Recently ESPN made their predictions for who will be the breakout star from each team in the NFL. Who did they choose from the New England Patriots?
After winning their fifth Super Bowl, the New England Patriots had a very busy offseason. With a need to replace some players, the Patriots were an active team in free agency. While Stephon Gilmore was their biggest prize in this offseason in free agency, they did make some other moves that might have been more important.
Last season, LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the backfield for New England. When Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, the Patriots were able to rediscover their rushing attack with Blount.
Blount was able to put together a solid season for the Patriots, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and set the single-season franchise rushing touchdown record with 18. While those were two impressive feats, Blount did have a yards per carry average under 4.0. In the NFL, running backs below that number generally don’t get the job done.
After the Patriots really didn’t show much of an interest in re-signing Blount, they instead decided to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee from the Buffalo Bills. Even as a newcomer, Gillislee was recently chosen by ESPN to be the breakout star for the Patriots next season.
"When the Patriots were in full pads for the first time and worked on their goal-line running, it was Gillislee who got the first crack at powering the ball over the goal line. He did so with authority, first on an A-gap run and then following fullback James Develin off the left side of the line. Gillislee, who was signed as a restricted free agent from the Bills, looks primed to be the Patriots’ top option to replace LeGarrette Blount, and he appears to be off to a nice start in training camp. — Mike Reiss"
It is hard to argue with the choice made by Reiss. Last season, Gillislee really burst on to the scene with the Buffalo Bills. He was able to run for over 500 yards, and his yards per carry average was at a ridiculous 5.7 yards per attempt. Add in his ability to find the end zone on the goal line, and the Patriots might have a great running back on their hands.
With Blount gone, at worst Gillislee will be the primary goal line back for the Patriots. However, he also has the potential to be the primary runner in New England’s backfield. With a lot of talent on the offense, Gillislee will certainly be a player to keep an eye on.