Patriots can strike real gold with this pair of late-round running backs

NFL draft day 3 running back for Alex Van Pelt's offense
NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The New England Patriots had a terrible season in 2023, winning only four games. As a result, they have secured the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. This year's draft is the highest pick the team has had since they selected Drew Bledsoe as the first overall pick back in 1993. The team will focus on the quarterback, offensive line, and receiving positions in the early rounds. 

They might consider addressing the running back position in the later draft rounds. After the 2024 season, they have just one running back under contract. Rhamondre Stevenson and three other backup running backs are in the final year of their contracts. Therefore, they need to focus on it.

They made a wise choice signing Antonio Gibson to a three-year contract during free agency. Gibson is a skilled pass-catching running back who can be valuable in third-down situations. He is the only running back under contract with the Patriots past 2024. 

Let's look at two exceptional running backs who could significantly improve the team's performance and provide excellent value in the later rounds of the NFL draft. 

Day 3 running backs who could be a steal for the Patriots:

Tyrone Tracy Jr., Purdue
Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 209 pounds

Tyrone Tracy Jr. is a standout prospect with a compelling narrative that adds to his allure. He began his collegiate career as a wide receiver at the University of Iowa, where he played for four seasons. 

In 2022, he boldly transferred to Purdue, which would prove instrumental in his development. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Ryan Walters, Tracy made a seamless transition to the running back position, culminating in a breakout season in 2023. This adaptability and versatility could make him a valuable addition to the Patriots. 

In 11 games this past season, Tracy rushed for 716 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry. He also showcased his pass-catching and pass-blocking capabilities.

At the NFL Combine, he had a strong performance. Among the participating running backs, Tracy ranked first in the three-cone drill (6.81 seconds), second in both the 20-yard shuttle (4.06 seconds) and vertical jump (40 inches), and eighth in the 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds). 

With his solid frame and all-around skill set, Tracy could bring an immediate boost to the Patriots' offense in a rotational role. He possesses the potential to become a featured running back, which could significantly enhance the team's rushing game. His versatility and agility would be valuable to the Patriots' offense.

Blake Watson, Memphis 
Height: 5'9 | Weight: 195 pounds 

For any team seeking a dynamic change-of-pace back with exceptional receiving ability, Blake Watson's unique skill set and versatility present an exciting opportunity in the NFL draft. He could add a new dimension to the Patriots' offense, providing a dynamic Patriots fans haven't seen in a long time. 

He began his college career as a wide receiver at Old Dominion before switching to running back his sophomore year. 

Watson's performance in the last two seasons has been exceptional. Running for over 2,000 rushing yards, 90 receptions, and 2,864 combined yards to his name. In 2022, he accumulated an impressive 1,232 yards from scrimmage. His performance improved at Memphis in 2023 when he recorded 1,632 yards. In 2023, he had 192 carries for 1,152 yards, an average of 6 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns. In addition, he displayed his receiving skills by catching 53 passes for 480 yards. 

 At his Pro Day, Watson was impressive, showcasing his speed with a 4.39 40-yard dash, his explosiveness with a 41.5-inch vertical, and his agility with an 11.3-foot broad jump.

These numbers demonstrate his potential to be a game-changer. 

His strong balance after making contact and excellent vision and instincts stand out from watching him. He is also elusive, which, combined with his ability to gain yards after contact and agility, makes him difficult to tackle.

 Another spectacular part of Watson's game is his explosive speed, which makes him a significant threat to make big plays. During his pro day, Watson showed off his track speed, clocking a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. Watson also has dependable hands, making him a weapon to catch passes out of the backfield. He runs crisp routes and has soft hands, making him a reliable weapon on any play.

Watson's versatility will be an asset for any team, with added value as a special teams kick returner. Additionally, since he played wide receiver in high school, he has less wear and tear than other running backs.