As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into the starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
JAMES WHITE — RB, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Thankfully, we haven’t had many significant injuries at the skill positions thus far in training camps. However, news broke over the weekend that Dion Lewis, who was expected to return from an ACL tear suffered back in November, will undergo another surgery to clean up his knee.
The surgery is going to cost Lewis at least the first-half the season, and could potentially be season ending (although reports suggest Lewis has a “good chance of playing in 2016”).
In 2015, New England was caught off guard when Lewis went down in the seventh game of the season. His 234 rushing yards, 388 receiving yards and four total touchdowns were too versatile to replace with not just one player, but the entire Pats’ RB committee. Eventually, they practically just went away from the ground game.
Still, in training camp with time to plan for the loss this time around, the Patriots are still likely to use multiple RB in place of Lewis. They are the Patriots after all. But we still have an idea who the primary Lewis replacement will be.
James White is the next man up.
The full depth chart for the Pats will likely be as follows: LeGarrette Blount, James White, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden.
After Lewis went down in 2015, both White and Bolden became more involved in the passing game, while Blount handled a majority of the carries. And it was Bolden, not White, that filled in as the primary rusher when Blount missed some time.
Frankly, White’s lack of ability as a runner last season killed any chance he had to step into the same role Lewis had. The two were very similar receivers in 2015 — White averaged 10.3 yards per catch (and snagged 37 balls over the final eight games) to Lewis’ 10.8. Lewis might have made his catches look a bit flashier, but the numbers are the numbers.
It was clear White didn’t possess the elusiveness Lewis has when you compare their yards per carry, though — White averaged just a mere 2.5 YPC to Lewis’ 4.8. Even more clear was the lack of trust to let White even get those carries — he had just 22 rushing attempts in 14 games last season.
But Bill Belichick told us what we wanted to hear about White’s development in the ground game so far in camp:
“I think he has worked on his role in the running game carrying the ball, which he did a lot of in college. He hasn’t done a lot of it here. He was mainly a passing game player last year and didn’t play two years ago in his rookie year. [He was] mainly a passing game player last year but he has taken a more active role in the running game this year, so I think he continues to develop.”
Although we haven’t seen it yet in two preseason games — White has three carries for 12 yards, another pair of touches on 2-PT conversions and an impressive three catches for 73 yards — expect White to be heavily involved in the game plan Friday night in Carolina. A strong showing could mean a lot when it comes to his regular season role in the rushing attack.
In terms of the trickle down effect, Blount’s value certainly doesn’t take a hit, but it likely only gets a small bump with the Lewis injury. The biggest beneficiary behind White should be Gaffney, who is poised to overtake Bolden on the depth chart, see some of the snaps Lewis would’ve had and will steal some of Blount’s carries. Gaffney’s impressed on 20 preseason rushing attempts with 95 yards and a TD.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.