We are officially now in the hype season, or as we call it, NFL training camp. This is a time where you will hear plenty of praise for players from coaches, teammates and beat reporters. Maybe it’s a simple as someone slimming down and adding muscle or a receiver finally getting contact lenses or last season a player’s shoes were too tight, but now they’re nice and comfy. Whatever the hype, as fantasy players, we hear it as affirmation about a player we like or hollow praise about a player we don’t like.
Throughout camp we’ll keep an eye out for the hyped player of the day and see if the praise is something we should take notice of or disregard. For today, that player is Patriots running back James White.
White has always been a serviceable receiving back who often comes up big when needed. He scored three touchdowns in the Patriots unlikely come from behind victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. He should have won the MVP, but quarterback colored glasses got the best of the voters.
White has been a worthwhile fantasy running back throughout his career and at times, due to injuries, has gotten workloads that make him an elite option. In 2018, White became a bigger part of the offense as Sony Michel wasn’t ready to start the season and also missed a few games midway through. That allowed White to put up 425 rushing yards for five touchdowns and 87 receptions for 751 yards and seven more touchdowns.
The hype hasn’t been too exuberant so far, but respected beat writer Jeff Howe said:
Pass-catching back James White will also have a heavy role and could be in for a monster year if quarterback Cam Newton wins the starting job, considering the way Newton wore out Christian McCaffrey during their time together with the Panthers.
Is the hype real?
Since we know what White can bring to the table, as he’s consistently put up strong numbers in PPR leagues, we might not see a lot of hype out of the fantasy football community. That’s okay, as the little sliver of hype we got from Howe is worth investigating.
We know White can put up good numbers when given a good workload like he had in 2018. The question is, will he have a chance at a similar workload in 2020? The Patriots running back room is full, but the No. 1 back, Sony Michel, is on shaky ground with yet another surgery and stint on the PUP list. Michel’s 3.7 yards per carry last season is also concerning. If Michel does see a demotion or misses time, Damien Harris is the next logical player to get his shot at lead back. Harris was mostly red-shirted last season after being taken in the third-round of the draft. He’s still very much a wild card whereas the team knows they can rely on White. But then comes new addition Lamar Miller. Miller missed last year due to a torn ACL and is also a wild card coming into the season, plus, he doesn’t know the “Patriot Way!”
This all leads me to believe the team will rely on White once again. Will it be enough to keep him as a must start each week? Maybe, but we know that Cam Newton was great at facilitating Christian McCaffrey as a receiver and that Newton’s presence helps take defensive attention away from the running game. Plus, the Patriots aren’t exactly flush with great receivers.
Is the hype too much?
Sure, my hype in the previous section may be too much. Belichick and McDaniels still want that back they can run up the middle, and they rather it not be the more diminutive White. That’s fine though, as Michel still saw a good workload in White’s best fantasy season. What we want for White is for no back to really take over and thrive as the lead back. We want White in on third downs and to see other high-leverage snaps due to the trust the team has in him.
Right now there are enough questions surrounding the Patriots backfield and offense as a whole, that you can get any of their backs at good value in drafts. Of course, picking the right one is tough and could mean you should just stay away from the group. But, looking for the healthiest, most trustworthy back, with some upside, will lead you right to White.