NFL analyst Bucky Brooks decided to break down the top 10 “Most Feared Position Groups” in the NFL and included the New England Patriots running backs as the 10th most feared group in the league.
“The Patriots have long taken a committee approach in the backfield, but their current collection of talent might be the most difficult to defend,” Brooks writes. “Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead are interchangeable playmakers capable of doing damage as pass catchers and change-of-pace runners. Meanwhile, Mike Gillislee is a hard-hitting runner with the combination of size, strength and power to pick up the tough yards on short-yardage and goal-line situations.
“Considering how well Josh McDaniels deploys New England's running backs to take advantage of mismatches, the team's diverse collection of backfield weapons could make the mighty Pats nearly impossible to defend in 2017.”
First off, I agree that this is possibly the most talented and versatile group of running backs the Patriots have ever fielded. James White and Dion Lewis are exceptional receivers, while Gillislee and Burkhead are efficient runners.
But more importantly, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! There are no other Patriots position groups on this ranking which makes the Patriots running backs ranking 10th so incorrect it’s crazy.
We see that Brooks ranks the Giants receiving corps and the Buccaneers receiving corps on the list and they include tight ends in the mix. Brooks is trying to “figure out which position groups would create the most fear in the minds of opposing coaches.”
So right out of the gate, let me know who you’re taking in a “scary-off”:
Side A: James White, Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead
Side B: Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Dwayne Allen, oh, and we should probably include James White and Dion Lewis, too.
It’s not even close, right? You’re looking a pretty solid and extremely versatile group of running backs, or one of the most explosive, potent, versatile, and dominant receiving groups in the entire league. Also, I’d totally take those Patriots receivers over the Buccaneers’ or the Giants’.
And let’s throw out another couple options while we’re at it:
Side C: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
Side D: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
These groups are not as fearsome as the Patriots receivers, but I’d still consider them more nightmare-inducing than the Patriots running backs. I’d feel comfortable calling the Patriots running backs the fourth-most fearsome unit on the Patriots, just a hair ahead of the offensive line.
Brooks also seems to forget the Falcons receiving corps (you know, the record-setting bunch from 2016), the Giants defensive line (few trios are better than Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison), and Andy Reid’s clock management skills (nothing is more terrifying).