It became clear while watching the New England Patriots rushing attack plod along during the 2015 postseason that the club desperately needed an infusion of youth and athleticism.

Starter Dion Lewis went down with a torn ACL midway through the season, and LeGarrette Blount had struggled even before going out with his own season-ending hip injury.

Lewis will return next season, but the Patriots need a new “big back” to complement him. By using Bill Belichick’s 16-year draft history, there are some tells as to what qualities the Patriots might look for in a rookie running back:

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— James White, a “sub back” is the biggest anomaly in this group, since he doesn’t fit the Patriots’ typical standards for height, weight, 3-cone agility, explosion, length or hand size.

— The Patriots, who don’t have a first-round pick in 2016, have selected just one running back in the opening round: Laurence Maroney. He’s also the only running back drafted with a 40-yard dash faster than 4.5 seconds.

— Maroney wasn’t worth a first-round draft pick, but he had 582 carries for 2,430 yards with 21 touchdowns and 40 receptions for 409 yards with a reception in four seasons with the Patriots.

— The Patriots had success in selecting Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in 2011. J.R. Redmond also had productive seasons in 2000 and 2001 for the Patriots.

Here are the Patriots’ drafted running backs excluding undersized “sub backs”:

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— There’s a relative lack of data on strictly “big” backs, but the 40-yard dash is held to less significance, while broad jump and vertical leap become more important.

Let’s look at how the Patriots’ average drafted running back compares to the NFL’s average testing numbers at the position:

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— The Patriots appear to value height, weight, agility, strength and explosion more than most NFL teams.

— The Patriots’ 3-cone times and broad jump distance stand out the most from NFL averages.

Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney also will be back next season. Bolden was an undrafted free agent in 2012 while Gaffney was claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers in 2014, but both players fit the Patriots’ typical running backs standards more than Lewis.

Dion Lewis:
Height: 66.625 inches
Weight: 193 pounds
Arm Length: 28.125 inches
Hand Size: 8.75 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.47 seconds
10-Yard Dash: 1.51 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.90 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 seconds
Bench Press: 17 reps
Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches
Broad Jump: 112 inches

Lewis only has above average speed and agility.

Brandon Bolden:
Height: 70.875 inches
Weight: 222 pounds
Arm Length: 32.25 inches
Hand Size: 10 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.50 seconds
10-Yard Dash: 1.59 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.91 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32 seconds
Bench Press: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 38 inches
Broad Jump: 119 inches

Bolden has above average height, weight, length, hand size, speed, 3-cone agility, strength and jumping ability.

Tyler Gaffney:
Height: 71.5 inches
Weight: 220 pounds
Arm Length: 30.25 inches
Hand Size: 9 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.49 seconds
10-Yard Dash: 1.51 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.78 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 36.5 inches
Broad Jump: 116 inches

Gaffney has above average height, weight, speed, agility and vertical leaping ability.

From looking at Ridley, Bolden, Gaffney and LeGarrette Blount, it’s obvious the Patriots like big backs with impressive agility, which can be a difficult combination to find.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins next week. Running backs will be tested Friday Feb. 26, when we’ll have a better sense of which players the Patriots could have an interest in drafting come late April.

NESN.com will go position by position to analyze the Patriots’ draft trends prior to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. We studied cornerbacks Tuesday.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Dec 20, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) runs the ball against Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (24) in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Titans 33-16. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports