THE MAC JONES IMPACT
We have done it ladies and gentlemen; the preseason is over and regular season football is upon us. We find ourselves less than a week away from meaningful NFL games, and I think I speak for all of us when I say, LET’S GO!! The monotony of the offseason practices and lackluster preseason games have all concluded in this final glorious stretch that will pay off all the hard work we’ve done over the past 5 months. With these final games behind us and the regular season in our sights, NFL teams have done the same and announced their 53-man rosters. The day that fringe players and pricy veterans around the NFL fear like no other and with good reason. This year was no different in the brutal nature of the NFL business that saw hundreds of players cut from their teams. While it would take a 10,000 page paper to cover the expansive roster decisions and importance of all those moves, there is only one move that truly moved the needle for an NFL franchise, the Patriots releasing quarterback Cam Newton. This move affects real football and fantasy alike, so it’s time to break down the move and explore the ways in which it can swing the season for the New England Patriots.
Cam Newton was not good last year, plain and simple. I'm sure if you’ve read any of my offseason articles prior to this one, that opinion is not shocking. He looked hurt the whole year and regardless of whether or not he truly was hurt, he didn’t look good throwing the ball at any point in the season. Part of the nuance of having an offensive system around a mobile quarterback is the ability to threaten defenses with the pass. As much of a critic as I have been of Lamar Jackson in the past, he can throw the ball at an effective enough percentage to make defenses not completely sell out on the run. Cam Newton just didn’t have it anymore, and after his release on Tuesday morning, the Patriots gave us the notice that they saw the same thing. Part of this decision is obviously a result of the progression of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots, regardless of my contempt for them as a franchise, are not going to release a player that helps the team win in order to move someone else into their starting spot. If Cam Newton was better than Mac Jones, he’d be on the team right now. Mac Jones won the job outright, and it brings me to the most important question for this team; how does this affect the position players for the Patriots?
Mac Jones was the 15th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, placing him as the 5th quarterback selected. Despite his outstanding final collegiate season at Alabama, which saw them winning the National Championship, Jones was viewed as a result of the talent around him. On an offense that was scattered with first round talent, including his two starting wide receivers and starting running back, Jones looked impressive enough to get first round buzz heading into the draft. This buzz followed him throughout the offseason, along with questions about the type of production he could have with a below average group of playmakers on the Patriots. While this Patriots team will not be reminiscent of the 2007 squad that nearly went undefeated throughout the season, this team will not be as bad offensively as we’ve seen over the last 2 years. Mac Jones is talented enough to get the most out of his pass catchers, well, as much as we can expect from a rookie starter. Cam Newton was not able to push the ball downfield effectively last year and his receivers suffered for it. Not only that, but the offensive turned into the Cam Newton show in the redzone. Cam Newton led the team with 31 carries inside the 10-yard line, leading to 11 TDs. Damien Harris had the 2nd most attempts with 11, finishing with only 1 TD to show for his efforts. Harris should receive a huge bump in redzone opportunities from the departure of Newton, even if he doesn’t receive all the carries. The pass catchers as a whole improved with the additions of Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in free agency. Between the added talent and the unlikelihood that their starting quarterback passes for 8 TDs again, Cam Newton’s final passing tally, there is upside for receivers in New England again.
While Mac Jones isn’t going to be a generational talent in Year 1, he will provide enough improvement to support multiple fantasy players. Of course, with the Patriots, the only thing fantasy managers will have to figure out is who and when they will play well. This is not an endorsement of Mac Jones as a fantasy viable quarterback, with the exception of 2 QB leagues or superflex leagues, but rather an explanation as to what impact he will have on the team as a whole. Thank you for reading and as always, stay dreamin’!