In Depth Look At The Patriots Running Back Situation-Past, Present, and Future

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

After going the QB’s, I realized it might be better to put all my information into one post rather than three, so that I thought I would give it a shot with the RB’s. In this post I will look back at the Patriots draft history at the position, what the team can expect from the current players on the roster, as well as what college Seniors to keep an eye on this fall.


As I eluded to in my post on the Quarterbacks, I am working on a large scale project that has me looking at the past 10 years of the draft. While the scope of the project goes beyond just the Patriots, I can use that information to look at the Patriots and to see if any trends have developed over those years. Here is what I have learned regarding the RB position. Since 2007, the Patriots have only used 3 draft picks on RB’s, and two of those players came from the same draft class, so it seems the team does not put RB as a priority position on draft day.  However, when they do draft a player at the position, it is relatively high. With only 3 players being drafted, the sample size is small, but here are the average metrics of a Patriots RB:

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 214 Lbs

40yd: 4.57 sec.

Vert: 34″

Bench: 24 reps

Broad Jump: 9’7″

3Cone: 6.92 sec.

Shuttle: 4.23

Again, the sample size is small, but there are some trends that do appear when looking at the data. The first being speed. The Patriots obviously do not put a premium price on straight line speed. Another is strength. The players they have drafted have all done very well in the bench press. I would imagine they value that type of strength in pass protection and the ability to fight through tackles. As with other positions on this team, it seems they prefer players with good change of direction, choosing three players with good 3cone and Shuttle times.


Current Roster:

Mike Gillislee

James White

Dion Lewis

Rex Burkhead

DJ Foster

LeShun Daniels

Brandon Bolden

Going into training camp, the Runningback position looks to be one of the more crowded positions on the team. With the addition of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots have 4 guys that could contend for meaningful snaps.

Gillislee would seem to be the front runner to take the bulk of the carries now that Blount has moved on, but with White and Lewis on the roster, it could be committee approach week in and week out. The wildcard to me is Burkhead. I am not exactly sure what his role will be on this team. While it is only a one year deal, they did give him a good amount of money to be more than just a special teams player. Did his role change when the Patriots signed Gillislee? How he is used in camp will be something I keep a close eye on.

Brandon Bolden has been a staple on special teams for many years and resigned this offseason, but given that he brings very little to the table as a runner, I find it difficult to believe he still has a place on this roster. Foster showed promise last camp and if he were to be cut, I don’t think he would make it through to the practice squad again. It will be interesting to see where they think he is in his development. Could he be a surprise to make the roster over a guy like Lewis, who is older and has injury concerns.

What I do know is that this is the group as a whole I am most interested in watching throughout camp. The competition is going to be tough and watching the roles of each player becoming clearer as camp roles on should be interesting.


Here is a list of Senior RB’s I will be keeping my eye on this fall. Again, this list is in no particular order:

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

Nick Chubb, Georgia

Sony Michel, Georgia

Akrum Wadley, Iowa

Ty Isaac, Michigan

Royce Freeman, Oregon

Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Kyle Hicks, TCU

Keith Ford, Texas A&M

Jordan Chunn, Troy

Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Lavon Coleman, Washington

Jeremy Smith, Louisville

Jeffery Wilson, North Texas

Jarvis Cooper, Central Arkansas






46 Responses to “In Depth Look At The Patriots Running Back Situation-Past, Present, and Future”

  1. GM-In-Training says:

    3 more 53-Roster projections from beat writers.

    Differences/Open questions seem to be 3 OT or 4, 2 TE or 3, Who will be the 4th DE, Will Jordan Richards stick as Chung’s backup, Would James O’Shaughnessy join Ebner and King as special teamer specialists, and how do you stash the young players that don’t quite make the roster but probably wouldn’t clear waivers to join PS?

