By all accounts, it appears as if Patriots bruising running back LeGarrette Blount is going to hit the open market and get overpaid by some team. Blount publicly stated he wanted to re-sign with New England, but was thought to be gone as the clock struck on NFL Free Agency. Last season, the 30-year-old back re-signed with the Patriots on a 1-year deal after an injury-plagued 2015 season. Blount was able to rush for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns, both of which were career-highs. However, Blount was the product of a lot of goal-line sets where opposing teams feared a quick pass from Tom Brady. In 299 attempts, which was nearly 100 more than he has had in any season, Blount only mustered up 3.9 yards per rush, which is the second lowest amount in his career.
Unless the Patriots can bring Blount back on a very team-friendly deal, I don't believe he will be back with the Patriots. The Patriots have not paid a back more than $2 million in annual salary (except for Rex Burkhead, who most recently signed a 1-year, $3.15 million contract) in a long time, so I do not believe they will break the bank this offseason, regardless of how much cap room they have, for Blount. Furthermore, Dion Lewis, James White, and the newly acquired Burkhead are all slated to be free agents in 2018, so drafting a back to develop seems like a relative no-brainer.
With not that many options on the free agent market available, aside from perhaps Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles, the Patriots could look towards the draft to fill their need at running back. With no first- or second-round picks (YET), the Patriots will need to be selective and certain about a specific running back they want to take.
I had to say this, but for me, that guy is Oklahoma's troubled young star, Joe Mixon.
As a Texas Longhorns fan, I would hate to see the Patriots take any player from Oklahoma, but Mixon may be my mulligan. At 6'1" and 226 pounds, Mixon is a big back that is more versatile than Blount. Mixon bursted onto the scene in 2015, rushing for 753 yards and catching 28 balls for 356 yards. In 2016, Mixon furthered his production, rushing for 1274 yards in 187 attempts.
Of course, we all know Mixon's off the field incidents, as he has been suspended for multiple violations, including punching a woman in a dining hall, which was caught on camera. Nonetheless, it appears as if Mixon has changed his ways and is extremely committed to becoming a legitimate NFL player. Hell, NFL.com has his comparable player as Le'Veon Bell. When players have this high of a ceiling, sometimes it is necessary to take on some risk.
Because of his off-field issues, there is a chance he is available as late as the end of the third round. The Patriots are known for their reclamation products, but will they take Mixon after the Aaron Hernandez fiasco? Only time will tell, but I would be all for it.