Patriots Fantasy Focus: Mike Gillislee, the ultimate wildcard

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Patriots Fantasy Focus
Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Mike Gillislee (35) runs with the ball as Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) pursues during the second half at New Era Field. The Dolphins beat the Bills 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, opinions on fantasy players are easily formed. You can easily make a case for or against a player based on a variety of factors: past production, age, health, your personal opinion, etc. There will always be those players you know you will have multiple shares of come fantasy season and players that won’t end up on any of your teams.

And then, there are those fantasy wildcards. Fantasy wildcards are those players you go back-and-forth on all summer. You can make a strong case for them, as well as a strong case against them. Fantasy wildcards are players that may contain significant upside but also carry a decent amount of risk and/or uncertainty. Newly acquired Patriots RB Mike Gillislee fits the fantasy wildcard description to a T.

Mike Gillislee Rushing & Receiving 2016
Game Game Rush Rush Rush Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Age Tm No. G GS Rush Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Tgt Rec Yds TD AV
2013 23 MIA 23 3 0 6 21 0 6 3.5 7.0 2.0 0
2015 25 BUF 35 5 1 47 267 3 60 5.7 53.4 9.4 7 6 29 0 2
2016 26 BUF 35 15 1 101 577 8 44 5.7 38.5 6.7 11 9 50 1 4
Care Care 23 2 154 865 11 60 5.6 37.6 6.7 18 15 79 1 6
2 yr 2 yr BUF 20 2 148 844 11 60 5.7 42.2 7.4 18 15 79 1 6
1 yr 1 yr MIA 3 0 6 21 0 6 3.5 7.0 2.0 0

The former Buffalo Bills running back is only 26 years old. He’s coming off a career season in which he rushed for eight touchdowns (nine total) as a backup to LeSean McCoy. Together they headlined a backfield that led the NFL in virtually every rushing category including rushing attempts, rushing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and yards per game. It was that success that made Gillislee one of the top waiver pickups of the year. He was a ‘must own’ handcuff and solid flex play even WITH McCoy playing.


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Now fresh of the signing of a 2yr/$6.4 million contract with the New England Patriots, Gillislee is projected to be the starting RB on arguably the most dynamic offense in football. It is also an offense that lost LeGarrette Blount in the offseason, leaving his 18 rushing touchdowns up for grabs.

Mike Gillislee Fantasy Production
Year Age G FantPos FantPt VBD PosRank OvRank
2013 23 3 RB 2 141
2015 25 5 RB 46 70
2016 26 15 RB 117 26
165

On paper Gillislee leading a New England backfield looks promising. With his average draft position somewhere between the fifth and seventh round, so his value could be decent depending on where you stand. Let’s take a look at the five running backs that are going ahead of him and the five running backs going behind him based on ADP (12 team PPR)

Ahead:

• Dalvin Cook

• LeGarrette Blount

• Danny Woodhead

• Tevin Coleman

• Bilal Powell

Behind:

• Eddie Lacy

• Paul Perkins

• Derrick Henry

• Mark Ingram

Out of the five running backs going ahead of him, only one is a safe bet to be the starter week one and that is Blount. Coleman, Woodhead, and Powell are all technically backups even though they all have value in PPR leagues. Although Cook might start at some point this season, he’s still a rookie. Latavius Murray figures to split carries with him to begin the year.

Out of the five running backs going behind him, only one of them is both a starter AND someone who contains upside. For example, Henry contains upside but he’s still the backup to Demarco Murray and oh, by the way, Murray was third in the NFL last year in rushing attempts. So although Henry does have upside, he’s still a backup.

Ingram and Lacy are both in an uncertain, time-share situation in their respective backfields. I think it is safe to say that the best days for both are behind them. This leaves Paul Perkins as really the only one in the group that is going to be the starter Week 1 AND has considerable upside entering his sophomore campaign.

We always talk about finding the perfect balance of consistency and upside. Very rarely do you find a player that embodies both.rex burkhead When you do, those are the players you build your team around. Gillislee certainly has upside and could prove to be consistent but without playing a single snap in a Patriot’s uniform, the jury is still out. Would you take Gillislee in the sixth round which is where his ADP is? If you love him, would you be willing to reach and grab him in the fifth? Let’s make the case for and against Mike Gillislee.

The Case For

He’s the starter yes, sometimes you do not have to overthink things. He was the backup last year and got nine total touchdowns. This season he has the inside track to be the starting running back. This is probably the number one point that needs to be made in any argument FOR Gillislee.

Quantity, Quantity, Quantity

The 2016 New England Patriots ranked third in the NFL in rushing attempts, and Blount had 299 carries (second in the NFL). Gillislee only had 100 carries last season. This season he is almost a lock to double his carries from a year ago if he stays healthy.

It’s All About The Offense

The New England Patriots offense is a significantly better offense than the Buffalo Bills. New England was in the top five last year in several key categories including total yards, total first downs and third down percentage. Buffalo, by comparison, ranked outside the top 15 in all except third down percentage (13th). So, although Buffalo was statistically the best rushing team last year, they were nowhere near the overall offense that New England was. Which is easier to duplicate: Buffalo having another dominant rushing year or New England being a top 5 offense? We both know the answer to that one.

Another impressive stat about New England’s offense in 2016, was they started each drive ahead by an average of 7.2 points! Let’s not forget, this was without Brady for the first four games, Malcolm Mitchell in his rookie season, no Brandin Cooks and Blount averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Which leads me to…

Quality, Quality, Quality

Blount averaged 3.9 yards on 299 carries. Gilislee averaged 5.7 yards per carry with only 100 carries. So although the sample size was a lot smaller for Gillislee, it shows you the quality of runner he is and the upside he has.

The Case Against

Competition

Even with the loss of Blount, the New England Patriots backfield remains crowded. With the addition of Rex Burkhead and the return of both Dion Lewis and James White, there are still a lot of mouths to feed. There is no guarantee that all of Blount’s carries from a year ago will go to Gilleslee. With so many moving parts, it isn’t 100 percent clear at the moment how the pie will be divvied up.

Small Sample Size

Mike Gillislee has been in the NFL for three years but has only been a backup. He has only appeared in over 10 games once (last year). He was incredibly efficient with the touches he got last season. However, will he be able to continue to produce at that same level with a bigger role in the offense and more carries? We have seen other backup running backs shine in those roles only to be exposed when given a larger role as the starter. Christine Michael is a great example of this.

Lack of PPR Value

One thing that appears to limit Gillislee’s upside is his restrictions in the passing game. In 15 games last season, he tallied nine receptions. With James White and Rex Burkhead most likely filling the third down role and serving as the primary pass-catchers out of the backfield, where does that leave Gillislee? It is possible that he could surprise people and contribute in that area as well. But if he doesn’t he might be too reliant on touchdowns in order to be viable in PPR formats.

– Jeff Carrier is a Staff Writer for cover32/Patriots and covers the New England Patriots. Like and follow on and Facebook.

 

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