  2. Russell says:

    Early Roster projection;
    QB- Brady, Garropolo, Brissett
    RB- Burkhead, Gillislee, Develin, White,
    WR- Edelman, Cook, Hogan, Mitchell, Amendola
    TE- Gronk, Allen,
    O-lineman- Andrews, Solder, Cannon, Thuney, Mason, Garcia, Karris, Max, Fleming
    D-lineman- Flowers, Guy, Brown, Ealey, Branch, Ninkovich, Rivers, Valentine
    LB- Hightower, Harris, Van Noy, McClellin, Roberts
    CB- Gilmore, Butler, C. Jones, J. Jones, Rowe,
    S- Harmon, McCourty, Chung, D. Jones, Richards
    Special- Gosokowski, R. Allen, Cardona, Slater (WR), Ebner,(DB) King,(DB) O’Shaughnessy (TE)
    Pratice Squad;
    CB Killings, OL Ferentz, LB Ellis, DL-Adams, DL- Hamilton, OL McDermott, WR Carr, OL Douglas, RB Daniels, DL Wise

    • Trev says:

      Not a bad projection. I disagree in a few spots. Most notably Wise. I highly doubt he clears waivers to the PS if they cut him. DE’s with his length don’t grow on trees. Also I think you are too thin at RB. Nice work

    • EdgeX says:

      Good start.

      Though I think I’d drop:

      1. S Jordan Richards
      2. OL Max Rich (for P-Squad)

      I’d then add:

      1. LB Harvey Langi – pretty sure he’s making the team (unless he bombs during the preseason) considering how much they guaranteed his salary and the competition from other teams trying to sign him – doubt he clears waivers if released.

      2. DE Deatrich Wise – He’s a 4th round draft pick – hard to see Pat’s cutting someone they drafted so high, so early, at a position of need.

      • GM-In-Training says:

        Completely agree. Wise intrigues me. I don’t know if he’s got every tool, but he’s got some very useful and hard to find tools.

        • EdgeX says:

          Ya, and Pat’s want to rotate DE’s to keep them fresh – meaning it’s not like Wise has to start games right off the bat. They can work him in. Also one of the main reasons why Chris Long is no longer on the team – he wanted more playing time, Pats not willing to give it to him.

      • macspak says:

        Langi’s guarantee only is high relative to fellow UDFA’s. It is not high compared to whoever they would be cutting in his place.

        • EdgeX says:


          But as of right now still see Langi making the team unless he’s a dud in the preseason.

          Especially if you believe that Bill Belichick video of him saying he’d take Langi in the first round of the 2016 draft if he came out that year. 🙂

      • steve earle says:

        Count me in with those that agree with you. Langi is just so darn intriguing I can’t say no. Same with Wise, these guys are definitely in the running for the 53 until they prove otherwise.

    • steve earle says:

      Cedric Jones has to prove it to me. I expect that will be attitude of BB and the entire staff as well. He’ll have to have a great camp to make everyone forget last year. Not rooting against him mind you but ball is in his court.

  3. macspak says:

    It would be a SURPRISE if Solder was cut/traded. Would it be a surprise if Foster made the team over Lewis and McDermott over Fleming? Basically BB would be saying Foster’s upside and the likelihood he would be snatched by another team outweighs Lewis being injury prone. And, that Garcia can fill in for Fleming’s back-up spot while McDermott fills in for the always inactive Waddle. Actual training camp production and perceived upside will be important for those involved.

    • GM-In-Training says:

      I’m all for adding youth with higher ceilings than vets, but I’m concerned that Garcia and MacDermott don’t have enough power to hold down the fort at OT, and it will probably take 6 months or more before they do.

    • steve earle says:

      No surprise at all Mac. I could easily see a scenario where McDermott and Garcia make the 53 and Waddle and Fleming do not. It all depends on their respective camps.

      • steve earle says:

        Another thought might be that they start working Fleming at OG which would cover the lack of depth inside and still have room for the rookie OT’s?

