Rex Burkhead will compete with rookie Sony Michel to be the featured running back for the Patriots with Dion Lewis departed as a free agent, but Burkhead will likely be No. 2 on the depth chart. Along with Michel, Burkhead could compete with Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee for touches on the ground and James White in the passing game, but New England has to replace over 200 touches with Lewis gone. Burkhead struggled with injuries in 2017, his first season with the Patriots, but he still managed to score double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in five of the 10 games he was able to play. He also had at least three catches in six games. Burkhead loses Fantasy value with the addition of Michel, but don't rule him out with a late-round pick in the majority of leagues. He will still get work on the ground and through the air, and if Michel struggles, Burkhead could be a valuable sleeper with upside if he stays healthy for 16 games.
First-round draft pick Sony Michel is slated to join Burkhead in the Patriots' 2018 backfield. The Patriots also roster pass-catching ace James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee (for now). The addition of Michel, who draws Alvin Kamara comparisons, complicates matters from a weekly projection standpoint, but the rookie's presence will no doubt make up for the free-agent departure of 2017 team rushing leader Dion Lewis. The versatile Burkhead is thus slated to remain a valuable jack-of-all-trades option in the New England offense, but Michel is clearly the upside fantasy play in this backfield.
Burkhead's three-year contract with the Patriots contains $5.5 million fully guaranteed, including all of his $1 million base salary for 2018 and $1.5 million of his $1.75 million base salary for 2019, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports. Burkhead provided a solid return on his one-year, $3.15 million deal with New England in 2017, piling up eight touchdowns, 30 catches and 518 scrimmage yards (254 receiving) in 10 regular-season games, though he only had 12 snaps and five touches in two playoff appearances. The Patriots still have James White for passing downs and signed Jeremy Hill to compete with Mike Gilislee for a power-back role, but there should be plenty of room for Burkhead to contribute as a jack-of-all-trades performer, including some work on special teams. Dion Lewis is out of the picture, and Hill's one-year, $1.5 million contract includes only $150,000 guaranteed. The structure of Burkhead's deal all but ensures he won't be released before 2020.
Burkhead agreed Wednesday to re-sign with the Patriots on a three-year contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. With Dion Lewis departing for the Titans in free agency, Burkhead's decision to re-up with New England tentatively makes him the most logical candidate on the roster to lead what is expected to be a committee situation out of the backfield in 2018. In addition to Burkhead, the Patriots still have power back Mike Gillislee and pass-catching specialist James White under contract, giving the team some diverse options at running back. Moreover, further depth at the position is likely to arrive via free agency or the draft, but Burkhead's versatility and nose for the end zone -- he scored eight total touchdowns in 10 games last season -- are clearly assets the Patriots value.
Burkhead can become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday when the league year begins, ESPN.com's Mike Reiss reports. Burkhead was efficient with his limited opportunities while playing on a one-year, $3.15 million contract in 2017, taking 64 carries for 264 yards (4.1 average) and five touchdowns and catching 30 of 36 targets for 254 yards (7.1 per target) and three scores in 10 regular-season games. While his skill as a pass blocker and receiver came as no surprise, the extent of his contribution in the red zone was an unexpected development. With Dion Lewis likely priced out of town, Burkhead would make sense as a cheaper alternative in New England, where he'd continue to split work with pass-catching specialist James White and either Mike Gilislee or an offseason addition. Burkhead's versatility, which includes special teams work, should ensure he draws interest from a variety of teams.
Burkhead carried three times for 18 yards and hauled in his only target for 46 yards in Sunday's 41-33 loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Burkhead logged nine offensive snaps (of a possible 76) Sunday, while James White recorded 45 and Dion Lewis was out there for 21. During the regular season, Burkhead recorded 64 carries for 264 yards and five TDs, while catching 30 passes for 254 yards and three TDs in 10 games. The 27-year-old is eligible to become a free agent this offseason, but we suspect that the Patriots would like to keep the versatile Burkhead around, at the right price.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|6||10/15||Kansas City Chiefs||20||17.76|
|9||11/05||Green Bay Packers||16||17.38|
|12||11/25||@New York Jets||24||18.50|
|17||12/30||New York Jets||24||18.50|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||47||204||2||19||164||1||52|