Building The 2018 Patriots Big Board: Runningbacks

The Patriots have a somewhat crowded backfield, but that may not stop them from adding another piece if the right guy falls to them.

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

When it comes to the Runningback position and the Patriots, it can be difficult to evaluate. The team likes to be amebic at Runningback. The team likes to keep defenses (and fantasy football owners) guessing at who and how they plan on running the ball week to week. It can be frustrating at times, and I would love the team to have a more consistent run game to help out their aging QB and the pass game. The team still has a number of players at the position, but it’s a position that could use some upgrades and some long term stability. With that in mind, here are the guys I think fit the Patriots criteria at RB.

Position: Runningback

Priority: Medium to Low

Current Roster:

Mike Gillislee (age 27, signed through 2018)

Rex Burkhead (age 27, signed through 2020)

James White (age 26, signed through 2020)

Jeremy Hill (age 25, signed though 2018)

Brandon Bolden (age 28, signed through 2018)

James Develin(FB, age 29, signed through 2018)

Position Overview:

On paper, it looks like the backfield is pretty crowded, but if you look deeper, the team has a bunch of guys on one year, low money deals that make them expendable at any time. Gillislee has a big cap number and could be a cap casualty if a rookie or Jeremy Hill out perform him this summer. I was really high on Hill coming out of LSU, but has struggled behind a putrid offensive line  in Cincinnati. Burkhead is talented and could be “the guy” this year, but he has an injury history that makes him tough to trust. Bolden is a Runningback only in name and is on the team for his special teams only. Develin has been a very good FB, but it is a position that is fading out of favor and he is on the last year of his contract. The team could look to go younger and more dynamic if they indeed want to keep a true fullback on the roster. Overall, I would not expect the team to draft a RB early in the draft and I think there are guys in this draft that can contribute who can be had later. I am looking for that type of value to add to the position, so you won’t see many of the high profile names on this list

 

Players With A Draftable Grade:

Derrius Guice, LSU

When the Patriots acquired the 23rd pick, Guice’s name immediately came to mind. He would be a true feature back that would allow the others on the roster to play a complimentary role, which is better suited to their skillset. Guice has good size for the position and runs with mean streak to him. His combination of size and foot quickness are rare. He has a second gear that makes him a threat to take it to the house on any run. He plays with good pad level and has pop behind his pads. He is a better pass catcher than given credit for, showing the ability to run more than simple flat routes. Guice gives good effort in pass protection and has shown improvement, but still needs some work in that area. He takes care of the ball and turnovers will not be an issue. He can get impatient when things do not open on time and he looks to bounce things outside too much rather than take the minimal game and move onto the next play. He invites contact more than necessary and long term there could be some injury concern. Overall though, Guice could be a true workhorse back that rarely comes off the field and could put up monster numbers in the Patriots offense from day 1. Grade: 1st Round

 

Darrel Williams, LSU

I wrote up Williams earlier in the draft process and you can read that here http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=35104&action=edit, but I can always talk about Williams, so here are some additional thoughts. While Williams may not be the most explosive runner, he has a very good all around game. He runs hard with good vision, he runs with power, is an underrated pass catcher, does not fumble and is reliable in pass protection. He got stuck behind two great backs in Fournette and Guice, and while he may not have the upside that those two have, to me, the gap is not as large as many think. If he would have had a more featured role, I think he would be a guy mentioned in the same breath as those guys. Grade: 3rd/4th Round

 

Nyheim Hines, NC State

While Williams is at one end of the Runningback spectrum, Hines is on the other. Hines is a shorter back, but he is definitely not small. Hines spent his Sophomore year at Wide Receiver until moving to Runningback as a Junior. He excelled at both positions as well as on special teams. Obviously his versatility will be very intriguing to the Patriots and they are a team that can maximize his talents through scheme. Hines has elite speed, runs with good balance and has good wiggle to make defenders miss. He does not have ideal size and I worry about his ability to stay healthy, but he could be a dynamic chess piece in New England. Grade: 3rd/4th Round

 

Mark Walton, Miami

While Walton might not be as dynamic as Hines, he does bring similar traits. One area were Walton is better is his start/stop ability. He has good vision and quickness to quickly hit the hole. Walton is a true threat in the open field. His timed speed was pedestrian, escpecially for his size, but it did not show up on tape. Like Hines, Walton is a good receiver and is above average in pass protection. He is not a every down back, but can be electric when schemed for. I would like to see him be more patient as a runner and he won’t be as successful bouncing everything outside. Walton needs to be okay with a 3 yard gain instead of trying to make everything a 30 yard run. Grade: 4th Round

