New England Patriots
This will be an offense that’s a shell of itself with not only Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski sidelined, but three of its projected starting offensive linemen. Expect several quick reads for Jimmy Garoppolo, which could mean plenty of volume for slot receiver and primary target Julian Edelman. What Edelman does with those chances will likely be minimal due to a ferocious Cardinals defense, but the volume for him to succeed will be there.
With Gronkowski out, Martellus Bennett is another player who figures to see plenty of snaps and targets. Against a fully healthy Tyrann Mathieu, this wouldn’t be good news for him. However, some ambiguity on Mathieu’s playing capacity makes it a little more encouraging for Bennett’s prospects. He remains a TE1 amid few worthy options across the league.
James White is the Patriots’ receiving back and should instantly garner PPR consideration against a swarming defense that won’t let much get by them over the top. It would be in the Patriots’ interest to also get LeGarrette Blount involved to take the weight off of Garoppolo’s shoulders, but it’s easier said than done against a stout front seven. Volume and goal-line opportunities could be there for Blount, but he’s more of a boom-or-bust flex option in Week 1 than anything else.
There’s too much murkiness in the pecking order of pass catchers, especially without Brady present. As a result, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola are best left on benches.
The NFL’s No. 1 offense from 2015 will have fantasy owners deploying a number of options from their huddle. David Johnson remains a must-start, and Carson Palmer will rightfully garner QB1 interest despite a dreadful stretch in the playoffs.
Thus begins the endless parsing of whether John Brown, Michael Floyd or Larry Fitzgerald is the preferred option among the Cardinals’ pass catchers. Floyd led the Cardinals in targets over the last seven games in 2015 and should be started, but Fitzgerald is the preferred play of the bunch for Week 1, while Brown has missed time with a concussion this summer. Fitzgerald projects to spend plenty of time in the slot across from rookie Cyrus Jones, who will have his hands full with the longest-tenured Cardinal.
Brown projects to be a valuable receiver in leagues of all formats, but it may be hard to trust him in Week 1 until he shows he’s at his usual, dominant form.