Which RBs should the Pats target?
By: Reese Nasser
The New England Patriots have decided to use a committee of running backs for some time now. There has not been a clear cut number one back on this roster and it seems as if they intend to keep it that way.
The current rostered backs in New England are Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, and rookie back Rhamondre Steveneson. The three returners from last season, Michel, White, and Harris, have all dealt with injuries during their time in the NFL. All three missed time last season with a combined 15 missed games. The injury issues have played a role in how this backfield has performed in recent seasons. The trio combined for just seven touchdowns last season.
Age is on the side of two of the three backs in New England. At the start of the season, Michel will be entering year four and Harris year three. White, while being the oldest, was still the one able to play the most games last season. Even with age not being a problem, being available had been. This could give the Patriots reason to look at potential backs that are still available in free agency. While many top running backs have already chosen new teams, there are still multiple talented ones still unsigned. Here are three free agent running backs still available that the Patriots should target.
Todd Gurley may be the best target still remaining in free agency. During his time with the Atlanta Falcons last season, Gurley ran for 678 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Injuries have followed Gurley throughout his entire career but he has still never played less than 13 games in a season.
The two-time all-pro could help this Patriots team could not only help the Patriots from a production standpoint but also from a reliability point. Gurley appeared in more games than any Patriots back and also had higher production. Gurley proved that he can still be a productive back and at just 26-years old, could be the lead back in New England.
Le’Veon Bell has had a career full of high and lows. Prior to his 2018 season where he opted-out due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell was regarded as one of the best running backs in the NFL. In 2017, Bell accounted for almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.
While he has yet to return to this level, he has proven to still be a capable player. In the 2020 season, while with the Kansas City Chiefs, Bell ran for 328 yards and gathered another 138 through the air. Bell only appeared in 11 games and was also sharing a backfield with rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Bell sharing a backfield with the other backs on the Patriots could help this offense that struggled heavily in 2020. His addition to the running game and ability to impact the passing game would be welcomed in New England.
Bryce Love may be the biggest reach here but it could make sense. Love had a storied college career at Stanford. He is one of the most accomplished backs in school history. During his four years at Stanford, he had over 4,000 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns.
The storied college career came to a tragic end as Love tore his ACL on the final play of Stanford’s 2018 season. The surefire first-round pick dropped to the fourth round of the 2019 draft and was selected by Washington.
Due to issues stemming from the torn ACL that Love suffered at Stanford, he continued to deal with knee problems during his time in Washington. He was cut in April without ever appearing in an NFL game.
Now while his time in Washington was not met with success, that does not mean that Love can’t still find a spot in the NFL. New England could be the perfect spot for Love to earn another opportunity, even if he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster. At just 24-years old, Love could potentially still make an impact. The promise that he showed at Staford could still be there and given the right opportunity, Love could help a team win. The crowded backfield could offer a spot where Love would not have to reach a high amount of carries. He could be brought along much like rookie back Steveneson will be.