The New England Patriots traditionally enjoy having four running backs on the roster, not including fullback James Develin. The trio of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White are effectively locked in to a roster spot, which means that there is one spot on the active roster up for grabs.
Michel is a first round pick, so he’s a lock. Burkhead just signed an extension, so he’s also a lock. And White is the team’s third-down and hurry-up back and someone that head coach Bill Belichick considers to be one of the best in the league at his job.
Last year, the Patriots had five running backs on the roster, so it’s not out of the question for the team to repeat that roster build. Burkhead and White were joined by Dion Lewis, who left in free agency, Mike Gillislee, and Brandon Bolden. Gillislee and Bolden are competing with newly signed Jeremy Hill for one of the final roster spots.
Bolden has the inside lane to the roster because of his special teams prowess and his ability to back-up all of the running back positions, albeit at a lower level. Bolden can catch the ball out of the backfield, backing up White, and is large enough to run between the tackles, backing up Burkhead. His special teams play allows him to participate on game day.
Gillislee is the darling of advanced statistics for his incredible efficiency running the ball between the tackles. He’s theoretically capable of catching the ball, but the team neglected to utilize him in that capacity in 2017, greatly neutering his potential contributions as teams stacked the box to stop the run and ignored his routes. He was inactive for much of last season.
Hill comes over from the Cincinnati Bengals and is coming off of ankle surgery. He was one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL for his 2014 rookie season, but was average in both 2015 and 2016 and his injuries limited him to a below-average season in 2017. While Gillislee is favored by advanced statistics, it’s easy to point to Hill’s 3,349 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns over his first three seasons.
We can also throw undrafted running back Ralph Webb into the mix so the Patriots have players will all kinds of strengths.
Bolden is the least talented on offense, but is the best special teams player and offers game day value. Gillislee is an incredibly efficient runner, but we’ve already seen how the team is unable to maximize his skills in 2017. And Hill is an incredibly productive runner (and receiver), but is coming off an injury and isn’t the most efficient player.
All three can make a strong argument to make the Patriots active roster and with Rex Burkhead both capable of running and catching, James White capable of catching and blocking, and Sony Michel capable of all three, there isn’t a glaring weakness that makes any of Bolden, Gillislee, or Hill a natural fit.
So may the best player win the roster spot- and perhaps we could even see the Patriots only carry three running backs in 2018 and use the extra space to carry an extra wide receiver or tight end.
Which Patriots running back will make the roster?
This poll is closed