Pony Exchange: The Impact of the Phillip Dorsett Trade

Ryan McDowell

A pair of AFC rivals have pulled off a trade which, given recent injuries to their respective key players, makes perfect sense. The Super Bowl champion Patriots dealt Jacoby Brissett, who was clearly their third quarterback, to the Indianapolis Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.

After opting to keep 2018 free agent Jimmy Garoppolo as their primary backup behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Patriots obviously felt Brissett was expendable. The Colts motivation is obviously spearheaded by the slower than expected recovery of their franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts took Dorsett in the first round two years ago and he’s been a major disappointment. The Patriots could use the receiver depth regardless, especially following the season-ending knee injury to veteran Julian Edelman.

Let’s check in on all the impacted players.

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Jacoby Brissett, QB IND

It was a bit of a surprise 18 months ago when the Patriots used a third round pick on former North Carolina State quarterback, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. Many times during the Brady/Belichick era, the team has used a mid-round pick on a signal caller, only to later trade them. Again, that becomes the case. Brissett was called on early in his career when Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury in Week Two. He took over in mop up duty of a win and then led the team to another victory the next week. Actually, “led” might be too strong of a word as the team leaned on its running game and defense. Brissett, dealing with a thumb injury, couldn’t get the job done in Week Four as the Patriots lost the last game before the return of Brady from suspension. Nonetheless, Brissett fared well in his limited rookie season action, eventually landing on the injured reserve list due to that thumb injury. Just last week, reports began to surface that Brissett might be a surprise cut as the deadline approached, so this move should not be a surprise on New England’s part.

With the Colts, Brissett’s long-term outlook isn’t very different than it was as he sat behind Brady and Garoppolo. While the short-term status of Luck is very muddy, he’s the long-term answer and will almost certainly outlast Brissett, whose upside is that of a career backup. With that said, Luck has essentially been ruled out for Week One and could miss more action beyond that. If Brissett gets the start, he could have some value in superflex or 2QB leagues. Based on what we saw from him last season, I would not deem Brissett as worthy of a roster spot in a start one quarterback format.

Phillip Dorsett, WR NE

A major riser late in the 2015 pre-draft process, the Colts shocked everyone by using their late first round pick on the former Miami receiver. The speedster faced a tough road from the start as he was behind TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief with little real hope of eclipsing either for playing time. Dorsett’s career was off to a decent start until he suffered a fractured ankle in Week Seven, which cost him nearly two months of action.

In 2016, Dorsett continued to be plagued by injuries, missing game and or practice time with ankle, foot, hamstring and groin injuries. When Dorsett did play, he failed to make much of an impression. Things got so bad that both Kamar Aiken and Chester Rogers were at one point projected ahead of Dorsett on the depth chart. Dorsett’s spring declaration that he would be a different player in 2017 failed to ring true as he again missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury. Two weeks ago, Mike Lombardi reported the Colts had made their former first rounder available in trade. You can see from the chart below that Dorsett’s ADP has clearly been suffering for some time based on all this.


The Patriots are one of the few teams that could revive Dorsett’s value. First, they have a long history of turning average players into relevant fantasy options, most recently with former Bills receiver Chris Hogan. After the loss of Edelman last week with a serious knee injury, the Pats were left searching for receiver depth. Hogan has been projected as the key beneficiary to Edelman’s absence, but many of the receivers on this squad, including Dorsett and Danny Amendola, could see their fantasy value increase.

Dorsett has been a player sitting at the ends of rosters for the past couple of years with no real consideration of becoming a fantasy starter. He has been a player I would tab as a roster clogger. If he is sitting on waiver wire, the Patriots stigma and history of revitalizing players’ careers is enough to make him worthy of an add, but I remain skeptical he can become a fantasy relevant player.

Andrew Luck, QB IND

It has been a strange off-season for the Colts star who underwent shoulder surgery in January. Initial reports suggested he would be fully healthy by June, though new Colts general manager Chris Ballard would later say there was “no timeline” for Luck’s return – this quote from March should’ve been our first clue about how this would play out. Essentially, all reports since that time have been negative and cryptic, including owner Jim Irsay hinting Luck could miss part of training camp, Luck being placed on the active/PUP list, Luck himself being con-committal about his return date, rumors of a spot on the regular season PUP list and finally the realization that Luck would not be ready by the regular season opener.

The lack of comment or clarity from most of the key parties have left fantasy owners frustrated and confused how to handle the value of Luck and his teammates, namely Hilton and Moncrief.

We did finally get some good news as Luck was activated from the active/PUP list today. This tells us, despite this trade, the Colts expect Luck to return before Week Six, since a PUP spot would rule him out until that point.

Opportunities to buy players like Luck at a discount don’t come along very often, so if this slow recovery and early season absence creates a buying window in your league, take advantage of that. Luck remains a high-end QB1 in all formats.

Scott Tolzien, QB IND

While I wouldn’t exactly call him a hot commodity, backup Scott Tolzien has seen his value increase amidst the rumors of missed games for the starter Luck. Much like Brissett, I don’t think Tolzien has any fantasy value outside of the superflex/2QB format, but I have seen him snatched off the waiver wire in those leagues.

The addition of Brissett serves as a stern message to Tolzein after earlier rumors suggested Stephen Morris could overtake him. Clearly, none of this is good for Tolzien, who could go from projected Week One starter to cut in a matter of hours. No matter the format, he’s likely not roster worthy after this deal.

Patriots Wide Receivers

While this team will clearly miss Edelman, that injury was much bigger news than this acquisition. Former Saints star Brandin Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski should remain the top options for Brady, while the Patriots have multiple running backs who will see targets out of the backfield, including James White and Dion Lewis. It is also difficult to see this move impacting Hogan’s standing, meaning Dorsett is left to compete with the remaining players, and that is no small feat either, as Brady clearly trusts longtime Patriot Danny Amendola and last year’s Super Bowl star Malcolm Mitchell. If New England really needed a speedy, big play threat, Dorsett might have a role, but Cooks can certainly be that for Brady as well. I see Dorsett as just another body for a team left with four receivers after the Edelman injury.

Colts Wide Receivers

I mentioned earlier that Brissett looked adequate in his early-season appearances last year for New England, but he didn’t get much of a chance to throw the ball. While his addition could be viewed as an upgrade over Tolzien or Morris, that doesn’t mean it is a good thing for Hilton, Moncrief and the rest of the offense from a statistical standpoint. As I said with Luck, I would take this chance to buy Hilton at a discount, but I’m not willing to insert him into my Week One lineup.


ryan mcdowell