  4. Trev says:

    Pre-Camp Roster Projection:

    QB: Brady, Garoppolo, Brissett

    RB: Gillesee, White, Burkhead, Foster, Develin

    TE: Gronk, Allen, O’Schaunessey

    WR: Edelman, Cooks, Hogan, Amendola, Mitchell

    C: Andrews

    OG: Mason, Thuney, Karras

    OT: Solder, Cannon, Flemming, Garcia

    DT: Branch, Brown, Guy, Valentine

    DE: Flowers, Ealy, Rivers, Ninkovich, Grissom

    LB: Hightower, Harris, Van Noy, Roberts, Langi

    S: McCourty, Chung, Harmon, David Jones, Ebner, King

    CB: Butler, Gilmore, Rowe, J.Jones, C. Jones

    ST: Ghost, Allen, Cardonna, Slater

    IR Stash: Wise, McDermott

    Traded: Dion Lewis

    Vet Cut: McClellin, Richards, Hawkins

    Priotiry P.S.

    Hollister, Rich, Killings, Moore, Adam Butler, Thompson, Carr, Daniels

    • steve earle says:

      Looks pretty good Trev but one guy I’m not sold on is Foster. My lasting memory from last year is Foster being stopped dead, knocked back by arm tackles. Not once but several times. I question his strength or desire, maybe both? It’s just an impression he could change this year but I want to see it before I buy it.

      • Big Dan From Maine says:

        You guys are all forgetting about the “injury bug” that is sure to happen during training camp where one of the prize UDFA, or rookies, gets put on IR for the season with a hang nail, or some other mystery lower leg injury.

        I’ve said it before going to say it again this year. With this much talent on the team it will be time to not keep one trick ponies who cannot do something else. Slater and Ebner are great special teamers but that’s all they are. Need to be able to actually play a position.

        Foster has lots of promise but there is no way I see him making the roster over Jordan, unless Jordan is injured.

        Could Burkhead be a more versatile Develin?

  5. Russell says:

    Patriots again this year have some great looking Undrafted guys, so who makes the team or P-Squad?
    My number one guy is David Jones 6’1″+ 210 lbs. SS/ KR , 4.43 40 yd. I watched a lot of tape on this guy at Richmond, and he was a tackling machine, be for breaking his arm. Jordon Richards has not stood out, as a SS or special teams, and Patrick Chung (contract 2019 , avg. Salary $2.7 mil. yr.) will be turning 30.
    Jones work as a punt/ kick returner is an area the Patriots, NEED help. Jones tackling skills could stand out on special teams as well, while backing up at SS.

    Next in no special order, is Max Rich 6’7″+ 311 lbs. OT, 5.12 40 yd. 8’9″ B-Jump , a project but high intelligence level, and good skills.
    Next Brook Ellis , 6’2″ 245 lbs. MLB , 3-cone drill 6.79, B-Jump 9’6″, Very high intelligence level. This is another guy I watched a lot of Tape on, not a quick guy, but understands “where” to be, and tackles well. Drops into pass coverage very well,(has interceptions) Not a pass rusher, but “reads plays” very well.
    Lashun Daniels, 6′ 225 lbs. RB 4.56 40 yd. Daniels has a great work ethic/personality. I just have that gut feeling this guy is a Patriot type player.
    Also keep an eye on Adam Butler , DT 6’5″ 300 lbs.

    • steve earle says:

      Plenty of talent on your list Russell. They all are maybe’s but have to catch the coaches eyes in camp. It promises to be a great camp full of competition. You’ve mentioned David Jones before I believe. He does sound good. Hope your right we can use the return and depth at SS. I’ll be looking for him.

    • GM-In-Training says:

      Good list. I’d add Jason Thompson. His agility numbers are insane, especially as long as he is. He hasn’t shown as much on the field, as he transitioned from QB to DB and transferred colleges. We don’t know if he can put it all together, but we hope the fact that he was a QB speaks well of his football IQ. It’ll be interesting to see.

      • Big Dan From Maine says:

        Who Says QBs are smart. I played NT in High school and graduated with a higher GPA than our QB

    • EdgeX says:

      I’d like the preseason games to start already so that I can watch some of these undrafted guys to get a better idea. Would love some SS depth behind Chung – hopefully one of these undrafted guys can do it. Not impressed with Jordan Richards to say the least – wouldn’t be surprised if he is cut before the season starts. DT/DE Adam Butler is another I’m curious to see how he does – I like his measurements/info I’ve read on him.

