New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has been one of the more valuable players in fantasy football this season. With Tom Brady out the first four games with a suspension, Blount has been a monster rushing for 352 yards and four touchdowns. Blount has 22 or more rushing attempts in 3 of 4 contests this season. That high volume workload won’t continue all season, however the Patriots adjust their game plan to what is better suited to go against each week’s opponent. Tom Brady is the Patriots best talent and the passing game will return to being showcased each week. The popular viewpoint is that the Patriots will throw the ball a lot more and abandon the running game. I’m not buying into that school of thought.
Last season, Blount ran for 703 yards and 6 TD in 12 games. He was placed on IR with a hip injury in mid-December. In an earlier season matchup, which resulted in 30-24 Broncos win, Blount was a non-factor rushing 9 times for 27 yards. Tom Brady threw for 280 yards and 3 TD while getting sacked 3 times. The Patriots were exposed in the AFC championship game vs. the Broncos for their lack of a credible rushing attack. Tom Brady attempted 56 passes throwing for 310 yards a TD and 2 picks. The Broncos sacked Brady 4 times. The Patriots attempted 17 rushes for 44 yards to the tune of a paltry 2.59 yards-per -carry. In 2015, the Patriots ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 87.8 yards
I believe the Patriots learned from the 2015 season by upgrading their offensive line with better run blockers. Brady’s suspension necessitated featuring the rushing attack to start the season, but I believe it will carry over for the rest of the season. NFL history isn’t kind to 39-year-old Quarterbacks. Tom Brady is no ordinary 39-year-old Quarterback, but still could use more help from the running game.
I don’t believe the other Patriots running backs are truly a threat to Blount’s workload. Brandon Bolden is more of a special team’s player. DJ Foster is an experienced player that hasn’t taken any workload away yet. James White is third-down-back while Dion Lewis may be the one to take away some of Blount’s workload. Lewis is on the physically unable to perform list and could return anywhere from weeks seven to week nine depending on his health.
The NFL has shifted more towards committee backfields in the last few years. Fantasy players really need to focus on their league set up and scoring in evaluating players. Blount while not as valuable in a PPR league as in a standard scoring lead league still will carry a lot of value with Tom Brady’s return. I find it hard to believe that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will completely ignore how effective the running game has been the first four weeks of the season.