White, Gillislee signings paint murky backfield for Patriots

By Alex Butler   |   April 19, 2017 at 9:45 AM
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April 19 (UPI) -- With LeGarrette Blount unsigned, the New England Patriots have bulked up at running back, creating a committee of talent.

The NFL's rushing touchdowns leader has yet to sign an offer currently on the table from the Super Bowl champions. He was likely the only surefire option for consistent fantasy football relevance in 2017.

Blount "has no plans" to sign his current offer, according to the Boston Herald.

The Patriots signed Mike Gillislee to an offer sheet and gave a three-year extension to James White on Tuesday. It also inked Cincinnati Bengals free agent Rex Burkhead in March.

Reading the tealeaves, you can come to two conclusions: the Patriots might be saying goodbye to Blount with the signings and this backfield is too crowded for anyone to emerge as a consistent fantasy option.

Lewis is 26-years-old and perhaps the most versatile back in the mix, but hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. He also injured his hamstring late in February's Super Bowl. He is playing on the final year of his three-year, $3.1 million pact. The Pittsburgh product excited fans in 2015 when he produced 622 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in seven games. He averaged 10.8 yards per reception on 36 catches that season. Lewis has never started more than six games in a season and hasn't played more than nine games in a season since 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

White, 25, was the Patriots' Super Bowl hero. He had 14 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown and ran for 29 yards and two more scores in the win against the Atlanta Falcons. He also scored the game-winner in overtime. The fourth-year back has mainly been used as a third-down option throughout his young career. Last season he hauled in 551 yards and five scores on 60 catches. He also ran for 166 yards. White had 410 receiving yards and four scores in 2015.

Burkhead, 26, averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season for the Bengals. He had 344 yards and two scores on the ground while catching 17 passes for 145 yards. He is playing on a one-year deal and is likely to see an early-down depth role and could even be used on special teams.

The Patriots also have Brandon Bolden and D.J. Foster on its roster.

This situation is likely one to stay clear of in your 2017 fantasy football draft, unless Blount returns to the franchise. Even then, expect typical inconsistency from this backfield. These running backs are likely in for specific roles within the offense and can't be trusted on a weekly basis, but they could fill-in as bye-week replacements once those roles become more defined later in the season.

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