For most of his eight seasons in the NFL, New England Patriots running back James White’s primary role was as a reliable checkdown option for current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. His best years came during Brady’s final two seasons in New England, when the receiving corps was thinned by poor drafting, with White averaging 1,042 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2018-19 while hauling in a combined 159 passes. In his lone full season without Brady, White totaled 496 yards and three touchdowns.
White seemed like he could be in line for a renaissance last year with then-rookie Mac Jones under center and leading a very conservative offensive approach. Those hopes came crashing down when the University of Wisconsin product suffered a hip subluxation in Week 3 that ultimately led to surgery and kept the veteran from returning to action in 2021. He finished the year with just 132 yards and a score.
At 30, White is on the older side of the ledger for NFL running backs. Of course, it’s not always the years, it’s the miles, and White has more career receptions (381) than carries (319), meaning he hasn’t taken the type of physical pounding many backs have endured after eight seasons. Reports out of minicamp have classified White as a limited participant with the veteran stating that he has “a little while to go” before he’s sufficiently rehabbed and ready to roll.
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White’s durability has been good across his career, but he’s coming off a major injury that he feared might have been career-ending, so he’ll need to be monitored come late July. Along those same lines, don’t read too much into the two-year, $5 million contract he signed to return to New England. Only $500,000 is guaranteed, and he’ll need to compete with rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris, as well as J.J. Taylor, for spots behind roster locks Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Fantasy football outlook
White is a Bill Belichick guy, so if he looks like his old self chances are there will be a spot for him. In that scenario he’d be the designated passing-down back while Harris and Stevenson handle the early downs.
His sure hands and skills in the open field should make an attractive option for Jones on a team that has struggled for years to identify and cultivate talent at receiver. Even still, White would be a stretch as a draft-day target outside of deep PPR formats. Think of him as an RB5 or even a No. 6 and nothing more.