Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Patriots RBs Fantasy Outlook with Mac Jones at QB

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVAugust 31, 2021

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) drops back to pass during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Mac Jones is the New England Patriots' starting quarterback, and he has no one looking in his rearview mirror. 

The Patriots shockingly released Cam Newton on Tuesday, paving the way for Jones to step in as their Week 1 starter. Jones outplayed Newton throughout the preseason, with the latter also missing critical camp time after misunderstanding testing rules for unvaccinated players.

The Jones offense will be unlike the one from a year ago with Newton under center. Jones is not much of a runner, which should be a boost to every skill-position player on the roster.

The biggest winner from a fantasy perspective is running back Damien Harris, who won't have to worry about Newton taking his goal-line touches. Newton had 22 carries inside the 5-yard line last season; no running back on the roster had more than five. 

Harris still won't play much of a factor in the passing game, but double-digit rushing touchdowns is now a distinct possibility. 

Jones has also steadily checked down on passes during the preseason, which could mean good things for James White and Jonnu Smith. The Patriots probably won't pass enough to make White much more than a flex play in deep leagues, but Smith is increasingly looking like the tight end you want in New England.

Figuring out the Patriots' top receiver will be a little more difficult. Jakobi Meyers was the clear top target of Newton's and was rising up draft boards in the preseason after continuing to show chemistry with the 2015 NFL MVP. Meyers didn't play as much with Jones during the preseason, so it'll be interesting to see if he remains the primary target or someone like Nelson Agholor winds up stepping up.

Meyers is still a worthy late-round pickup, but he may not be as valuable now with Newton out of the picture.