James White has worked his way into an early round selection on fantasy football draft boards. The Patriots running back had his best statistical season in 2018, accumulating 1,176 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns for the Super Bowl champions.
He doesn’t put up gaudy statistics on a week-to-week basis, but he has a nose for the endzone on days where his yards aren’t up to snuff. He managed 10 double-digit performances last year, including the following:
- Week One vs. Houston: 18 yards rushing, 38 yards receiving and a touchdown
- Week Three vs. Detroit: 37 yards rushing, 14 yards receiving and a touchdown
- Week Five vs. Indianapolis: 77 yards receiving and a touchdown
- Week 16 vs. Buffalo: 41 yards rushing and a touchdown, 13 yards receiving
- Week 17 vs. Jets: 30 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and a touchdown
Five performances salvaged by touchdowns. As our own Dan Shulman points out, this is because New England uses him extensively in redzone packages.
White gets a good amount of his touches in the red zone, averaging a little over two per game. Whether it’s being charged to run it in from one yard-line, used as an extra blocker, or getting open on a screen, he’s a difference-maker in close range.
He finished the year ranked as the 11th best running back in fantasy because of his ability to find the endzone. His 12 touchdowns led all Patriots players last season and we all know more touchdowns means more points.
He also has the ability to post big numbers, including his 22-point outbursts versus the Dolphins and Packers.
James White Fantasy Value & Rankings
CBS Sports has him as their No. 2 running back, meaning a fourth-round selection as a back and a fifth-round choice as a flex.
Last season, White had career highs in carries (94), rushing yards (425), rushing touchdowns (five), targets (123), receptions (87), receiving yards (751) and receiving touchdowns (seven). He ranked third in receptions, second in receiving yards and tied for the most touchdowns among running backs, and he was the No. 7 running back in PPR. It could be hard for him to repeat that performance, and the Patriots added another running back with rookie Damien Harris joining Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. But White seems locked into a passing-downs role and should still see plenty of targets as Tom Brady’s security blanket. He’s one of the top pass-catching running backs in the NFL.
Pro Football Network calls White “undervalued.” While the addition of Harris, plus the continued existence of Michel and Burkhead gives them pause, the site still says he should be given a chance since his usage still figures to be high.
White greatly benefited from that in 2018. Brady threw 570 pass attempts last season – 123 of those were targeted to White. That accounts for 21.6 percent of Brady’s passes. Only Christian McCaffrey had more targets among running backs, and in terms of receptions, White was third behind only McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley.
It’s important to note that White was on the field for a career-high 53.6 percent of the Patriots snaps in 2018. Prior to that, he had never been on the field for more than 39.0 percent.
With all of this in mind, White is at best a consistent starter as a flex or a quality backup at worst. Wait a few rounds to take him, but also know that you can possibly wait until the sixth, seventh or eighth rounds.