 

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

It’s funny, last year I found myself gravitating towards bigger backs in the draft, but this year, I would say I have liked smaller backs. However, one bigger back that caught my attention was Penny. Penny has prototypical size and speed for the position and was productive in the workhorse role. He is a patient runner that hits the hole hard when he sees things open up. Was asked and excelled in multiple roles including as a receiver and a returner. Shows natural hands as a pass catcher and is a home run threat with the ball in his hand. He is a no nonsense runner who is willing fight for each and every yard. He needs some space to get up to top speed and he is an upright runner, which can lead to him taking big hits. The biggest knock on Penny is his pass protection. It is non existent. He acknowledged that he needs to work on it, but until he makes massive improvements in this area, teams will struggle keeping him on the field on passing downs, which limits what teams can do with him. Grade: 4th round

 

John Kelly, Tennessee

Kelly is another short runner, but he is definitely not small. In fact, when he runs, he likes to remind defenders of that. He runs with good balance and power and fights for every yard. Kelly is a one cut runner who hits the hole quickly. He is an above average pass catcher and reliable runner that rarely fumbled in college. Kelly is known for his hard work and mentality. He was a team captain. While Kelly is not small, I do worry about injuries because of the way he runs. He is not a home run threat and lacks the wiggle to create yards on his own. Grade: 4th Round

 

Chase Edmonds, Fordham

The theme continues with another player with similar build and traits to the previous runners on my list. As you can see by his testing he has excellent start/stop ability and it shows up on tape as well. Edmonds runs with excellent vision and balance and shows the ability to create yardage where it seems there is none to gain. While Edmonds does not possess elite speed, he is elusive is space. He shows natural hands and can be a true threat as a pass catcher as well as a runner. Edmonds was the offense at Fordham and despite defenses keying on him, he was still very productive. He is a reliable runner with a very good fumble rate, something the Patriots look for. Edmonds shows effort as a pass protector, but he needs to improve in that effort. He has had injuries in the past and it is a concern due to his size and his usage in college.  He was productive bouncing runs outside in college, but he does not have the speed to make that work consistently in the NFL.  Grade: 5th/6th Round

 

Jaylen Samuels, NC State

In one of the stranger moves by the NFL, they had Samuels test with the Tight Ends at the Combine. Clearly, that will not be his role at the next level. He is a guy who does a little bit of everything, which some teams might see as a good thing, while other may not. Under the right coaching staff, he could be a true swiss army knife that can play RB, FB, WR, TE, H-back. He shows good quickness and power as a runner. He shows natural hands with the ability to bail out his QB by making tough catches. He is a smart player who has dedicated himself to learning multiple positional assignments. Hard nosed player that will outwork everyone. Samuels is good at everything, but does not have any elite qualities to fall back on. He is not a creative runner and lacks the movement skills to make defenders miss. He gets what is given, but that is about it. He has good hands, but has dealt with concentration drops. Samuels wears his emotions on his sleeve and it can affect his game negatively. Grade: 4th Round

 

Josh Adams, Notre Dame

Pro Day Results:

40 yard dash: 4.48 sec

Broad Jump: 10’02”

Vertical: 34″

3cone: 6.75

While a little tall for the position, Adams does have the body to be a workhorse back in the NFL. He has good long speed and can be a home run threat, but also the size and power to get the tough short yardage or goal line carries.  No nonsense runner who looks to hit the hole quickly. He is a capable pass catcher and willing in pass protection. Adams was a team captain and described as a football junkie. He needs to work on his pass protection technique and his long frame and upright running style creates a big target to hit. He does need some room to get up to top speed and his vision was not really tested because he ran through some large holes in college. He lacks wiggle and foot quickness. . He is better at the 2nd level, but can only get there if it is blocked for him. He has dealt with some significant injuries. Grade: 6th round

 

