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In a case of the rich getting richer, after the Buffalo Bills declined to match a two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet, the New England Patriots have landed running back Mike Gillislee. That closes the door on LeGarrette Blount coming back to the Patriots, and Gillislee joins a cluster of running backs in Foxboro.
In limited action for the Bills over the last two seasons, Gillislee averaged 5.7 yards per carry as a backup to LeSean McCoy. Last season, he set career-highs across the board with 101 carries for 577 yards and nine total touchdowns (eight rushing).
Dion Lewis and James White are some version of passing down backs, which gives them each some sort of role in a Tom Brady-run offense. Free agent signing Rex Burkhead has a foggier path to playing time, and Gillislee’s addition only makes that worse.
Last season, as the Patriots’ early-down grinder, Blount had 299 carries for 1,161 yards and a league-high 18 touchdowns. He was a top-10 fantasy running back in 2016, even with only seven receptions, and now his role may be divided between Gillislee and Burkhead.
Gillislee is far more appealing as a fantasy option than Burkhead, since he seems perfectly suited to taking Blount’s goal line role. Bill Belichick surely likes that Gillislee did not lose a fumble last season, despite an increased role, and that should also work in his favor.
I’m not quite as high on Gillislee as Dave Richard and Heath Cummings of CBS Sports.com are in their newly updated rankings, as the 20th and 27th ranked running back respectively in standard scoring leagues. But I do see Gillislee being draftable as a RB3 with upside in 12-team standard leagues, and (much like Blount) a solid starting option during weeks New England should easily handle an inferior opponent.