When New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones makes his NFL debut Sunday, the draft’s 15th overall pick will be throwing to an inferior group of targets than he did in his last real game — as a senior at Alabama. This is no hyperbole. Stars and high draft picks surrounded Jones in January’s national title game, most notably DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. On Sunday, he might not even have Nelson Agholor, who is presumably the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver. Can you trust Agholor for your fantasy football lineups, or will the injury linger?
Is Nelson Agholor playing in Week 1 against Miami?
The veteran Agholor is officially questionable for Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins with an ankle injury.
Agholor, who signed a two-year, $22 million free-agent contract in the offseason, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Friday but not at all Thursday.
Getting injury information out of Bill Belichick is always a futile effort. However, there are some encouraging signs Agholor will play. He was “moving well” in practice Friday, per Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.
But even if he is active, it’s hard to see how Agholor is at 100% — which isn’t great news for a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut.
Is he the Patriots’ WR1?
Agholor is New England’s most accomplished wide receiver (272 catches for 3,411 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career). Not surprisingly, Agholor is a starter alongside third-year pro Jakobi Meyers on the Patriots’ Week 1 depth chart.
Ex-49er Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, and kicking-game specialist Matthew Slater are New England’s only other available wide receivers. N’Keal Harry is out for at least three games with a shoulder injury, and Malcolm Perry (foot) is out Sunday.
The Patriots’ high-end talent at tight end should help mitigate their issues at wide receiver Sunday. New England gave big-money contracts to Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in the offseason, and we expect both to see a heavy workload in Week 1.
Jones’ challenge is significant Sunday against a confusing Dolphins defense led by Xavien Howard, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2020.
Nelson Agholor’s Week 1 fantasy outlook and analysis
For someone who came into the 2020 season with the boom-or-bust label attached to his play, Agholor performed better than many anticipated last season with the Raiders. While his catch percentage was low (59%), Agholor turned his 48 receptions into a career-high 896 yards and 8 touchdowns, serving as the deep threat (15.3 aDOT) for Derek Carr. He averaged 10.1 ppg (PPR)as the WR34 and recorded eight double-digit games. Even with his production as a career-high, his playstyle could frustrate fantasy managers as he was a WR2 or better in just 25% of his games.
Agholor was viewed by many to be the primary option for the Patriots this season, especially after signing a two-year, $22 million contract this offseason. But with his status for Week 1 in question (ankle), fantasy managers might want to look for a different option. He would have a tough week anyway with Xavien Howard guarding him, but this pushes him out of consideration for me for fantasy.
I do expect to see brighter days ahead after Mac Jones was named the starting QB as Cam Newton’s deep ball and willingness to tuck and run likely would not have meshed well with Agholor. For those needing a backup play, check the waiver wire for Jakobi Meyers. Not only does this create a more bullish projection for him in Week 1, but for my money, he might very well be the Patriots’ WR1 even if Agholor is at full health.