Jordan Wilkins, Mississippi

Wilkins is a guy that is rarely talked about in this class, but he was a productive runner in the SEC and has the traits necessary to be a successful Runningback in the NFL. He gets to top speed quickly and shows an excellent ability to plant his foot and cut without losing momentum. He is an above average pass catcher and can make people miss in the open field. Wilkins looks faster on tape than he timed and showed the ability to elude and outrun defenders. Wilkins was a team captain. Does not show the necessary footwork or vision to be patient for holes to open and consistently ran himself into his lineman. At his size, you would assume he would run with more power, but that does not show up on tape. Wilkins has had his fair share of injuries and struggled to stay on the field consistently. His vision must improve, but he could be a later round guy who comes in and produces above his draft slot. Grade: 6th Round

 

Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi

Pro Day Results:

Height: 5’8″1/2″

Weight: 201 Lbs

40 yard dash: 4.49 sec

Bench: 22 reps

Vertical: 37.5″

Smith might have been the biggest snub from the recent NFL Combine and when you watch the tape you see why. He shows great burst and one of the better jump cuts you will see. He shows good balance and uses his smaller frame to sneak through tight windows as a runner. Shows good vision and elusiveness to maximize each run. Has the wiggle to create yardage when it seems there is none. Smith is a tougher runner than you might expect from a guy his size, but he keeps his legs churning and can move defenders. He is a very good pass catching back and was lethal in the screen game. Smith obviously has a smaller frame and there is a lot of wear and tear on his body, although he never dealt with any major injuries in college. Smith has had some ball security issues and needs to secure the ball better. He is an effort guy in pass protection, but even against lower competition, he struggled and I don’t see that improving as the competition gets better. Grade: 6th Round

 

Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma (Fullback)

The Patriots are one of the few teams that still employ a Fullback, so I would think Flowers would at least be on their radar. While not a traditional old school Fullback, Flowers is a guy who can be a lead blocker or a goal line threat. He also shows natural hands and can have a role as a pass catcher, bringing versatility to his game. He needs to be a more consistent lead blocker, but his overall game could make him a nice move piece for a creative offensive coordinator. Grade: 7th round

 

Interesting UDFA’s:

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Phillip Lindsay, Colorado

Martez Carter, Grambling

Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan

Malik Williams, Louisville

 

Overall Impressions:

This is such a deep and talented RB class. While I like some of the bigger names in this draft, I think there is talent that can be had later and I look for value here. I fully expect a guy like Darrel Williams to go later than I have him ranked, so he is a name I think will be great value come draft day. A guy like Guice could be too tempting to pass on if he is still on the board at 23 though. While it may not be a huge need, I could see the team drafting someone from this list to be in their long term plans.

 

 

 

 

26 Responses to “Building The 2018 Patriots Big Board: Runningbacks”

  1. Jeff Fid says:

    *Guice* would be 1 by a mile if they were comfortable w/ him. He’s such a wild card imho. RB1 for me.

    Penny is prob in their realistic top tier. He’s super under rated rn. Checks the boxes we like, good fumble rate. Tough runner. One cut & go. Can make you miss. Versatile, returner & rec. He’s a great prospect. Not much wear n tear & he showed he’s more than capable of being the feature. Tempo guy you can lean & he can also strike for 6 from anywhere.

    • Jeff Fid says:

      Again we’re on the same page Mike. I’d be all in on Guice if we’re comfortable w/ him otf. After him …

      I’d look at Penny, Freeman in 2-3 if possible but have np w/ Williams, Hines, Walton (assuming were good otf) around 4-5.

  2. Russell says:

    NO Trade Mock;

    1st-#23- LB Lorenzo Carter
    1st-#31- OL Billy Price
    2nd- #43- DL Tyquan Lewis
    2nd -#63- CB/S Quenton Meeks
    3d – #95 – OL Tyrell Cosby
    6th – #198- QB Chad Kanoff
    6th- #210- WR Trey Quinn
    7th – #219- S Troy Apke

    There is a better than 90% chance BB makes a trade some where during the draft. I believe a QB will be a later choice, not early as we are hearing. Thuney could move to LOT where he played a N.C. State, but Billy Price is a high quality prospect and likely day one starter at G/C.

    • Russell says:

      I believe it is hard to see BB drafting a QB early, to sit for 2-3 years. The Patriots need prospects who can contribute right-a-way during Brady’s finial years. A developing QB can be had in the Later rounds..

    • Big Dan From Maine says:

      Just better than 90% chance that BB makes a trade, I would give it a better than 200% chance

  3. JH says:

    1st – OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
    1st – LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
    2nd – EDGE Josh Sweat, Florida State
    2nd – QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
    3rd (trade) – S Dane Cruikshank, Arizona
    6th – TE Andrew Vollert, Weber State
    6th – RB Ryan Nall, Oregon State
    7th – Trade for player (TE?)