  6. GM-In-Training says:

    Chase Farris released. Opens up a spot on the 90-guy roster for camp.

    So…who are they bringing in to fill it? Spare kicker? Another interior OL? Calvin Johnson out of retirement?

    • steve earle says:

      I don’t expect Calvin Johnson is a likely addition, cost for one thing. There was that kicker who tried out a couple months ago but more likely an interior OL depending of course on who is available.

    • Russell says:

      I liked Chase Ferris a lot, but sadly a torn Achilles. I think the Patriots have enough rookie talent at the O-line position. I think the roster spot goes to a guy to return kicks & punts type.

      • steve earle says:

        I agree I liked Ferris too and know 1st hand what it’s like to recover from an Achilles rupture. Took me fourteen months to get full range of motion back then there was still awhile for strength to get back to normal. Well that was back in the 80’s and medical may have improved but still. One thing is Ferris may yet fully recover ans could be resigned by Bill at some point. Have to watch and wait.

  7. EdgeX says:

    Mike you should really do a weekly 53 man roster projection post for like the month of August – definitely would keep a lot of people interested – and might bring more people to the site again! Or…if you’re too busy maybe get one of other guys to maybe contribute something more than just behind the scenes.

    Just some food for thought….

  8. macspak says:

    I think RB is one of the more interesting roster decisions on the team. I think that Bolden is too limited to earn a spot. Foster is intriguing but really, who does he beat out at RB or where do we sacrifice at some other position? There seems to be excess depth almost everywhere.

    Interior OL, LB, WR, TE also are questionable as to who stays and who goes. Is McLellan safe? Seems like we are losing quality almost everywhere making you wonder about trades. Who is the surprise who is traded or cut this year? How will only one cut down day impact trades?

    • Big Dan From Maine says:

      I think one cut down day is going to bring more trades. It will be interesting to see how it goes. Will be a fun day on the cell phone watching the transaction wire.

  9. macspak says:

    I think Brady’s succession plan is that he continues as QB until his level of play, not age, dictates otherwise. That could be 1 year or 5.

  10. EdgeX says:

    The Pats are juggling a lot of balls in the air and they keep their cards close to the vest. Hard to tell what they will do until months from now.

    The fan in me would love it if the Pats would make a run at Saquon Barkley, Bo Scarborough or Derrius Guice who could easily be pushed down draft boards just because of the overwhelming talent at other positions. But hard to see the Pats do that early based on their history. As of right now White and Gillislee seem like the only locks for 2018.

  11. steve earle says:

    Okay I’ll say it. Bill goes against all projections and past history and takes a RB, Nick Chubb in the first round after first tagging Jimmy G then trading Jimmy for a first round pick to be used on Chubb. Then he game plans a run first strategy to catch everyone off guard by using the single wing formation with two TE’s in line and oh yea, equips the team with, leather helmets?
    Ah, well maybe not, I don’t know, it’s all so darn early for even thinking about the next draft. My thoughts are just so focused on this coming camp and season really. Come October I’ll see if I can’t pull up this article ( No offense Mike, It’s me, can’t seem to get excited about draft stuff yet.) I know this “dead” zone of early July is the pits.

    • Russell says:

      HHMMM…..I think BB lets OT Solder walk, (get a 3d-4th round comp. pick 2019) use the money $10.5 mil. to sign CB Butler. Garoppolo signs a friendly deal to stay in New England, $5.5 mil a yr., for 2 years. 1st draft pick, trade back into mid-second round for 2nd & get a 3d as well, and draft a SS.

      • Trev says:

        Umm, It all sounded pretty realistic until Garoppolo signing for 5.5 mil per year. That’s a laughable amount. Sorry, Man, but Garoppolo is at least 15 mil per year. to keep around, maybe closer to $20 mil. That’s the reality

        • Russell says:

          I agree with you and Garoppolo’s value, but play for a losing franchise, or stay in New England for 2 yrs. to take over the QB duties ??? It’s not always about the money, but play-off teams get more money for it’s players.

