Which Patriots running back should you draft?
Having more than one viable option at running back is a common thread in the NFL which can make deciding who to draft on a certain team very difficult. The New England Patriots are an example of a team with multiple options at the position coming into this season. This past offseason, the Patriots decided to move on from LeGarrette Blount, and signed both Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to join James White and Dion Lewis in the backfield. Although these are not the only four running backs on the current roster, in my opinion these are the four players who could have a sizable role in the offense this season. With there being a few different options at the position, fantasy owners everywhere are wondering which running back should they draft.
Right off the bat, I would say that Burkhead would be fourth on my list. Although Burkhead had a career year last season, 2016 was the first year in which he had more than 10 carries in his four years in the league, which puts in doubt whether or not he is capable of being a major piece in an offense. Burkhead was signed to contribute in 2017, but in my opinion, his role will be limited depending on the health of the other three running backs.
Dion Lewis is another running back who has an unproven track record, although he has shown the explosiveness needed to be a consistent contributor for the team. His injury history, however, is a major hindrance towards projecting his season. In two years with the Patriots, Lewis has played in a combined 17 games including playoffs. When active, Lewis can be a highly effective player, but due to his limited availability the last two seasons, counting on him to be healthy and effective for a whole season would not be great gamble.
The final two running backs both could have significant roles in the offense this season. Super Bowl hero James White has been known primarily as a pass catching back in his three years in the league. White’s role in the offense has increased every year concluding with a very productive season in 2016 with 60 catches for 551 yards receiving and 5 touchdown receptions. In a PPR league, James White could be a great option due to his significant role as a receiving back.
Mike Gillislee, on the other hand, made his major contributions on the ground last year with 101 carries, 577 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, and an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Gillislee also has an unproven track record, but given the success he had last season, albeit in a limited capacity, and if he gets the chance to be the early down back he may have another career year in 2017.
In my opinion, both Burkhead and Lewis are too much of a risk to draft, while White and Gillislee are much safer bets. Choosing between the two, Gillislee would be my choice due to how I believe he will have a significant role and by playing in a talented offense with the Patriots, he should continue to get better.
All stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
Colby Gatz covers the New England Patriots for MFST, and you can follow him on Twitter @bostonfan_15.