    • JH says:

      The third rounder isn’t a trade, accidentally had that in there.

    • Stephen J says:

      I love Miller’s athleticism and upside but I’m not reaching for someone because they are athletic and that need years of development in the 1st round. If he is there in the 3rd round fine but you look for players that are going to be starting right away or be able to make an impact in year one in the 1st round. Miller won’t do either.

      • JH says:

        I didn’t realize Miller would be such a project. Seems like he’s a very capable player who could be a reasonable starter in the second half of his first year or maybe more likely year two.

        Do you think there are any LT’s who are better than Miller who may be there at #23? I just think it’d be hard to pass up on Miller, he’s such an elite athlete for his size and he also has experience playing power 5 football and graded out well by PFF (89 pass block grade, 82 run block). I think any OL we get will need some coaching but if we get someone with these sort of athletic gifts with Scar he could be scary good.

        • Stephen J says:

          Yes he is a 1 year starter and needs more experience and development. Even with Nate Solder who was a 3 year starter he didn’t start at LT until his 2nd year albeit under different circumstances (during which he added weight and strength in the 1st year).
          As far as grading well and playing power 5 look at Conor McDermott last year who the Pats drafted in the 6th round and whom Kolton Miller replaced this year. Conor had one bad game last year against Texas A&M where he gave up 11 pressures playing against Myles Garrett. The rest of the year he gave up only 7. He graded out at 83.5 by PFF. Conor also started 24 games over 2 years at LT where Kolton has started 13 games at LT. Tony Garcia graded out at 87.5 by PFF and started 36 games at LT

          1 Thing that is also being left out is Dante likes having his Lineman being smart and quick learners 1 To learn the complex offensive system they deploy 2 To develop the technique and skill. That can only be determined through the interview process and will unlikely be leaked out before the draft.

          The last thing is do the Pat’s value Miller’s Athletic upside more than his inexperience and developmental needs. My guess is that they would go with the later due to how they have selected and operated in the past and see Miller more like Garcia than Solder. We will find out in Two weeks and two days time.

        • kevan says:

          Good breakdown, I was really looking at Miller with one of the 1st rd picks but now I don’t know. I really hope Garcia is ready to roll. I liked McDermott last year but Scar liked Cole Croston more. Scar knows

    • Stephen J says:

      I like your Dane Cruickshank pick.

      Here is a nice breakdown by Jonah Tuls

      https://www.ndtscouting.com/tuls-dane-cruikshank-deserves-more-hype-traits-rival-that-of-minkah-fitzpatrick/

      While Jonah does an excellent job at breaking down his skill set. I just question Jonah’s overall placement due to only 2 years (25 games of experience) He is still learning and developing. I think Jonah is banking more on his potential than were he currently is.
      I like his versatility being able to play CB and Safety.
      I like his athleticism (more athletic than Chung and Tavon Wilson)
      His production during the 2 years was decent but lower than Chung’s 51 games of production while at Oregon on a per game basis but greater than Tavon Wilson’s 50 games of production on a per game basis.
      .

      • JH says:

        I saw this article too, and I agree that his value is mainly based on his potential.

        I think if he were to play cornerback he’d be more of a project but if we put him at safety I think his coverage skills are more than capable. He’s already a very aggressive tackler similar to a SS, but he’s just inconsistent in open field tackling. If he works to fix this and continues to learn the nuances of the SS position he is easily an above average starter, its just a matter of if or when he will access this potential.

    • Mike Gerken says:

      I certainly hope the Patriots are smart enough to look past Millers athletic testing and let some other team fall in love with his athleticism. I don’t want to give away to much, but I just finished writing up Tackles and his final grade is a late 3/early 4.

      • lenny says:

        Miller is reminiscent of Bruce Campbell, who tested so much better than he played. The opposite would be Daeshawn Hamilton, whom Steve Smith keeps insisting plays so much better than he tests. Easy for Smith to say, but a personnel director can lose his high-paying gig for being unable to quantify why he took a player who ultimately failed. At least with a guy like Miller, you can tell the owner that the player tested off the charts. It is the reason Gesicki might sneak into Round One even though he cannot block Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Fans can just worry about quality, but a general managers must consider the owner’s reaction if a guy faceplants.

