As we enter one of the most brutal bye weeks of the NFL season, it becomes particularly essential to find an underrated playmaker that can step in and be productive immediately. At times, this can simply be a player that may not be the most athletically inclined but garners enough playing time and target volume to offset a replacement level skill set. However, if you can discover someone that is both highly productive and physically gifted, you’ll find that you can have the best of both worlds. While the Patriots running back corps seemed murky in terms of a standout rusher initially, one name, in particular, has emerged as a versatile talent that can do it all on the field.
Team: New England Patriots
Position: Running Back
Percent Owned On Fantasy Teams: (Yahoo Fantasy): 45%
Fantasy Points Total Thru Week 7 (Half PPR): Projected: 41.58 Actual: 43.50
While Dion Lewis was underutilized during the first three weeks of the season, Lewis has been on the field much more often since week 4 as he has been present for 27 run plays per game (17th amongst running backs). During the last four weeks, the Patriots have trusted Lewis progressively more and more as his rushing attempts have increased noticeably since a matchup with the Panthers (rushing attempts weeks 4-7: 4, 7, 11, 13). With this volume increase, Lewis has been able to display his elusiveness consistently (juke rate of 54.9%, best amongst running backs) while using his underrated speed to garner crucial yardage (5.3 yards per carry, 6th amongst running backs).
However, Lewis is so much more than an effective rusher between the tackles. Although running back James White is the understandable favorite to catch passes out of the backfield, Lewis has proven to be equally as reliable in this department thanks to his strong hands. While Lewis has only been targeted eight times this season, he has caught all of the passes that have been thrown his way. Although this may not show up as particularly impressive on a stat sheet, Lewis is the ninth best rusher in the league in production premium (measures a players productivity across league average situations and discounts non-standard situations such as 2-minute drills and garbage time). What this means is that Lewis is highly versatile and can easily step in for James White (pass-catcher) or Mike Gillislee (pure rusher) in various situations.
While Lewis may not be the most physical or electric running back in the NFL, he makes the most of his dynamic skill set and has proven to be efficient in whichever way the Patriots decide to utilize him. Considering Lewis is finally getting the volume to match his athletic abilities, he is definitely an intriguing flex play that is more than worthy to start during bye weeks.