Indeed, Rex Burkhead’s “slight knee tear” is extremely concerning, especially after his struggles staying on the field last season. Yet, the Atlantic’s Jeff Howe reminded us just how much reward is attached to this risk, suggesting the Patriots are simply being “overcautious” with Burkhead to preserve him as the offensive “focal point.”
Originally one of our “Must Buy Bargains” in our Preseason Kickoff, Burkhead’s price has steadily risen (ADP = 72, ECR = 60) in light of Sony Michel‘s knee surgery. Surprisingly, this price has remained steady despite the reports on his knee tear, and his rumored “centerpiece” role should do nothing but increase this.
Deservedly so. Burkhead’s upside is astronomical, especially if he’s as featured as these reports suggest. Given his versatility, combined with gaping holes in the Patriots WR corps, Burkhead should indeed see heavy volume for as long as he holds up.
Most valuable, Burkhead is dominant in short yardage situation. He notched 8 TDs in only 10 contests (13 TD pace), 7 of which came in the 6 weeks following New England’s Week 9 Bye (Weeks 10-15, RB9 in this span). Burkhead was tied for third in the league in touches inside of the 5-yard line over this eight game run, handling seven of the 10 backfield carries in that area of the field for the Patriots. He was also highly effective with those touches, converting five for touchdowns.
Yet, this “focal point” role may be more based on his receiving ability. Burkhead ran a pass route on 55.4 percent of his snaps, which ranked as the 10th highest rate at his position. Moreover, he was targeted on 33.3 percent his routes, which ranked tied for third behind only Tarik Cohen and Alvin Kamara. Bald-n-sexy may be even more involved as a pass-catcher with far more “Aerial Pie” available in New England than ever before.
Thus, I fully buy these “focal point” reports. For as long as Burkhead holds up, I expect him to yield Top-15 weekly stats. The major question is: how long can a “slightly torn” knee withstand an NFL punishment, especially on a back who’s already struggled staying on the field? Regardless, pairing Burkhead in the 6th with Sony Michel in the 9th is an incredible fantasy investing strategy, as if/when Rex goes down, you’ll have the likely next man-up.