With the NFL Draft finally upon us, the final stage of roster building is about to commence with teams signing their drafted players and filling out the roster with undrafted hopefuls. For the Patriots, the draft takes on a different approach than in recent years with the absence of some early-round picks due to trades (Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy) and the final ‘Framegate’ punishment.
Their most recent former draft pick was a fifth rounder that they shipped to Buffalo to complete the signing of RFA running back Mike Gillislee, which stacks the position and begs the question; whose going to be the odd-man out?
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As of right now the Patriots running backs are as follows:
At-a-glance the depth chart is stacked with young talent, with Burkhead and Bolden the closest to the 30-year age mark. However, it feels like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Newly-acquired Burkhead and Gillislee seem primed for the bulk of the traditional running duties, although each players’ role remains a mystery to this point.
Brandon Bolden, re-signed this off-season, has created a niche in the special teams department and joins the likes of Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner as one of the top players in that specialty. Super bowl hero James White seems like a budding star who does the bulk of his damage catching the ball as opposed to running the ball, despite his multiple rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl.
So that leaves relatively unknown D.J. Foster and Dion Lewis. Foster is the youngest of the group and has spent most of his time with the Patriots on the practice squad. We all know what Lewis brings to the table. When he has been active for the Patriots over the last couple seasons they have yet to lose a game and when fully healthy, his skill-set is almost unmatched by anyone at the position.
However, Dion Lewis is the only player with an extensive injury history. On a team that is utterly stacked on offense BEFORE you get to the running back group, it seems unlikely that the Patriots will hold six running backs on the roster. As fun and exhilarating as it is to watch Lewis play, most of the time you hold-your-breath when he takes a hit. The Patriots’ coaching staff recognizes this as much as the fans do and if a hard decision has to be made, especially if the Patriots draft a running back, then Lewis may be the odd-man-out and take the honor of “Surprise Patriots’ Cut” of the off-season.