RB Countdown: No. 38 James White
What can you expect from New England Patriots running back James White in 2017?
At RotoViz, our motto is Seeing is believing. Our team leverages various internal apps and external resources to make that motto come to fruition This series will provide you a fantasy outlook on our top-40 RBs according to projected points in PPR formats. My intent is to provide you a line of sight on the pros, cons, and projections for these RBs to empower you to make educated decisions on draft day.
White finished 2016 as the RB26 last season in PPR formats with 99 touches, 717 yards and five touchdowns. Receptions accounted for 60.6 percent of White’s touches last season. White’s production as a receiver has been steady according to Pro Football Focus’ yards per route run metric (YPRR). He generated 2.07 YPRR in 2015 which ranked seventh in the NFL among RBs and 1.90 YPRR which ranked third in 2016. White’s 60 receptions last season was the most by a RB during Bill Belichick’s tenure as the head coach of the New England Patriots. He set career highs in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and games played in a season.
White only played 38 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps, but touched the football or was targeted on 29 percent of them. He averaged 6.6 touches in 2017 which included a high of 15 Week 6 at home against the Cincinnati Bengals and a low of two Week 7 on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
|Player||Pos||Team||Gms||Snaps||Snaps/Gm||Snap Pct||Util Pct|
White played a season-high 61 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 6. He also happened to tie Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for the team’s highest target share that week (26 percent). The return of RB Dion Lewis in Week 11 ultimately took the wind out of White’s sails for the rest of the regular season. During the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14 through 16) Lewis (41) had more touches than White (15).
However, White did have an amazing performance in the Patriots’ epic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. White caught 14 of 16 targets for 110 receiving yards with a touchdown. He also had six carries for 29 yards with two additional touchdowns and a two-point conversion. I will illustrate below how that momentum should continue into the 2017 regular season.
White had the third highest DYAR (Defensive-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement) among RBs for receptions according to Football Outsiders. This metric boils down to a running back with more total value and provides a stack ranking of 53 RBs who caught 25 or more passes. White also had more Effective Yards (675) than Standard Yards (551). Players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would indicate. White has also been a key offensive contributor to one of the NFL’s most productive offenses since entering the league in 2014.
White is also fairly cheap given his current ADP (average draft position) and his role in the Patriots offense provides enough upside to easily outperform his ADP in PPR formats. Mike Gillislee will inherit LeGarrette Blount’s “Big Back” role in an offense which resulted in an RB9 fantasy finish last season in PPR formats. Blount’s ADP last season is what made his fantasy finish so appealing. The same cannot be said for Gillislee’s ADP at this point in time. Lewis excelled in the “Receiving Back” role in 2015 before his season-ending injury. Which brings me to provide a line of sight regarding White’s contract extension.
White signed a three-year extension (2018 to 2020) with $12M in new money with intriguing incentives that could result in $3M additional dollars. Ben Volin, of the Boston Globe, provided details of those incentives that would allow White to take home an extra $1M dollars each season. If he plays 50 percent of the snaps, White will receive $250,000 and another $250,000 if he plays 60 percent. If White produces 1,000 yards from scrimmage he will receive $250,000 and another $250,000 if he produces 1,200. What could White’s production look like if he playes at least 50 percent of the snaps in 2017? I used the RotoViz RB Similarity App to answer this question. This app provides a visual of the results of what the similar players did after they had a season that was comparable to his 2016. I included weeks White played close to 50 percent of the snaps and here are the results.
This projection summary provides us a range of outcomes on White’s week to week fantasy production should he play approximately 50 percent of the snap. He has the potential in the Patriots offense to go boom any given week and a consistent diet of playing time will help with that.
White is competing for snaps and touches with Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee. What does this mean for the Patriots running game? What does this mean for White’s value?
All of the Patriots RBs have a relatively low injury probability and potential games missed in 2017 according to Sports Injury Predictor. The website has created an algorithm that generates a player’s statistical probability for injury and projected games missed.
|PLAYER||OFF||POS||Chance of Injury in 2017||Projected Games missed for 2017|
Burkhead was not listed in the website’s database.
Such low probabilities might make it harder for White to pick up any additional snaps if his teammates stay healthy through all 16 games.
The Patriots offense is one you want to own a piece of in fantasy football. This offense has consistently ranked in the top eight in fantasy point production for more than a decade. I anticipate Gillislee handling a high percentage of the early down and goal line carries while White does the same with the receiving work. The Patriots RB projected for the most points is Gillislee, followed by White, Burkhead, and Lewis.
White is the preferred option in PPR formats while Gillislee is more desirable in standard formats. Patriots RBs have averaged 87.3 receptions over the last three seasons. White will be in a position to own a high percentage of those, eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and exceed our staff projection. He is the back to own in 2017 given all of the reasons communicated above.
The next installment of this series will provide readers a fantasy outlook on Philadelphia Eagles RB LeGarrette Blount.
This article is part of a series providing readers a Fantasy Outlook on RotoViz’s top-40 running backs according to projected points in PPR formats. What was most useful for you? Please leave a comment below or better yet reach out to me via Twitter @EricNMoody. Be on the lookout for the next article in the series.