Are You Drafting the Right New England Patriots' Passing-Down Back?
Have you ever taken on a specific endeavor with the intention of it being one thing, only to watch it transform into something unexpected?
Maybe you’ll start a poem and watch it become your first novel. Maybe you’ll start a friendship that grows into a torrid romance. Maybe you’ll start an article with the honest expectation of it being an unbiased and analytical look into two running backs, but really it devolves into a heavy-handed attempt to get the reader to draft one and fade the other like he’s expired poison.
Why does this happen? Is expired poison more poisonous or less poisonous than regular poison? Will this fantasy article ever get to the point?
I'm not sure, but that's what happened here. I tried to stay impartial, I really did, but if the choice is strictly between James White and Travaris Cadet in your fantasy football draft, it's an easy one.
Why It's Relevant
Currently, James White is being drafted in the 16th round of MFL10 best ball drafts, and on Yahoo! he's projected to go in the 14th. Cadet is mostly going undrafted, but his sleeper appeal has quickly picked up steam on the back of Patrick Mayo's recent efforts.
One of these running backs could be the lead pass-catching back, and even if they might not be as talented as Shane Vereen or Danny Woodhead, they still could end up being the steal of your draft. Over the last three seasons, the lead pass-catching back for the Patriots has averaged 12.53 fantasy points per game (PPG). Taken over the course of a full season, that would have been good enough to finish 13th overall at the position last year.
Over the course of three seasons in college at Appalachian State,
Travaris Cadet ran for 1,600 yards on 325 carries for a 4.9 yards per carry average and 15 touchdowns. He also had 57 receptions for 572 yards and 2 touchdowns. Through all three seasons, he was in a committee backfield with guys like Devon Moore and Steven Miller.
James White, playing four seasons with Wisconsin, ran for 4,015 yards on 643 attempts for a 6.2 yards per carry average. He had 45 total rushing touchdowns. Through the air, he had 73 receptions for 670 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns -- he also threw for a touchdown in his senior year.
In his senior year, he was the lead back, accumulating more total rushes than fellow running-back Melvin Gordon, who was in his third season of college ball at the time. Despite splitting time with Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball, he left Wisconsin, a school known for great running backs, with the fourth most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns in the school’s history. White also had just two fumbles in 754 career touches at the school.
Travaris Cadet went undrafted as a rookie -- he's currently 26 years old. In three seasons with the Saints, he had 11 rushes for 37 yards and zero touchdowns for a 3.3 yards per carry average. Through the air, he had 45 catches for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. Earlier this offseason, the Saints chose not to offer Cadet a league-minimum tender and he was then signed to a two year deal by the Patriots.
James White was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft -- he's currently 23 years old. In his rookie season, last year, he ran for 38 yards on 9 carries for a 4.2 yards per carry average. He also had 5 catches for 23 yards.
The typical Bill Belichick pass-catching back is around 5'9'' and 202.5 pounds. Neither Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, nor Shane Vereen failed to fall within an inch or three pounds of this profile. James White is 5'10'' and 205 pounds. Travaris Cadet is 6'1'' and 220. One of White’s most common comps since being drafted has been Shane Vereen.
Let’s see how they match up:
James White -- 5'10'', 205 pounds, 4.57 40-yard dash, 7.05 three cone drill, 4.20 20-yard shuttle
Shane Vereen -- 5'10'', 205 pounds, 4.50 40-yard dash, 6.95 three cone drill, 4.28 20-yard shuttle
During the offseason, James White has consistently been praised as a great pass-blocker. This should surprise very few of us, as White was considered one of the best blocking backs in the 2013 draft class. For the second consecutive year, Belichick has described White as "a guy who can play on all three downs". While that should be considered highly unlikely given Belichick's history with the position, the high-praise is worth noting.
In contrast, so far this camp, Cadet has struggled with pass protection. Cadet himself has said,
"Since I've been in the NFL, I probably don't have that many reps in pass pro. That wasn't asked of me much in New Orleans...That's something I'm working on." Later in the article, though, Belichick said Cadet has "had a great spring" and went on to praise his speed and receiving skills.
Okay, to recap: James White was a highly productive running back in college while Cadet was far less effective against much weaker opponents. While James White was able to hold off such stiff competition as Melvin Gordon, Cadet had trouble separating himself from guys who never played a game in the NFL.
Cadet was only trusted with 56 total touches through three NFL seasons. The Saints, a team with such oft-injured running backs as Melvin Ingram and C.J. Spiller, didn’t even feel he was worthy of offering the league minimum to.
White is a Shane Vereen clone, he’s a great blocker, and he never fumbles. And we're talking about Bill Belichick here -- are we really sure he doesn't value the latter two points over a running back’s actual ability to run the ball?
The pass-catching role in the Patriots' backfield is a valuable one for fantasy purposes. When that player is being drafted in the final rounds of your draft, they very well could be the steal of your draft. While it's still a Bill Belichick backfield , and the real back to own might be someone like veteran Brandon Bolden, a 15th-round pick also isn't going to sink your team.
It will be important to see how each player performs during the preseason, and this decision could come down to the wire, but right now I’m definitely liking White’s chances the best.