From high school through college and into the NFL, James White has been surrounded by some of the best running back talent in the field. White’s premiere talent has allowed him to be a consistent contributing factor over the years on teams with other strong running back candidates.
The Past, Present, and Future of James White
In high school, White played running back with Giovani Bernard at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, rushing for over 20 touchdowns and 1,000 yards his senior year. Upon going to Wisconsin, White earned Big Ten Freshman of the year honors in 2010 and played a massive role in the Wisconsin running game during his time there. Throughout the years at Wisconsin, White split time with great talents such as Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball, once again allowing White to stay somewhat under the radar.
White was drafted with the 130th pick overall by the Patriots in 2014, but only saw the active roster for three games that entire season. 2015 saw an increased presence for White in the New England offense but other options left him as the PPR receiving back. Nevertheless, White had a few strong games, including two touchdowns against the Bills and a 100+ yard receiving game against Philadelphia later that season.
This year was James White’s breakout year. Dion Lewis was still out recovering from a torn ACL, so White stepped in as the key passing back while LeGarrette Blount carried much of the running responsibilities. This role fit White well and he finished as one of five running backs to have over 500 yards receiving on the year. This success carried into the Super Bowl where White had 29 rushing yards and 110 receiving yards, scoring three touchdowns on the way to helping New England pull off the greatest comeback in NFL history. But what’s next for James White?
White will be with New England until his contract ends in 2018, when he will be free to test the free agency market. But much of that decision will be based on how this next season pans out for White. It’s impossible to tell with a team like the Patriots, who make players out to be almost completely interchangeable, but much of White’s future in New England will deal with Dion Lewis’s return, how the Patriots can revamp their run game, and if White can keep up his receiving production. But until we see Bill Belichick roll out his answers at the beginning of next season, all we can do is speculate.
The trend so far in White’s career has been ongoing difficulty in establishing an accountable run game, while taking his receiving outputs to new heights. In 2014, White had 38 yards on nine rushing attempts for an average of 4.2 yards per rush and 23 yards on five receptions for an average of 4.6 yards per reception. In 2015, White saw more touches but still submitted a somewhat mediocre rushing stat line for the season with 56 yards on 22 touches, averaging 2.5 yards.
However, despite a second year with struggling running production, White shot into the spotlight with 410 yards on 40 receptions, good enough for an average of 10.3 yards per reception. The trend seemed to continue in 2016, where White saw a slight uptick in weaker rushing production with 166 yards on 39 touches, averaging 4.3 yards per rush. But once again, James White found great success in the passing game, where he averaged 9.2 yards per reception on a year where he had 551 yards on 60 receptions.
Can White develop a running game that compliments his already dangerous receiving abilities? With the likes of Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount carrying the primary running back roles, it won’t be easy. Maybe it’s the scat-back position that James White was always meant to fill, but White’s ceiling is very high as he continues developing in preparation for his fourth year.