With the 2018 NFL draft on tap next week, PFW will offer a capsule look at each position in the coming days. Today we look at running backs.
POSITION: RUNNING BACK
Patriots need: Despite the free-agent loss of Dion Lewis, New England remains pretty well-stocked in its committee backfield. James White is a premier passing back. Newcomer Jeremy Hill joins returners Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to battle it out for playing time and carries, while veteran Brandon Bolden remains in the special teams/backup mix. Still, adding a developmental young back with the ability to run the ball with some consistency could be of benefit moving forward.
High-end options: Penn State's Saquon Barkley is one of the best all-around prospects in the draft, but also one of the guys Bill Belichick was probably referring to when he said a few players simply weren't realistically in the Patriots range of options. Pretty much any other running back in a relatively deep crop of prospects is a worthy consideration. That would include possible late first-round options like USC's Ronald Jones III(who visited Foxborough) and LSU's Derrius Guice as well as second-round possibilities in Auburn's Kerryon Johnson, Georgia's Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and San Diego State's Rashaad Penny. Guice is a compact, powerful runner with the ability to break tackles who might fit nicely in the room to work given by a Tom Brady-led passing attack. Penny is one of the more all-around productive athletes at the position with intriguing upside. Michel has always shared the load, is an explosive playmaker and could have be an even better pro than college player.
Mid-round value: Beyond the top couple rounds, there are some pretty talented runners who may be available early on the third day of the draft with clear NFL talents. We know Belichick loves versatile guys, and North Carolina's Nyheim Hinesand Jaylen Samuelsclearly fill that bill with experience all over the offense. In terms of a big, powerful lead runner Notre Dame's Josh Adamswould certainly make sense coming off a year in which he had 1,400 yards including eight runs of 59 yards or longer for the Irish. Really, though, there are a ton of options in the middle rounds coming in all shapes, sizes and styles.
Prediction:Given the need/focus on other positions like quarterback, tackle and defense, New England could very well wait a bit if it decides to pull the trigger on a running back. With that in mind we'll go with Notre Dame's Adams as the type of big back Belichick has employed successfully in the past. But don't rule out the Swiss Army knife Samuels.