For many NFL veterans, the preseason is about staying healthy. It hasn’t been working out well for the New England Patriots, and the team is being extra cautious with their impact players.
Rex Burkhead sat out Thursday’s preseason game with what was originally an undisclosed injury. It was later reported by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe that Burkhead has a slight tear in his knee, and that Burkhead could have played through the injury if it was during the regular season.
Howe added that from what he understands, surgery would not be necessary on the injury.
After the departure of Dion Lewis, the Patriots have been tinkering with a handful of running backs in training camp. First round pick Sony Michel is already out after having his knee drained, and Burkhead is supposed to be the featured back alongside James White. If Burkhead were to miss any time, it opens the door for Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee to enter the mix.
The Patriots also lost rookie lineman Isaiah Wynn on Thursday, after the tackle was carted off the field with an ankle injury.
It’s a different injury from the patella sprain that sidelined him last year. Burkhead actually had two stretches on the injury report last season, the latter of the two causing him to miss four games including the AFC Divisional Playoff win over Tennessee.
Burkhead is 28 and entering his sixth NFL season, but he’s had a lighter workload than most backs his age. He was an offensive non-factor until last season, when he finished with eight touchdowns on just 95 touches. Burkhead has great versatility, making him a commodity in the Patriots offense. He’s even been returning punts in training camp.
With Burkhead missing six games last year, he’s already on the radar for potential injury risk. If this injury were to occur last year, I’d still be fine with drafting Burkhead. That’s because he was an unknown entering last season, and his draft price was rock-bottom. Burkhead’s value has skyrocketed in the offseason, and he’s now going as early as the fifth round according to some ADP calculators.
As much as it hurts to say, this news really changes my mind for Burkhead at this price. I’d like to see him participate in a preseason game before really ruling him out for redraft consideration, but entering the season with a knee tear sounds problematic for a running back.
This is where the Information War that rules fantasy football can be so interesting. I would not draft Burkhead at his current ADP, but the news of this tear could influence his value. If Burkhead falls to the eighth round, I can feel better taking the risk for that value.