2022 AFC East Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Dustin Ludke breaks down the AFC East from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review


Points per Game 26.6 7th
Offensive Snaps 1052 22nd
2021 Record 10-7 11th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 8.5 T-16th


It wasn’t the worst year in New England in 2021. They finished the season with 10 wins and made the playoffs. They ended up losing in the wild-card round to division rival Buffalo. They had some big areas to hang their hats on. Quarterback Mac Jones showed some great skills and was the best rookie QB. The free-agent tight ends paid off–posting strong stats between the two of them. The wide receivers left something to be desired, but third-year wideout Jakobi Meyers seems to have broken the mold of failed wideouts drafted by the Patriots.

The team, which has been the example of consistency, does have some upheaval on the coaching staff following the 2021 season. OC Josh McDaniels left to give head coaching another shot in Las Vegas. He took three other assistant coaches with him. The Patriots are doing seemingly Patriot things and having an open competition for the offensive coordinator job. Former head coaches Matt Patrica and Joe Judge are both in the running. Judge has been working with Mac Jones and the quarterbacks while Patricia has been focusing on the O-line. It’s an odd approach but that is Belichick’s style: he’s one who has often taken the road less traveled with players and turned them into stars.


Passing Game


Passing Yards per Game 226.3 14th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.4 T-14th
Pass Attempts per Game 31.9 24th


The Patriots had to rebuild their passing game after Tom Brady left for sunny Tampa Bay back in 2020. They drafted Mac Jones in 2021 and have started to surround him with weapons. They brought in tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry last year as well as wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.  This season they drafted Tyquan Thornton and signed veteran Devante Parker. They join Jakobi Meyers, the team’s leading receiver each of the last two seasons. The Patriots only threw the ball on 54.3% of their plays in 2021. This put them at 26th in the league for passing percentage. That being said, it looks like things could be picking up for the passing game as Jones takes the next step in his QB progression. Jones finished eighth in completion percentage at 67.6% which shows great signs for the second-year quarterback. If he continues, his numbers could be a value in drafts.

The issue for fantasy is that none of the receiving options are outstanding. Hunter Henry lead the team with nine touchdowns. Jakobi Meyers led in targets with 126. Despite those targets, he failed to reach 1000 yards and only outpaced Kendrick Bourne by 66 yards despite Bourne having 28 fewer receptions. It will be a waiting game to see if one of the receivers can become a stand-out or if it will be spread out among all the weapons. If no one takes over as the true number one on the team, it seems that they all will be frustrating flex plays–the type of guys who take up roster spots but produce enough on your bench to prevent you from dropping them.


Running Game


Rushing Yard per Game 124.4 8th
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 1.3 T-2nd
Rushing Plays per Game 28.3 9th


It seems like most are unaware that the Patriots were second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 24, only trailing the Eagles who had 25. As a team not typically thought of as a high-powered rushing offense, the Patriots put up significant numbers–especially when you consider they do not have the most mobile of quarterbacks. They rushed the ball 45.7% of the time which puts them seventh in the NFL. Damien Harris leads the rushing attack with 202 carries, 929 yards, and 15 touchdowns. It looks like it is his job to lose. He did fumble the ball twice last year which can be an instant ride on the bench for Bill Belichick.

Harris does have to contend with Rhamondre Stevenson who had a productive rookie year averaging 4.6 yards per carry–a number that matched Harris. Pass-catching specialist James White is healthy and should be back in the fold as well. It looks like they freed up a spot by letting Brandon Bolden leave in free agency but drafted Pierre Strong to add another wrinkle to the rushing offense.

You have to go back to 2016 to find a running back who has gone three years as the top rusher for the Pats. Conventional wisdom would say that Harris’s touchdowns would come back down. It’s the last year of Harris’s contract so either they will run him into the ground or could push him to the side to give Stevenson more work.




Rhamondre Stevenson, RB

As stated above, it looks like things could be changing in the backfield in New England. With Harris in his final year and Stevenson matching yards per carrying, the team could make the switch sooner rather than later. Stevenson did average 8.8 yards per reception compared to Harris’s 7.3. Bill Belichick has never been shy about benching a guy and rolling with the hot hand so there isn’t any loyalty to Harris and it is always an open competition at every position. Stevenson did have five touchdowns last season. In his last six games, he averaged 15.6 carries a game and 72.6 yards per game. That included a week 15 game where he got injured and a missed week 16. He has shown flashes of being a good if not great running back in this system. This could be his year to take over. At worst he could easily be the 1B in this offense. He should be in the conversation with players like Kareem Hunt and Tony Pollard–backups who have stand-alone value for fantasy.


Deep Sleeper


DeVante Parker, WR

What does every young quarterback need? A solid veteran wide receiver who can bail him out when he is blitzed or needs that critical third-down pick-up. DeVante Parker plays that role for the Patriots this year. We know that this isn’t a high-powered passing offense. Most of the fantasy draft love will go to Jakobi Meyers and rookie Tyquan Thornton. Parker could be a sneaky player who has the experience and track record to put up decent numbers. He will never be the WR1 he once was, but he could find a solid niche in this offense that could pay dividends in the right contests. He will need to build chemistry with Mac Jones, but after seven years in the league, he has seen passes from numerous quarterbacks so we know he can adapt.


Bust Candidate


Damian Harris, RB

If it hasn’t been clear to you yet, I foresee the downfall of Damian Harris this year. Not to say that he will be horrible. I think he could still produce RB2 numbers. Compared to his ADP, though, it will be a disappointment. He seems to be a solid choice for the zero-RB crowd in the seventh round. He is being drafted as the RB26 while Stevenson is going 4-5 rounds later as the RB38. It’s a situation worth monitoring during training camp to see what the workload is going to be for Harris. If he starts to lose carries to Stevenson, fantasy owners should be worried. The jump from two touchdowns in 2020 to 15 in 2021 seems like a massive increase that cannot be maintained. If you are expecting him to be your team’s RB1, you will probably be disappointed. If you are relying on him as your RB2, you will probably be frustrated with how much work Stevenson is getting every week.



Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Joshua Sarner, Fred Kfoury III, Andrew Bershaw & Ken Murray / Icon Sportswire

One response to “2022 AFC East Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts”

  1. Joseph Thayres says:

    Your AFC writer, Dustin Ludke has clearly been at this for a while. His in-depth perspective of each position and how it affects the whole is outstanding! I hope to read much more from him in the future.

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