Last season, the Patriots used the running back by committee approach to their ground attack, look for them to do that again in 2009. However, considering the age and injury tendencies of some of the backs on the roster, the Patriots may look to pick up a back for the future. Also consider the fact that no Patriots runner is signed past 2010, with Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris expiring after 2009. The Patriots also lost their only fullback Heath Evans to the Saints in free agency this year.
Current Grade: B
Fred Taylor: Patriots free agent pickup this year signed a two year deal. Slowed down last year, but still has the agility, quickness, power, and smarts to be productive. Should be good for 10 – 15 carries a game.
Laurence Maroney: Maroney, the 21st overall pick in 2006, is in a make or break year with the Patriots. While he still has all of the tools to be great, if he doesn’t put it together and stay healthy through training camp, he could be shown the door.
Kevin Faulk: Arguably the team’s MVP last season, Kevin Faulk will be 33 come training camp, and expires after the year. Still, he is invaluable on third downs and passing downs, with his soft hands, nifty moves, great pass protection, and leadership. He also led the league in yards per carry last year.
Sammy Morris: The Patriots leading back last season in 32. However, he still runs with great power and a good burst. It will be interesting to see what kind of role he gets coming out of training camp.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Law Firm, BJGE, Benny, Big BenJarvus… BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a pleasant surprise filling in for injuries as an undrafted rookie last year. He is a bruiser, a pure north-south runner, and I like that. Now it is up to him to prove that he can be a steady contributor. At 23 years old, he is by far the youngest runner on the Patriots roster.
Draft Prospects:* (Probability of Patriots drafting in italics, 1-10, ten being the highest)
Donald Brown, Connecticut: Ridiculously productive runner in college who can carry the load for a team. Great locker room guy who may lack brute strength, but is nifty, instinctive, and makes the most of any opportunity. Probability: 7.0 | Grade: 8.0
Andre Brown, North Carolina State: Never had top end productive and locks top end speed, but is a true north-south bruiser who is an excellent blocker and has great hands. Great potential. Probability: 7.5 | Grade: 7.0
Rashad Jennings, Liberty: At 6-1, 230 pounds, Rashad Jennings epitomizes power for a running back. He also has nice hands. However, there are questions surrounding his conditioning and level of competition. Probability: 6.0 | Grade: 6.5
Devin Moore, Wyoming: Elite speed with solid hands; can make a difference as a change of pace back or a kick returner. Might not be a feature back, but does a lot of the little things. Probability: 6.5 | Grade: 6.0
Bernard Scott, Abilene Christian: Smart, patient runner with great initial quickness. Hits the hole hard, but lacks top end speed or elusiveness. Probability: 5.5 | Grade: 5.0
Tony Fiammetta, Syracuse: Probably the truest fullback in the draft. Compact build. Is a willing blocker who has the potential to grow as a receiver and short yardage runner. Probability: 5.5 | Grade: 7.5
*= These “draft prospects” are players that the Patriots are actually looking at picking up or have shown a legitimate interest in.