. But his vert (32 inches), short-shuttle (4.40 seconds) and 40 time (4.75 seconds) are average or worse. For someone with his build, the Patriots might prefer to see a better athlete. His arm length (31 1/4 inches) and hand size (9 1/4 inches) aren't ideal, but he was a two-year starter in a pro-style offense and he's thought to be one of the best blockers at his position in the class. Those elements of Schultz's game may get the Patriots interested in the middle rounds. Wisconsin's Troy Fumagali is a similar player in terms of his willingness as a blocker and his size (6-5, 247). He might be a better fit athletically, but he hasn't been able to do any athletic testing during the pre-draft process because of injury. 

DURHAM SMYTHE, NOTRE DAME, 6-5, 253 

Smythe has the kind of experience as an in-line player that the Patriots would appreciate. And he comes from a program they respect. But when it comes to the measurables, Smythe profiles as a less athletic than a typical Patriots draft pick. Smythe's 40 time (4.81), vertical (31 inches), broad jump (110 inches), bench (18 reps), and three-cone (7.17 seconds) are all below average compared against other Patriots tight ends drafted since 2000. His hand size (9 1/4 inches) and arm length (31 3/4 inches) are also less than ideal. Smythe's tape may earn him a job on Day 3 of the draft, but his athleticism would put him on the outer edges of the range of player the Patriots have drafted in the past. 

WILL DISSLY, WASHINGTON, 6-4, 262 

Man, if you want a blocking tight end, this seems to be your draft. Dissly falls into the same category. And from a Patriots perspective, he looks the part of an in-line type. Athletically . . . that's another story. Dissly's vertical (28 inches), broad jump (111 inches), short-shuttle (4.4 seconds) and 40 time (4.87) aren't going to rocket him up draft boards. His three-cone is solid for someone his size (7.07 seconds), and his hands (9 3/4 inches) and arms (33 1/4 inches) meet the mark for the Patriots. Still, he's a Day 3 choice. 


NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE