Patriots Position Audit: Runningback

Danny Woodhead emerged as a playmaker in 2010. Source: Yardbarker.com

During the lull in news while we wait for a new CBA or potential lockout throughout the week, I’ll evaluate each position on the Patriots’ current roster and look at potential draft picks or free agents that could be brought in to improve the position or add depth. Today’s position audit looks at the runningback position. Check out the position audit for QB here.

Current Players on the Roster:

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Eric Kettani, Thomas Clayton

Position Strength:

  • Moderate

Position Depth:

  • Weak

Position Need:

  • Moderate-to-High

Possible Free Agent Pick-Ups:

  • Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Ricky Williams, John Kuhn, Derrick Ward

Possible Draft Picks:

  • Mark Ingram (Alabama), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)

Analysis:

The Patriots have used a platoon system at runningback ever since they paired then-rookie Laurence Maroney with veteran Corey Dillon. Dillon was the last true #1 back the Pats have had. Green-Ellis (who the Pats gave a second-round free agent tender to) rain for 1,000 yards this past season but is not a true #1 threat. Depending on what Bill Belichick is looking for at the position, the Pats could try and go high for a #1 back and draft Ingram (trade up or if he happens to fall) or draft Leshoure with their #28 pick or the first pick of Day Two. After those two, there’s a deep but albeit “middle class” of backs in the draft. Murray is a threat to take it to the house and has good speed. He also is a decent pass blocker, something the Patriots look for in a back. He has had injury issues but in this situation, the Patriots’ platoon system would limit his carries and protect him (as best anyone can) against injury and keep him fresh.

Any free agents brought in would be done with the idea of depth. Kevin Faulk may retire but if he does return, he would have a limited role on the team due to the emergence of Danny Woodhead as a third-down back. I think that Sammy Morris has played his last game as a Patriot. Ricky Williams has praised the Pats in the past and can still be a factor if he doesn’t have to carry the load. Kuhn is a banger and more of a fullback, but he showed that he could be an effective ball carrier in the right situations. He’s a popular player in Green Bay and I would expect that he would re-sign with them. If not, he would make a good change-of-pace back.

Topics: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Mark Ingram, Mikel Leshoure, New England Patriots, NFL, NFL Draft, Patriots Roster, Ricky Williams, Runningback

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