Prototypical Patriots: Time for the next big back in New England?
The Patriots could dip into this year's running back class in the hopes of giving Tom Brady another waterbug pass-catcher. Versatile options are always welcome in New England. But what feels like the likeliest type of back for the Patriots to add in this year's draft is a thumper. They morphed into a hard-charging running attack last year, and fortunately for them, Sony Michel's health held up. But that wasn't the case all year. Rex Burkhead was injured at points as well. Eventually James White and Cordarrelle Patterson were taking between-the-tackles carries. Not ideal.
When we look at their history, including veteran acquisitions, what do the Patriots typically look for in their big backs? Being 220 pounds or more is the sweet spot, but you need some athleticism as well. If you have that kind of bulk, you can clock a 40 in the 4.6s, a three-cone in the seven-second range, jump about 30 inches in the vertical and 113 inches in the broad jump, you've got a shot.
Based on those marks and the numbers they accrued during their college careers, here are the players who look like the best “big back” fits for the Patriots in this draft class.
JOSH JACOBS, ALABAMA, 5-10, 220 POUNDS
If it's a big back the Patriots are after, Jacobs would give them what they're looking for in that role and much more. He caught 20 passes last year, brought back kicks at a 30.6 yards-per-return clip, and he was a force as a runner.
Add the 'Bama connection, his overall athleticism (4.64 40, 35-inch vertical), and the fact that NFL.com compares him to Sony Michel, and the match is a good one. Jacobs could go in the first round, though, and the odds of the Patriots adding another first-rounder at this spot seem highly unlikely.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
DAVID MONTGOMERY, IOWA STATE, 5-10, 222 POUNDS
Montgomery had a disappointing vertical (28.5 inches), but his broad jump (121 inches) indicates there's explosiveness there. His speed appears adequate (4.63 40), and his ability to make people miss is next-level.
Pro Football Focus has never tracked a running back that has forced 100 missed tackles in a season as a runner and receiver, but Montgomery has done it twice.
RODNEY ANDERSON, OKLAHOMA, 6-1, 220 POUNDS
Anderson hardly played in 2018 before suffering a season-ending knee injury but was one of the best backs in the country in 2017. He averaged 3.9 yards after contact per carry that season, which is right there with some of the top backs in this class. (Jacobs averaged 4.1 yards after contact per carry in 2018.)
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
ALEX BARNES, KANSAS STATE, 6-0, 226 POUNDS
Perhaps the best combination of size and athleticism in this year's draft class, Barnes could provide a team significant value in the middle rounds. He ran a 4.59 40, a 6.95 three-cone and a 4.1 short shuttle.
He also had some of the best jumps among those at his position at this year's combine (38.5 vertical, 126 broad) and benched a whopping 34 reps of 225 pounds. His physical profile, according to Mockdraftable.com, compares favorably to those of Nick Chubb and David Johnson.
RYQUELL ARMSTEAD, TEMPLE, 5-11, 220 POUNDS
The Patriots had boots on the ground for Temple's pro day. Corner Rock Ya Sin is the program's top prospect this year, but maybe Bill Belichick wanted his scouting staff to get a closer look at Armstead? Armstead's fearless style could make him a factor in short-yardage situations for the Patriots, who ranked 24th in the league in converting third- and fourth-down plays with three yards to go or fewer.
His traits, though, indicate he could do more. He ran a 4.45-second 40 and a 7.02-second three-cone. His jumps are right around what Patriots big backs of the past have had (30-inch vertical, 114-inch broad).
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: RB Ryquell Armstead, Temple
BENNY SNELL, KENTUCKY, 5-10, 224 POUNDS
Thickly built and with a 3.5 yards after contact per attempt number for his career, Snell looks like a classic big back in the Patriots system. He's not an eye-opening athlete (4.66 40, 7.07 three-cone, 39.5 vertical), but he seems to be athletic enough.
He was a team captain as a junior last season and was named first-team All-SEC following his third extremely productive collegiate campaign. That will catch someone's eye even if his athleticism doesn't.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
DEVINE OZIGBO, NEBRASKA, 5-11, 235 POUNDS
Ozigbo almost doubled his yards-per-carry average in from 2017 (3.8) last year (7.0), and he averaged at least two yards after contact on more than 70 percent of his runs in 2018, according to PFF.
He tested incredibly well at his pro day with a 4.54-second 40, a 37-inch vertical and a 124-inch broad jump. At any weight, those are impressive numbers, and he's the heaviest back on this list.