It seems as if the New England Patriots just can’t catch a break in 2019 when it comes to injuries. This season, New England has been without left tackle Isaiah Wynn, center David Andrews, fullback James Develin, and tight end Matt LaCosse for extended periods.
Now, with fullback Jakob Johnson the latest Patriots player to go down, New England’s already struggling running game has taken a massive blow. Sony Michel, who at the end of last season looked destined to become a franchise player, has rushed for just 348 yards in six games this season.
Meanwhile, dual-threat back James White has seen an even lower involvement rushing for just 62 yards on 16 carries and with only 224 receiving yards, mostly on check-downs. That doesn’t take into account the production of Rex Burkhead who has missed two straight games and was limited in a third with a foot injury.
Without adequate blocking, the Patriots rushers have averaged just 3.5 yards per carry this season a far cry from the 4.3 yards per carry that powered last year’s group to a Super Bowl. So how does this affect the Patriots running backs in fantasy?
Follow the Heavy on Patriots Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors, and content!
See Ya, Sony?
If you’re a fantasy owner who was expecting Sony Michel to be a solid RB2 or Flex option this season, my condolences. Michel has been underwhelming both in fantasy and on the stat sheet. Though he has turned some of his runs into touchdowns, all three have been short runs.
Part of his problem is the Patriots offense has become predictable. Michel has gotten the ball on first or second down 94 percent of the time he’s taken touches, most of the time with seven or more yards to gain.
These early-down hand-offs and the predictability of Michel getting the ball when in the backfield has coupled with mostly short runs and an average of 3.5 yards per carry and only two plays of 20-plus yards. His explosiveness is still there, but it’s difficult to break through a line of seven defenders with not a ton of blocks.
Losing Johnson isn’t going to help, obviously, but it’s not time to part ways. Michel is the 18th-best scoring back in fantasy this season and with more looks as a receiver, it may be worth keeping him as a flex option.
What to Make of White?
Speaking of solid flex options, James White was regarded as an underrated choice at that position this season. So far, he too hasn’t put up massive numbers.
It seems like whenever he runs more, he plays a lesser role as a receiver. Like against the Giants, he finished with nine catches for 46 yards, a PPR-owner’s dream. But that was coupled with minus-1 yard rushing on two carries.
With a guy like White, this is someone you just have to trust will see more looks. In four of five games he’s played this year, he’s gotten over 10 touches in both rushing and receiving plays. While the overall yardage hasn’t peaked like it did last season, White has seemingly transitioned to a short-yardage player.
Against the Giants, he ran a three-yard route on third-and-short, enough to get a first down, and immediately went down instead of extending the play. Smart and effective, but not inclined for maximum fantasy production.
So with White, just be patient, his numbers will build too.