Fantasy Outlook: New England Patriots RB’s
The running back position for the New England Patriots has been very hard to read the past couple years. Three years ago, Steven Ridley burst onto the scene and had a great fantasy season before fumbling issues led to him being benched. Ridley’s decline in New England continued into this past season before an ACL injury cost him the remainder of the year.
LeGarrette Blount has had two productive seasons in a row, the first with New England, then last season starting with Pittsburgh then getting released and rejoining the Patriots. Jonas Gray was another solid contributor in New England last season. Gray had a monster game against the Colts late in the season where he ran for over 200 yards, but was late to a team meeting soon after and played very sparingly the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Shane Vereen was also important to the Patriots running back position last season but, most of his production came in the passing game rather than as a runner.
Ridley and Vereen both signed with other teams this offseason, so Blount is likely to be the starter with Gray having the inside track to be the backup. Blount should be drafted in all leagues and should be a decent fantasy option this upcoming season. One sleeper to keep and eye on is Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney was originally a sixth-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2014, but, after suffering an injury last offseason, Carolina cut Gaffney and New England claimed him on waivers and placed him on Injured Reserve.
Gaffney’s known as a power runner, which would fit right in with Blount and Gray in New England. If Gaffney can prove he is healthy and productive in training camp and preseason, there may be an opportunity for him to get playing time. Jonas Gray’s position on the team seems to be pretty solid, but I expect the backup running back position to be wide open and that is where Gaffney could make his mark with the team. Although Gray’s experience gives him the edge over Gaffney, do not be surprised if Gaffney beats out Gray.
Out of all the running backs in New England I expect Blount to have the most productive year. The organization seems to have a lot of trust in him and his overall familiarity with the team will give him the edge over the other running backs from the beginning of training camp. Blount’s fantasy value should be fairly decent this year and could slot in as a second or third running back on a team with not a lot of talent at that position. Gray or Gaffney will most likely start week one due to Blount’s one game suspension, but once week two rolls around I expect Blount to regain his position as the teams number one running back and maintain that status for the remainder of the season. The past two seasons, New England’s running game has been very difficult to predict which has led to the team’s position being very difficult to play in a fantasy format. I believe that this season we will see more stability at the position with Blount having a starting role for most of the year.
What is your take on the New England RB position in fantasy football? Let me know in the comment section.
Colby Gatz covers the Red Sox and Patriots for MFST, you can follow him on twitter at @bostonfan_15.