While the injury bug bit a few teams across the NFL in Week 1, it seems the New England Patriots stable of running backs just lost a weapon. As first reported by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots have lost Jeremy Hill for the season to a torn ACL.
It’s a brutal blow for the team and the young running back, who signed with New England this offseason as a free agent. While the Patriots do have a plethora of other running backs, it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts the rotation.
We’re going to take a look at the injury news from a fantasy football perspective, and while Hill only tallied four rushing attempts in Week 1, it should still bolster the stock of one or two players.
The Sony Michel Impact
What better place to start than with the biggest question mark of them all. Michel was selected in the first round by the Patriots in the 2018 NFL Draft but missed the first game due to a knee injury. He also missed multiple weeks of training camp practices due to the knee injury.
Even when Michel does return, it seems likely he gets eased back into the action. But when all is said and done, there’s an argument to be made that he could be the Patriots back you’ll want to own in fantasy football. The former Georgia standout showed the ability to dominate both on the ground and as a pass-catcher, totaling 3,613 rushing yards with 33 scores and 621 receiving yards with six touchdowns over his collegiate career.
Michel is likely the top name to grab, but fantasy owners may not reap the benefits immediately.
Rex Burkhead or James White?
Here’s where things get fun and brutally tough. In Week 1 against the Houston Texans, Burkhead carried the ball 18 times for 64 yards while catching just one pass. As for White, he rushed five times for 18 yards but caught four passes for 38 yards and a score. Realistically, White’s numbers in the passing game are capable of being even better in this, while Burkhead could easily tally better production on the ground, as the Texans have a solid defense.
The problem is, Bill Belichick and the Patriots offense can change their offensive focus on literally a weekly basis. If the team goes pass-heavy, then White is the player for fantasy owners to target, but if it’s a ground-and-pound game, you’ll want all the Burkhead. The safest bet in point-per-reception leagues is White, though.
White had a mediocre game (which was bolstered thanks to the touchdown), but his receptions make him far more appealing as a fantasy target. Based on his rapport with Tom Brady, he’ll likely also hold a considerable workload when Michel returns, while the rookie could certainly wind up stealing carries from Burkhead.
It’s a tough call, but if I’m targeting one Patriots running back in year-long leagues, it’d be White. The return of Michel has me slightly concerned about Burkhead’s long-term outlook.