James White, at his peak, was one of the best values in all of fantasy football.
The New England Patriots surehanded pass-catching back ranked RB44 on Yahoo’s preseason rankings before the 2018 campaign. He went on to surpass all expectations despite fantasy managers, especially at that time, tending to steer clear of New England’s backfield with Tom Brady behind center. Nevertheless, White finished seventh in total scoring among running backs while his 17.29 average in full-point leagues allowed him to finish RB10 in the category, per Sportradar. If you had White on your team in 2018, a season in which he compiled almost 1,200 yards of offense with 12 touchdowns, it’s safe to say he went from being a late-round pick or waiver wire add to a lineup mainstay. He was RB18 in total scoring the following year, too, with an average of 13 points per contest making him a valuable flex play.
White’s retirement, though, which comes after he missed the majority of the 2021 campaign after season-ending hip surgery, opens up a role on the Patriots. And for a second-year quarterback in Mac Jones, a reliable pass-catcher similar to White could make a drastic impact.
Fantasy football managers might want to take notice.
First and foremost, Rhamondre Stevenson now might jump up draft boards. Stevenson figures to be much more impactful in the passing game than fellow running back Damien Harris as he possess the skill out of the backfield while getting involved in the screen game during his rookie season. Stevenson caught 14 of the 18 passes thrown his way for 1.35 points per target. If those targets see an uptick, that’s a respectable output. Unlike the hard-running Harris, Stevenson appears to be more of a three-down contributor. He’s viewed as Yahoo’s RB33 in preseason rankings.
First-year Patriot Ty Montgomery might figure to be another who can take over White’s third-down targets out of the backfield. NESN’s Zack Cox indicated how Montgomery’s usage has allowed him to see consistent and extensive reps with the top offense during training camp. Montgomery, especially in comparison to Stevenson, is not a Patriots player who is worth reaching for fantasy drafts. But his ability to play running back, wide receiver and return kicks offers some potential behind the two-headed tandem.
Perhaps either Stevenson or Montgomery could surprise fantasy managers much like White did with his peak production.