The Pats let Jakobi Meyers walk, then turned around and signed JuJu Smith-Schuster to a very similar contract. It’s a slightly head-scratching move given how productive Meyers has been for them in recent seasons, but Smith-Schuster now figures to inherit the Meyers role for New England. Let’s dig into the fantasy impact of this move.
Old projection: 63.7 catches on 90.7 targets for 720.3 yards and 4.1 TDs
New projection: 72.0 catches on 103.0 targets for 782.8 yards and 4.2 TDs
- JuJu should immediately step in for Jakobi Meyers as the WR1 in New England. There’s still time for the Patriots to add another WR in free agency or the draft, but Smith-Schuster’s only target competition right now comes from Tyquan Thornton, DeVante Parker, and Kendrick Bourne. His target share was volatile on a weekly basis in Kansas City last year, presenting the question of whether he can sustain a WR1-level target share for an entire season, but the door is open for JuJu to emerge as a 20+% target share guy. For reference, Jakobi Meyers had a 21.2% target share when healthy last year and 23.6% in 2021.
- It’s obviously an enormous downgrade going from Patrick Mahomes and the K.C. offense to Mac Jones in New England, but that can be mitigated by increased volume. The Pats do throw significantly less than the Chiefs, so our projected increase in raw targets for Smith-Schuster may not jump off the page, but the target share bump was significant. We’ll see whether Smith-Schuster can make the most of this opportunity.
OTHER PATS PLAYERS
- Tyquan Thornton is an interesting best-ball flier given his game-breaking speed and increased role to end the season (at least 88% of snaps in 4-of-5 games to end his rookie year). JuJu will have the highest projected target share among current Pats WRs, but stranger things have happened than Thornton emerging as the best fantasy WR in New England. It’s not the most likely outcome, but the Smith-Schuster signing isn’t prohibitive of a Thornton breakout. For now, though, the Baylor product is likely in a WR2 competition and needs to survive the rest of FA and the draft to maintain his intrigue.
- Parker and Bourne remain largely irrelevant for fantasy purposes barring injuries to the guys above them.
OTHER CHIEFS PLAYERS
- James Palmer noted the Chiefs hope Kadarius Toney will be their WR1 in 2023. It remains to be seen whether he can stay healthy and be consistent enough to warrant such a title, but JuJu’s departure does instill some faith that he could see an expanded role next season. He’s a case where his base case won’t pop in our projections, but the ceiling is enormous.
The thought in KC right now is Patrick Mahomes is expected to be throwing the same core group of guys he ended the season with.
– Toney (who the #chiefs believe will be WR1 in 2023)
– The plan is to bring Ju Ju back
– Skyy Moore
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) March 7, 2023
- The Chiefs are now unproven at WR with Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Skyy Moore heading their depth chart. Mecole Hardman is a UFA and Kansas City could bring him back now that JuJu is gone, and they could also add someone else in FA or the draft. Patrick Mahomes will make sure the K.C. offense is just fine, but their current WR corps is uninspiring. There hasn’t been much concrete info yet, but they also could be in the trade market for a big-name WR (DeAndre Hopkins, Bucs WRs, etc.) given their current need and the number of star WRs on rebuilding teams.