- Steven Pintado
The Patriots' Running Back Counsel
Since I can remember, there has been one team in fantasy football that has been increasingly difficult to predict. That team is the New England Patriots.
Every year you think you’ve figured out whom their star is, then it’s usually someone else.
Often, a completely random player kills it all season. The 2019 draft season is just around the corner, so I’m going to try to tackle this backfield and give a close to perfect, in-depth report on them.
Let’s take a quick look into last season. James White had himself a breakout season finishing the year as the RB8 in PPR formats. He had a career-high in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
Sony Michel was a first round rookie taken in the 2018 draft. His season started off slow, as the injury bug hit him. He managed to finish the year as RB28 and had some pretty strong games in the final stretch of the season. Overall, a knee injury kept him from reaching his potential during his rookie year.
Rex Burkhead was also injured for most of the year but never regained that productivity he had in 2017.
And finally, full back Pat Develin proceeded to be an annoying touchdown thief all season.
However, 2019 is a different situation. Sony Michel is looking to stay healthy and keep the knee issues in the dust. One thing Michel is doing this camp is catching balls out of the backfield. The Athletic's Jeff Howe reports Sony Michel is "beating man coverage" and "finding soft spots in zones" as a pass-catcher at Patriots camp.
Over the past month or so, Michel has been dropping in rankings, probably due to that lingering knee issue, but he’ll likely be a solid bargain for your team. If you do go with Michel, then you should probably handcuff him with Damien Harris but we will talk more about him later.
As we talked about before, James White was a steal in drafts last year. Now his average draft position is round seven but he’s still a great draft pick for you. White should see a regression in rushing yards and touchdowns due to Michel taking the next steps. However, in the passing games, White should still be a dominant force. White clearly has Toms Brady’s trust and we easily could argue that he is the fake wide receiver two on the team.
I don’t have concerns about Michel getting passing work, as I could see both of them on the field together on passing downs. The Patriots somehow always find a way to get their most talented players on the field.
Before we get into the rookie Damien Harris, I just want to briefly talk about Rex Burkhead and Pat Develin. Burkhead could have value due to injuries in the backfield and Develin will probably score 3 touchdowns and piss you off in a few games.
Lastly, we take a look at Damien Harris, a 3rd round rookie from the 2019 draft. Early in the off-season, he was a nice sleeper pick but since training camp started he has been dropping a bit. Kevin Duffy of The Boston Herald reports, “Damien Harris has not seen many first-team reps throughout training camp.” Although, I believe the Patriots have a game plan for him. Why else would they draft him with a high pick? Harris is someone worth taking in late rounds of your draft, especially as a handcuff if you were to take Michel earlier in drafts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a lot of goal line work and be a touchdown-dependent running back.