“I play fantasy basketball. I’ve never played fantasy football, but I’m definitely aware of it,” he said Monday afternoon in a quiet moment at his locker after a large crowd of reporters had just departed. “People say they’ve picked me, or they had me once and got rid of me, things like that.”
After an impressive dual-threat performance in this past Saturday’s preseason game against the Houston Texans -- in which he totaled 50 yards on three receptions and a touchdown, and added 20 yards on seven rushes -- Burkhead showed he’s going to be a big part of the Patriots’ plans, and in the process, is generating momentum on the fantasy circuit.
The former Cincinnati Bengal signed a one-year contract with the Patriots with a maximum value of $3.15 million this offseason, as his versatile skill set highlights the big change with the team’s running back corps in 2017.
Unlike last year, when the presence of top running back LeGarrette Blount on the field mostly tipped off a running play, coach Bill Belichick has talked about how this year should produce more unpredictability.
In addition to Burkhead, the Patriots return James White as their top passing back, and Dion Lewis has shown preseason flashes of getting back to his pre-injury form as a change-of-pace explosive rusher. Meanwhile, free-agent signing Mike Gillislee opened camp as the top option on the goal line (and was impressive), but he’s been sidelined the past two weeks with a hamstring injury.
“Just the versatility in our room, it’s unbelievable,” the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Burkhead said. "Learning and picking the brain of other guys who have been here for a while, some of their strengths, has been awesome. We compete every day, but we’re each other’s No. 1 fans. You see after a guy scores, we’re all going to celebrate together; it’s a tradition they’ve done in the past. They really take it to heart, rooting for one another.”
As for the depth chart, there really isn’t one. Any running back could be featured at any given time, as it's a deep, talented group.
“There’s good competition there, absolutely,” agreed Belichick. “They’re all a little bit different. They’re not really apples-to-apples where, 'These two guys do the same thing, which one is better?' One guy might be a little better at one thing. Another guy is better in a little something else. Another guy plays in the kicking game. Another guy has a little more size. Another guy is a little faster. So, I mean, they come in different packages.”
The Patriots also generally switch up their game plan on a week-to-week basis. So when it comes to fantasy football owners, Burkhead smiled when asked what advice he might give them.
“I have no advice,” he said. “Go with their gut.”