Fantasy Football: Projecting the Patriots Without Antonio Brown

The Antonio Brown era as a New England Patriot lasted all but one game. In fact, just 24 snaps.

The team released the problematic wide receiver on Friday amid sexual assault accusations, opening up passing production for the offense on the Super Bowl favorites.

Projecting New England

The first place to look is Tom Brady's expectations. Brady had been numberFire's QB6 the rest of the season and was expected to finish as a top-6 quarterback in 44.1% of simulated seasons in my projections using numberFire's data. He's since fallen a tad to our QB7 and is 35.4% likely to be a top-six quarterback the rest of the season.

We do project Brady to have similar efficiency with and without Brown, based on his Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back numbers, but we do anticipate a decline in overall pass attempts.

Tom Brady Comp. Att. Yards TD INT Passing
Passing NEP/
Drop Back
With Brown 331 504 3,751 35.1 7.6 135.87 0.26
Without Brown 315 479 3,559 34.9 7.2 132.49 0.26

How will that impact the wideouts?

Prior to the release, Brown was projected to finish the rest of the fantasy season as the WR9. Teammates Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon fell to the WR22 and WR40, respectively, as Brown commanded a 28.6% target share in Week 2, including 5 of 7 red zone targets and 4 end zone targets.

When simulating out the season 1,000 times, Edelman was projected to finish as a top-12 receiver in 20.0% of seasons and as a top-24 performer 57.5% of the time. He was worse than the WR30 in 31.8% of the sims.

For Gordon, he had a 2.4% chance to finish top-12, a 16.7% chance to finish top-24, and a 71.9% chance to finish outside the top 30 in fantasy points. Here were the raw projections for the relevant pass-catchers.

With Brown Pos Targets Receptions Yards TDs
Julian Edelman WR 104 68 828 6.4
Josh Gordon WR 81 45 679 5.7
James White RB 77 57 474 4.7
Rex Burkhead RB 38 29 247 2.1
Phillip Dorsett WR 24 15 199 1.7
Benjamin Watson TE 21 15 146 1.5
N'Keal Harry WR 13 8 101 1.0
Matt LaCosse TE 12 8 89 0.9
Sony Michel RB 8 6 49 0.5

Without Brown, Edelman jumped a bit to the WR17, though his ceiling increased despite the dip in attempts projected. Edelman finished as a top-six performer in 10.3% of the simulated seasons, as well as a top-12 wideout in 32.7% of the seasons (up from 20.0%). His top-24 seasons the rest of the way are now up to 70.0%.

For Gordon, he bumped up to the WR28 in our rest-of-way rankings. His top-12 upside remains low (8.8%) but is expected to be a top-24 fantasy receiver 37.6% of the time.

Without Brown Pos Targets Receptions Yards TDs
Julian Edelman WR 108 70 854 7.4
Josh Gordon WR 89 49 741 6.9
James White RB 72 53 442 4.9
Phillip Dorsett WR 59 37 485 4.8
Rex Burkhead RB 47 35 300 2.8
Jakobi Meyers WR 28 17 198 2.1
Matt LaCosse TE 21 14 155 1.8
Benjamin Watson TE 18 13 128 1.5
Sony Michel RB 12 9 73 0.8
N'Keal Harry WR 11 7 87 0.9


According to our numbers, the release doesn't make Edelman a lock to finish as a top-12 wideout, as we project a decline in volume. However, naturally, he and Gordon get a significant market share boost after looking like they'd be nearly left for dead relative to their expectations before the Brown signing.

Another big winner here is Phillip Dorsett, who played 84% of snaps in New England's Week 1 game. His target projection climbed from 24 to 59. While he's a mere afterthought in regular-sized fantasy leagues, he is our WR61 the rest of the way, which can have appeal in deep leagues. He also could be on the radar for daily fantasy lineups as the third option in the passing offense.

Brown came and went, but it should be mostly business as usual for the efficient Patriots offense.