  4. Stephen J says:

    One thing to note about LSU RB’s Guice and Williams is that their RB coach this past year was none only than former Patriot RB Kevin Faulk.

    Guice was in for a visit today as well.

    When I looked at Guice’s fumble ratio he improved considerably this year my guess Kevin Faulk had something to do with that.

  5. Stephen J says:

    Another RB that I mentioned recently is Boston Scott from LA Tech.

    Pro Day numbers:
    Boston Scott………………Dion Lewis

    Height 5’6 1/8″…………..5’6 1/2″
    Weight 203 lbs……………193 lbs

    VJ: 38.5”…………………..34.5″
    BJ: 10’1……………………9’4″
    40: 4.40…………………..4.47
    20: 4.15 ………………….4.18
    3C: 6.69…………………..6.90
    60: 11.40 ………………..N/A

    Career Stats

    https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/boston-scott-1.html

    288 Carries/Rushes 1840 Yards 6.4 Yards per Carry 14 TD’s
    32 Receptions 307 Yards 1 TD

    1 Career Fumble 0 Lost Fumbles

    If you are looking for someone that is elusive as Dion Lewis and that could be his replacement and that doesn’t fumble the ball Have a look at these clips

    https://twitter.com/themicknartin/status/948717872955711490

  6. Stephen J says:

    Justin Jackson

    Career Stats

    https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/justin-jackson-5.html

    Career 1142 Carries 5440 Yards 4.76 Yards per Carry 41 TD’s 122 Receptions 858 Yards

    Protects the ball He had 7 Total Fumbles of which he had 4 Lost Fumbles on 1142 Carries and 122 Receptions
    1142 / 7 = 163.14 He has fumbled 1 out of every 163 Carries
    1142+122=1364/4=316 He has lost a fumble 1 out of 316 touches

    He is a good pass protector.

    Combine

    https://www.mockdraftable.com/player/justin-jackson-2018?position=RB

    Top Athletic Comparisons listed on mockdraftable.com
    RB Christian McCaffrey 92.4%
    RB Tyler Gaffney 73.2%
    RB/WR DJ Foster 91%
    Stephon Gilmore 93.7%

    Then Player Profiler.com has his best comparable as Shane Vereen

    Those names sound familiar you think the Pats maybe interested in someone like that

  7. Daniel Sullivan says:

    Patriots Mock Draft.
    1 Rashaan Evans LB Alabama
    1 Harrison Phillips DT Stanford
    2 Kolton Miller OT UCLA
    2 Braden Smith G Auburn
    3 Kylie Fitts DE Utah
    6 Riley Ferguson QB Memphis
    6 Natrel Jamerson S Wisconsin
    7 Andre Chachere CB San Jose St.

    • Stephen J says:

      Not a fan of Rashaan Evans

      Here is the major reason why.

      When I watched his tape the last 2 years 7 games in total I saw this consistantly

      His tackling is a big negative which is hard to overlook.

      He tackles high and is over aggressive. He’s missed 13 tackles per Austin Gayle of PFF

      That led SEC LB’s. Something that you don’t want to lead in.

      Then he also had a high success rate when compared to other LB’s in the league.

      Where his success rate can be seen here

      https://www.footballstudyhall.com/pages/2017-alabama-advanced-statistical-profile

      Scroll down to Individual Defensive Stats then you will see the individual players listed and Rashaan is the 2nd player listed where he has a 39.2 Success Rate listing.
      How Success rate works is the higher your listing rating is the more success an offense has had against you. Now you want to compare apples to apples such as LB to LB because the closer to the line you are the lower the score/rating. So a DB’s score rating is usually the highest where a DT is usually the lowest and LB’s in the middle. So using this example if you were to scroll look down further to Shaun Dion Hamilton another LB you would see his rating of 30.0%. He had a lower success rate which means offenses were less successful against him than his teammate who plays the same position and is approx the same size weight wise.

      • Daniel Sullivan says:

        Thanks for info even though I would like more players on Patriots defense being overly
        aggressive.

        • Stephen J says:

          I don’t mind being aggressive as long as you are sound in your tackling technique but not overly aggressive to where you are consistently missing tackles because of lack of technique, not to mention with the new rules being implemented more players are being ejected for being overly aggressive.

  8. Nick B says:

    I continue to feel that Hines/Samuels or Dmitri Flowers would be great “swiss army knives” for a team like New England. I’d be happy to see any of them drafted this year.

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