New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman missed all of the 2017 season with a torn ACL. Thursday afternoon, a fly in the ointment of his healthy return to action came with a reported-four game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Edelman will appeal the suspension, but that’s likely to be fruitless. So from a fantasy football perspective, let’s start with a look at New England’s first four games of the 2018 season with each opponent’s 2017 ranking against wide receivers (ESPN PPR scoring).
Week 1: vs. Houston Texans (34.1 fantasy points per game; sixth-most in the league)
Week 2: at Jacksonville Jaguars (23.4 fantasy points per game; fewest in the league)
Week 3: at Detroit Lions (32.4 fantasy points per game; 15th most in the league)
Week 4: vs. Miami Dolphins (26.3 fantasy points per game; fourth-fewest in the league)
A prior season’s data is not incredibly transferable. But with the departure of Danny Amendola in free agency to the Dolphins, and Brandin Cooks gone in trade to the Rams, there is a greater opportunity early in the season for those who remain in the wake of Edelman’s suspension.
Chris Hogan was already in a good spot with Cooks gone. He’s in mid-WR2 territory in Fantasy Football Calculator mock drafts (12-team), regardless of standard or PPR scoring. Edelman’s absence for four games does not alter Hogan’s outlook that much, but his ADP may rise a bit.
Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson and sixth-round rookie Braxton Berrios could all help fill some of the void left by Edelman, with Berrios drawing convenient comparisons to both Edelman and Amendola. But another wide receiver seems likely to be the most impacted, with an easier path to a prominent early season role at minimum.
Jordan Matthews had just 25 catches in 10 games for the Buffalo Bills last year. But he had no less than 67 receptions in each of his first three NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, with eight touchdowns in each of the first two. The Patriots made virtually no financial commitment to him this offseason on a one-year deal, but Matthews has reportedly made a strong impression during OTAs.
Matthews is WR71 and pick number 219 in Fantasy Pros’ ADP data right now, and now he’s on the radar a little more as a late-round flier in 12 and 14-teams.
Losing 25 percent of his potential production is a hit to Edelman’s fantasy value, but all is not lost. From 2013-2016 he averaged 9.7 targets, 6.5 receptions and 69.6 yards per game, and over 12 games that would project to 78 catches (116 targets) for 835 yards. That’s a pretty good PPR option, in WR2/WR3 range as Edelman steps back into what should be a prominent role.
If/when his ADP drops, there’s potential for a draft day value on Edelman. Having other options for Week 1-Week 4 is an obvious prerequisite to drafting him, and in deeper leagues Matthews is a worthwhile handcuff to carry for that first month of the season.