Sony Michel or James White? Both Patriots RBs should see role in passing game


What makes the New England Patriots' offense successful? The same reason it frustrates fantasy football owners: unpredictability.

That's why the Patriots' 2018 running back group was an anomaly. Sony Michel was the one-dimensional "bell cow" who led the team with 931 rushing yards but caught just seven passes for 50 yards, while James White was the souped-up change-of-pace back who tallied a team-high 87 receptions for 751 yards.

But the Patriots covet versatility, which is why Michel has tried to make strides as a pass-catcher this offseason. Running backs coach Ivan Fears apparently likes what he sees so far.

"Much improved, much better than he was last year," Fears told Mac Cerullo of the Newburyport Daily News on Monday. "Last year I thought it was a lot for him, this year he's pretty good at it, he's going to be very good at it."

So, if Michel is more involved in New England's passing game, does that mean fewer opportunities for White? Hardly, said Fears, who suggested the shifty 27-year-old will still get plenty of carries.

"We like to be in that kind of mode, they've got to worry about Sony catching the ball as well as running the ball," Fears said.

"I think you'll find Sony is going to do very well in the passing game, and I bet you'll find James White and the rest of the guys doing very well in the running game also."


Michel and White will have to compete for touches with a loaded wide receiver corps that includes Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and rookie N'Keal Harry. But there were enough points to go around in 2018, as White was the eighth-best running back in fantasy football (half-PPR scoring) last season, while Michel finished 27th despite missing three games.

Tom Brady is entering his age-42 season, and the Patriots boast a strong offensive line led by Dante Scarnecchia. That bodes well for New England's running back duo: Both Michel and White could be top-25 fantasy performers this season, with Michel slightly higher on our draft board due to his untapped potential in the passing game.

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