2. James White
The Patriots’ second-leading receiver in 2018 wasn’t even technically a receiver.
True to their history under Belichick, New England leaned heavily on pass-catching backs last season, giving multiple offensive opportunities to both James White and Rex Burkhead. Both players were tasked with continuing on the legacy of former franchise names like Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, and Danny Woodhead.
No disrespect to Burkhead, who played well when healthy (particularly in the postseason), but White was particularly revelatory last year. Still somehow flying under the radar nationally despite his incredible turn in Super Bowl 51, all White did for the first nine weeks of the season was essentially keep the offense afloat in the absence of various other playmakers like Julian Edelman, Sony Michel, and Burkhead.
He played in all 16 games last year, finishing with career highs in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry average, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Not only was he the team’s second-leading rusher, he was its second-leading receiver as well, edging out Gordon by 31 yards and finishing well ahead of more notable aerial weapons like Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Was this one season a fluke, though?
Far from it. White has had three straight seasons now with 600 all-purpose yards or more. He’s not quite the lifeblood of the Patriots’ offense – that honor probably will belong to Brady until he retires one day – but White is arguably the most reliable and versatile option available, and that makes him a strong candidate to challenge for the team’s receiving yardage crown in 2019.