The New England Patriots have had quite the offseason as they prepare for their first season without Tom Brady since 1999. While their players’ prospects in fantasy football are clouded in doubt, the same isn’t true for James White’s fantasy outlook. Sony Michel, Damien Harris, and Lamar Miller all have significant question marks, while White is secure in his role as their primary pass-catching back. Entering 2020, White presents a value and should be a welcome addition to your team at his current ADP in all formats.
How does Cam Newton affect James White’s fantasy outlook?
Despite signing relatively late in the offseason, Cam Newton has beaten out Jarret Stidham for the starting QB job in New England. However, whether it was Stidham or Newton, I don’t think it mattered all that much for White. I don’t subscribe to the idea of “coach X looks to get position Y the football.” I think good coaches get the ball in the hands of their best players. I can say with confidence that Josh McDaniels is a good coach.
In 2019, White had the second-most targets (95) and second-highest target share (17%) among New England skill position players, per Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards website. He also led all RB’s in targets in 2018 (125) and again finished second in target share (22%) in New England. The consensus thought regarding the Patriots is their lack of talent at the skill positions. Well, this will only help White’s fantasy outlook.
If you’re questioning whether Newton will pepper White with targets like Brady did the past two years, don’t waste your energy. Christian McCaffrey was second in targets in 2018 (124) among RB’s (behind White), while tying for the lead (with White) among all RB’s in target share at 22%. That said, I don’t think Newton will look to get the ball to White because he “likes throwing the ball to RB’s”; I think he will target White often because he is the Patriots’ best skill player.
No matter what school of thought you subscribe to regarding what factors drive player opportunity, all signs point to White, once again, playing a primary role in the New England passing game.
Why is James White the New England RB to own?
Michel has well known chronic knee issues, yet seems to have supplanted supposed training camp star Harris as the Patriots lead back. Miller, who just came off the PUP, will fight for a roster spot after being unable to practice due to the injury. However, none of them threaten White’s role as the pass-catching back. As long as White is healthy, he should get his regular helping of opportunities.
Can we expect the same efficiency from White in 2020?
White has been a reliable asset to fantasy squads the past two seasons, particularly in full PPR formats. He finished as the RB32 in PPR in 2017, RB8 in 2018, and RB20 in 2019. That doesn’t tell us the whole story, however. According to Ben Rolfe’s Fantasy Points Differential (FPD) metric, which explains how much better or worse a player was in a particular year compared to an average player, White has outperformed his expected fantasy points in four of the past five seasons.
On top of outperforming expectations in four of the past five seasons, he has improved his Consistency Score as well. After scoring no higher than 3.55 from 2015-2017, White has posted scores of 6.34 (RB11) and 5.03 (RB17) in Phillip Caldwell’s metric in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The Consistency Score essentially tells us how often a player scores a high amount of fantasy points. The higher the score, the more consistent that player is.
Considering he has outperformed his expected fantasy points for four of the past five seasons, as well as being one of the most consistent RB scorers, White should easily beat his current ADP of RB31 (84th overall).
What is a reasonable fantasy projection for White in 2020?
I’m no projection wizard, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. I took the three year average of pass attempts from New England and multiplied it by White’s average target share over that same period (17.6%). Then, I factored in White’s career average yards per target and catch percentage and came up with the following projection.
|Targets||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Receiving Touchdowns||Fantasy Points|
The fantasy points in the table include his rushing projection (68 carries, 278 yards, and one touchdown), which would put him right around where he finished last season (RB20 range). As I said, don’t write these projections in stone or anything, but I’m pretty confident White can achieve these numbers.
Is James White a good pick for your fantasy team?
In short, yes. White should be on your fantasy radar in 2020. You’re getting a low to mid-level RB2 priced as a mid-level RB3. Fire away and enjoy the value while it lasts.