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Patriots draft preview 2023: Running backs that could interest New England

Running back may still be a need on New England’s roster.

Alabama v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New England Patriots lack of depth behind Rhamondre Stevenson at the running back position was an issue last season. Stevenson, taking on the role of early-down back and receiving back, played 699 offensive snaps, as Damien Harris missed time and New England was hesitant to insert rookies Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris into the lineup.

While New England added James Robinson this offseason, Damien Harris departed to Buffalo which may still make running back a need — especially as they have not found a true replacement for retired receiving back James White. Ty Montgomery is expected to again be in the mix for that role, but is no roster lock. J.J. Taylor also is back under contract.

Whether New England waits for value later in the draft or searches for a more aggressive upgrade at the position is yet to be seen. But, let’s take a look at some prospects who could be on their short list.

Patriots positional draft preview: Quarterback

Top 50

Bijan Robinson (Texas): According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, New England has pondered the idea of adding a “blue-chip” player through the draft at the running back position. In this draft, that would mean Texas’ Bijan Robinson, who Howe reports the Patriots “are absolutely intrigued by.”

It seems unlikely New England would use a first-round selection on a running back, where Robinson is projected to go, but the former Longhorn has every skillset needed to be an elite back in the NFL. Some draft analysts have even gone as far as to call him “generational.”

Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama): Where the report does shine light on is Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs. If the Patriots choose to address bigger roster needs in the first-round, Gibbs is the only other running back projected to go within the top 50. He is an extremely intriguing fit for New England, as Bill O’Brien used him all over the field in Tuscaloosa last season. In total, Gibbs led the Crimson Tide in rushing yards, receptions, and receiving yards.

Gibbs is a playmaker with the ball in his hand as an explosive athlete with true breakaway speed. O’Brien often used him as a receiver at Alabama which is why he could seriously be in the conversation for the Patriots. He would give New England’s passing attack a dynamic chess piece while also being a high-quality spell back for Rhamondre Stevenson. We aren't advocating for the Patriots to add a top-50 back, but if they, do Gibbs is the guy.

Early Day 3

Zach Charbonnet (UCLA): Charbonnet was a workhouse throughout his collegiate career and could work his way into the top-100 of this draft. Over the last two seasons, he averaged just over 18 carries per game for the Bruins and piled up over 2,500 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. He’s a powerful, downhill runner who also provided some pass catching ability.

Kendre Miller (TCU): Miller was spotted chatting with Bill Belichick at TCU’s Pro Day and has a strong, downhill running style with strong contact balance — drawing comparisons to when Rhamondre Stevenson was coming out of Oklahoma. Coming off an MCL injury, he’ll likely be off the board early on Day Three.

Kenny McIntosh (Georgia): McIntosh should fall in a similar draft range as Miller. McIntosh was a do-it all back for the Bulldogs last season, running for 829 yards and adding another 505 receiving yards. Sticking in the SEC, Auburn’s Tank Bigsby was a three-year starter for the Tigers where he ran for over 2,900 yards (5.4 average) and 25 touchdowns.

Tyjae Spears (Tulane): As the Patriots do like Senior Bowl standouts, Spears is a name to watch. Spears ran for over 1,500 yards last season and found the end zone 19 times. He averaged 7.0 yards per carry throughout his collegiate career and has big play ability due to his dynamic athletic profile, making him a potential interesting pair with Stevenson.

Chase Brown (Illinois): Brown is another back who is a dynamic athlete (9.79 RAS) and had 23 runs of 15-plus yards last season. He’s also a willing pass blocker who had some strong moments in the Senior Bowl.

DeWayne McBride (Alabama-Birmingham): McBride could find himself on New England’s board due to his collegiate production — something they value at the position. McBride was second in the nation last year in both rushing yards (1,713) and touchdowns (19).

Late Day 3

USC Trojans defeated the California Golden Bears 41-35 during a NCAA football game. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

If New England feels confident in their rookie runners from last season and the veterans on the roster, they could wait until late in Day 3 to add at running back. If that’s the case, there will still be some intriguing prospects available to them.

Travis Dye (USC): In the pass-catching department, Dye will hear his name called later than once expected due to a season-ending ankle injury he suffered in suffered in November. Dye, who was an Oregon transfer, is one of the best receiving backs in the class and is strong in pass protection. While his ankle injury has held him out of pre-draft workouts, he was on New England’s Shrine Bowl roster.

Evan Hull (Northwestern): Hull is another dual-threat back that could pique New England’s interest in the later rounds. The Wildcats moved Hull around the formation as he proved to be a productive player in the passing attack (88 receptions over the last two season). He has low milage after only two true years of work in college and could also be an immediate special teams contributor.

Mohamed Ibrahim (Minnesota): The Patriots worked with Ibrahim at the Shrine Bowl. Ibrahim had three 1,000-yard seasons for the Golden Gophers and is an extremely physical runner.

Aidan Borguet (Harvard): New England also showed interest in Harvard’s Aidan Borguet, inviting him to their local Pro Day. A three-year starter, Borguet tallied over 2,400 rushing yards (5.9 average) and 25 touchdowns in his career. He could be a late Day 3/UDFA option.