        • EdgeX says:

          I have to agree with Trev. $5.5 million per year for 2 years for Garoppolo is tooo low.

          The way I see things right now with Garoppolo are:

          A.) He works out a short term deal for 2 years…at something between $10M to $15M per year.
          B.) He’s franchise tagged – and stays on the team
          C.) He’s franchise tagged – and traded just like Matt Cassel
          D.) He walks.

          Option A comes down to what does Garoppolo want? I’m not sure – time will tell on that one, but as a fan it’s the one I’m most hopeful of, but chances are low that this is realistic. Options B and C are more realistic – but costly – and not exactly sure how Pat’s will wiggle the cap with a franchise tag QB sitting on the bench, and as of right now, owing $22M (cap hit) to Brady. Can’t see Option D happening when the Pat’s could have traded Garoppolo this year and got at least a 1st round pick, probably more.

        • Trev says:

          I do believe that Garoppolo stays in NE long term, but unfortunately I think that also means that Brady’s remaining time in NE will be shorter than many people think. Here’s my best guess as to how things will play out…
          Garoppolo signs an extension during this season to keep him in NE through the 2018 season. I’m guessing it will cost NE around $15 mil per year.
          Then I think Brady likely retires after the 2018 season. 2 more seasons as a Patriot and then I think his Wife will be able to convince him to retire. I don’t think NE will trade Brady and I don’t think that he would be interested in playing for any other team.
          If I were to guess, the dynamics of this situation have been thoroughly discussed behind the scenes with Brady, Garoppolo, Belichick, Kraft, and Yee. I’m guessing that everyone is on the same page with the succession plan, and it is very helpful that Yee represents both Brady and Garoppolo.

        • mike says:

          Let’s not forget ego. Garoppolo is probably thinking if he leaves to be a starter somewhere he will make it to the playoffs because of him. If he were to think he is going to go to a team and be a loser, he would not be a very good football player and would have never made it to this level.

      • steve earle says:

        BB letting Solder walk after the season makes sense as I believe Garcia will be ready after a year of coaching by Scar. Jimmy G for 5.5 mil for two more years? I don’t see that at all. Unless TB starts to slip Bill tags JG then trades him for a 1st or multiple picks, only thing that makes sense to me. I guarantee the kid wants to start somewhere. No QB worth a darn doesn’t and sitting behind Brady for four years already then another one or two, no way he wants that. Careers are short in the NFL unless your one of the rare exceptions. So unless JG is promised the starting job by 2019 he will be playing somewhere else in 2018. Bet a coffee and donut on that.

  12. Russell says:

    Don’t underestimate, Leshun Daniels, this guy grades out a head of Foster in my opinion. Intelligent, prospect with the “right” personality, who ran behind a good O-line at Iowa, pro-style Offence.

    • mike says:

      Daniels and Foster are 2 different players IMO. Foster is a smaller back in the mold of White and Lewis where Daniels is a bigger back similar to Gilislee. I am not sure I see them competing directly with each other but if the discussion will come down to long term upside and depth

  13. Russell says:

    Hard for me to think BB would draft a RB in 2018, as it’s easier /cheaper to go for undrafted guys, or free agents. I see Burkhead’s special teams ability as a big plus, and see him becoming a Ninkovich type player. Bolden is VERY cost friendly. Gillislee is the wild card, a good prospect, but can he grasp the Patriots offence, a question that I see Burkhead grasping much better.
    I like Leshun Daniels to make the practice Squad , along with Foster (if he clears waviers)
    White is a lock, Lewis depends on his health.

  14. Trev says:

    Keep an eye on James Morrow, RB Washington State. Great receiving RB. Huge weapon for the Cougs in the passing game. Also a strong build and can run up the middle when needed, not that WSU runs up the middle much.

  • Categories

  • Search NEPD Archives

  • Archives