Fantasy Football: Patriots sign Mike Gillislee to offer sheet to join crowded post-LeGarrette Blount backfield
The Bills can still match New England's offer and keep Mike Gillislee, but if he goes to the Patriots it means another mouth to feed in a crowded backfield and likely the end of LeGarrette Blount's tenure with the Super Bowl champs.
Gillislee, a restricted free agent for the Bills, signed an offer sheet with the Patriots on Tuesday, according to the NFL Network. The deal is reportedly for two years at $6.4 million, and now Buffalo has five days to match the offer or let Gillislee go to New England. The Bills would then receive a fifth-round draft pick in return.
If this deal happens, it likely means the Patriots are done with Blount, who is an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots have already added Rex Burkhead to their backfield, which includes Dion Lewis and James White, and Blount would not be needed since Gillislee could easily handle his role.
And that would make Gillislee a Fantasy sleeper in all leagues. Even with the New England backfield being as crowded as ever.
Last year, Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns, and he also had 299 carries for 1,161 yards and seven catches for 38 yards. It's doubtful Gillislee would get that many carries or rushing yards with Lewis healthy and the addition of Burkhead, and Gillislee's receiving total might be minimal because of Lewis, Burkhead and White.
Where Gillislee can separate himself is with the touchdowns. This Patriots offense should be more explosive than last season with Tom Brady expected to play 16 games, the addition of Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski (back) expected to be healthy for Week 1.
That should lead to plenty of touchdown chances. And no one had more last season than Blount, who scored 12 from inside the 5-yard line.
And it's not like Gillislee is a slouch who will just be asked to fall into the end zone. As a backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo last year, Gillislee had a solid campaign with 101 carries for 577 yards (5.71-yards per carry) and eight touchdowns and nine catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
He actually finished as the No. 26 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, and he had at least nine Fantasy points in seven games, including four with double digits in scoring. He started one game when McCoy was out with a hamstring injury in Week 8 against New England (of all teams) and had 12 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 9 yards.
And in terms of yards after contact, Gillislee was second among running backs with at least 100 carries behind Jay Ajayi with 3.3. He could end up being more of a difference maker for Fantasy owners than we expect.
The problem is Lewis, Burkhead and White taking away touches, which will happen. It's the Patriots, after all, and that means it could be a guessing game on a weekly basis for which running back to trust.
If the deal stands, Gillislee will likely be the Patriots running back to target on Draft Day in standard formats, but he's only worth a mid-round pick. While the touchdown potential is there, the touches won't be guaranteed with the other mouths to feed.
I'd rank Lewis as the No. 2 running back behind Gillislee, White as the No. 3 option and Burkhead now as the No. 4 option. Gillislee coming to New England would hurt Burkhead the most.
In PPR, Gillislee is still No. 1 (again, the touchdowns), but White would be No. 2, Lewis at No. 3 and Burkhead still at No. 4. But we'll finalize those rankings in five days when we know if Gillislee will be playing for the Patriots.
As for Blount, we now have to wait and see where he ends up, but his Fantasy value will be minimal. At 30, he'll need to land a starting job with a prominent offense to help his Fantasy value, and that doesn't appear likely to happen. But we'll wait and see before telling you where to draft him in 2017.
The Bills could now find themselves in the market for a new backup running back to McCoy, which is of note to Fantasy owners since McCoy will be 29 in July and is getting to the point in his career where an injury breakdown is possible. Jonathan Williams is now No. 2 on the depth chart if Gillislee leaves, and he could be worth a late-round flier as a handcuff for McCoy.
We didn't see this move happening earlier this offseason, especially after the Patriots signed Burkhead as a free agent from Cincinnati. But if Gillislee does stay in New England, he's an interesting sleeper to target in all leagues.
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