Patriots Reportedly Interested In Drafting ‘Blue-Chip’ Running Back

And they're 'absolutely intrigued' by Bijan Robinson


Apr 5, 2023

Tucked inside the latest report on Mac Jones’ standing with the Patriots was an interesting nugget about New England’s 2023 draft approach.

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe on Wednesday reported the Patriots “are building the running game around Rhamondre Stevenson and have quietly shown interest in adding another blue-chip back in the draft.”

New England already has one of those in Stevenson, whose 1,461 yards from scrimmage last season were fourth-most by a Patriots player in the Bill Belichick era. They also signed James Robinson last month to replace the departed Damien Harris and have two 2022 draft picks on their roster in Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris.

But Robinson failed to crack 500 scrimmage yards last season in his return from a torn Achilles, and Strong and Harris both saw minimal offensive playing time as rookies. Running back/receiver hybrid Ty Montgomery also is a question mark after missing nearly all of last season with an injury.

So, it’s not surprising that the Patriots would be looking to bolster this group through the draft. They hinted at that earlier this offseason when they reportedly requested to stock their East-West Shrine Bowl team with scat back types.

But landing a “blue-chip back” might require a significant investment in terms of draft capital. This year’s consensus top running back prospect is Texas’ Bijan Robinson, and he’s projected to go in the first round. Behind him is Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, pegged as an early second-rounder, and then a sizable dropoff to a third tier that features players like UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet, Texas A&M’s Devon Achane and Tulane’s Tyjae Spears.

Robinson (No. 3), Gibbs (No. 29) and Charbonnet (No. 50) are the only running backs to appear on NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s latest top-50 prospect rankings.

Jeremiah raised eyebrows last month when he sent Robinson to the Patriots at No. 14 overall in one of his mock drafts. Howe reported the Patriots are “absolutely intrigued” by the former Longhorns star, who rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Still, using a Day 1 pick on a running back seems unwise given the needs New England has elsewhere and the prominent role Stevenson is expected to play this season.

Gibbs, though, could be an enticing option on Day 2. He played for one of the Patriots’ favorite college programs and could provide the backfield receiving prowess New England needs after catching 79 passes for 909 yards and five touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Gibbs led all Alabama players in receptions in 2022 (44-444-3) while also pacing the team with 936 rushing yards (6.1 per carry) after transferring in from Georgia Tech. His 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine was second-fastest among running backs. Scouting reports liken him to five-time Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara.

The Patriots currently own one pick in the first round, one in the second (No. 46 overall), one in the third, three in the fourth, four in the sixth and one in the seventh.

Thumbnail photo via Scott Wachter/USA TODAY Sports Images
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