We are nearing the end of August and that means all of you should be deep in your fantasy draft preparations by now. When it comes to the first couple of rounds, most people have a pretty good idea of who they are targeting and who they are avoiding. But it’s the middle rounds where things get interesting.
One of the most difficult mid-round decisions you’ll have to make this season is which Patriots running back you like. There is the between the tackles guy in Sony Michel and the receiving back in James White. Your decision may very well come down to the format you play in but that isn’t the only thing to think about when deciding between these two. Let’s break it down.
Fantasy Football: Draft James White Over Sony Michel
The Case for Sony Michel
Second-year running back Sony Michel is coming off a very impressive rookie season in which he led the Patriots in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. In only 13 games, Michel accumulated 209 carries for 931 yards and six touchdowns.
The 13 games played are an important note here as Michel has dealt with consistent knee injuries early on in his career. Even before playing in his first NFL game, Michel was dealing with knee issues and then reinjured his knee in Week Seven, forcing him to miss three games. Now entering 2019, he’s still dealing with that injury after undergoing a knee scope in June. Whenever you’re picking a running back, injuries are a concern but you never like it when a guy has pre-existing issues.
Another important thing to think about when looking at Michel in your drafts is his lack of receiving upside. In 2018, Michel received only 11 targets catching seven of them for 50 yards. So, if you’re playing in a PPR league, I don’t see Michel as anything more than a flex option.
That being said, if Michel were to play a full 16 games, he can be a rushing touchdown machine as we saw in last year’s playoffs. During the Patriots three-game playoff stretch, Michel averaged 112 yards and two rushing touchdowns per game! As great as those numbers are, I think it’s safe to say he won’t have that type of efficiency over a 16-game season.
The Case for James White
Patriots receiving back James White has consistently been one of the most efficient running backs in the league when it comes to running routes out of the backfield. In 2018, White received 123 total targets which are over seven and a half targets a game. That was a higher number than wide receivers like T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Golladay, and Brandin Cooks.
Of those 123 targets, White caught 87 of them for 751 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. That comes out to 204 PPR points and we haven’t even talked about his rushing totals yet.
In 2018, White received a career-high 94 carries for 425 yards and five touchdowns finally showing the league he’s more than just a receiving threat. Don’t get me wrong. White’s real value lies in PPR scoring but he isn’t a complete liability in standard scoring either.
Looking ahead to 2019, one of the biggest reasons I’m so high on White is the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. With Brady’s favorite weapon no longer on the team, White should slide into that role along with Julian Edelman giving him a chance to increase on his 2018 career-high of 123 targets.
As I mentioned in the introduction, your league’s scoring format will be a huge factor in your decision. In standard, I’d shoot for Michel while White should dominate the PPR scoring.