New England Patriots 53-man 2018 Roster Projection v1.0: Running Backs

New England Patriots

ARLINGTON, TX – APRIL 26: A video board displays an image of Sony Michel of Georgia after he was picked #31 overall by the New England Patriots during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

With the offseason wrapping up for the New England Patriots, here is an early look at how they might look at the running back position.


The New England Patriots will look much different at the running back position heading into 2018. After the loss of leading rusher Dion Lewis, the Patriots have revamped their backfield and their are some new faces to go along with a few returning players.


Part one of 12 kicked-off with a look at the quarterback position and now part two of 12 continues with a look at the deep and talented running back position:


Starter(s): Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White

Back-up(s): Brandon Bolden

Roster Bubble Boy(s): Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb


Sony Michel is a playmaker first and running back second–he was drafted not to be a bellcow at the position but to be a big-play creator. That said, he does have the potential to be an all-purpose lead running back in the future that the offense has missed since Corey Dillon over a decade ago. His main role is to help replace Dion Lewis’ 180 rushing attempts and 32 receptions.

Michel is coming from a program where he shared playing time and should be fine with having Rex Burkhead and James White playing in certain packages and situations. White remains the top receiving threat at the position (56 receptions for 429 yards in 2017) and Burkhead is a valuable player to grab 10-12 touches a game (over 500 yards combined rushing and receiving in just ten regular season games last season).

The Back-up:

Brandon Bolden befuddles most Patriots fans with his limited game as a running back but still taking a roster spot. He is a beast on special teams and when injuries force him into a game,his pass protection skills allow the coaching staff to have full confidence in him in a pinch. Every season the expectation is he will be cut and every year he remains on the 53-man roster. I surrender–he’s on the roster in this projection.

Roster Bubble Backs:

Jeremy Hill is an intriguing pick-up who scored 29 touchdowns in his first three seasons while rushing for over 2,700 yards. That said, he has not averaged 4.0 yards per rush since his rookie season in 2014. Mike Gillislee–like Hill–appear to be injury insurance/competition for training camp. With so much competition throughout the roster, there is likely only room for four running backs.

Ralph Webb is an undrafted rookie free agent who was an overachiever at Vanderbilt and the Patriots were willing to give him guaranteed money. His skills fall into the Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis mold of straight downhill running back. He could stick on the practice squad in 2018 with an eye towards a role in 2019 as a depth piece.

Final Word:

The running back position is pretty straight-forward with Burkhead and Michel as the two lead backs in the role and likely switching out for series at a time during the game. White will reprise his role as the passing down back and playing a key role in the hurry-up offense. With extra spots on the roster needed at wide receiver, the Patriots will likely only have four running backs on the 53-man roster. The big question becomes whether Hill, Gillislee or Webb can unseat Bolden.