The New England Patriots don’t really need a running back.
They just took Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, have James White as their third-down back, Rex Burkhead as a top reserve and paid big money — relatively speaking — to bring back Brandon Bolden.
So, you know what that means, right? Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is totally picking a running back way too early in this year’s draft.
In all seriousness, New England could use a late-round running back to serve as insurance in case of injuries.
Leading up to the draft, which runs from April 25-27, we’ll go position by position and draft a player who fits the Patriots in each round. We tackled quarterbacks Monday. Now we’ll focus on running backs.
Picks: No. 32
Josh Jacobs, Alabama
This was basically by default since Jacobs is the only running back considered worthy of a first-round pick. His measurables won’t wow anyone after he ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash with a 9-foot, 4-inch broad jump. He also elected not to run the 3-cone drill or short shuttle. That’s a little eyebrow-raising.
But Jacobs is 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a rare combination.
That being said, if Belichick takes a running back in the first round two years in a row, then he might officially be trolling the fanbase.
Picks: Nos. 56, 64
Darrell Henderson, Memphis
We’d still be surprised if the Patriots took a second-round running back, but crazier things have happened. Henderson is undersized at 5-foot-8, 208 pounds, but he was a home run hitter at Memphis. He carried the ball 214 times for 1,909 yards with 22 touchdowns and added 19 catches for 295 yards with three touchdowns as a junior in 2018.
Picks: Nos. 73, 97, 101
Miles Sanders, Penn State
New England likes running backs who run sub-7-second 3-cone drills, and Sanders clocked in at 6.89 seconds. He’s a bit undersized at 210 pounds to be an every-down back, and he caught just 32 passes during his college career. He fits from a measurables perspective, however.
Picks: No. 134
Dexter Williams, Notre Dame
Williams ran a 7-second 3-cone, which is close enough for the Patriots’ standards. He had a solid overall workout with a 36-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump and 4.16-second short shuttle at 5-foot-11, 212 pounds.
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Based on his workout, Barnes might be the best athlete in this group of running backs. He ran a 6.95-second 3-cone with a 4.10-second short shuttle, 38.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump at 6-feet, 226 pounds. He rushed for 1,355 yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior in 2018. He also caught 20 passes for 194 yards.
He also was graded above average by Pro Football Focus as a pass blocker.
Picks: No. 205
Bryce Love, Stanford
If the Patriots are going to pick a running back, this is the one they should take with an excess of late-round picks. Love was the best running back in college football in 2017 but had a nightmare season after returning to school. The year culminated with him tearing his ACL in Stanford’s regular-season finale. So, take him late and stash him for either midseason or 2020, hoping he can regain the brilliance he showed as a junior.
Picks: Nos. 243, 246, 252
Tony Pollard, Memphis
Pollard is a bit of a hybrid running back/wide receiver. He’s 6-feet, 210 pounds and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash with a 7-second 3-cone.
In three college seasons, he carried the ball 139 times for 941 yards with nine touchdowns and caught 104 passes for 1,292 yards with nine touchdowns. He returned 87 kicks for 2,616 yards with seven touchdowns.
We’d take him for his kick returning ability alone. He’d make a pretty ideal replacement for Cordarrelle Patterson across the board.