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What to do with James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel in Week 4 fantasy football

With James White on track to return following the tragic death of his father, the Patriots could once again deploy three running backs.

New England Patriots Practice Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Monday update: Sony Michel has been downgraded to out for Monday’s game. White and Burkhead have some PPR value, but it also depends on if the Patriots activate Damien Harris off IR before the game.

Saturday update: The Chiefs-Patriots game is being moved to another date due to positive Covid-19 tests. At this point, the NFL wants to be able to keep the game played within Week 4, but that isn’t assured. Hopefully we will know more by the time you need to lock your rosters in, but if not, you may consider sitting players from this matchup.

The New England Patriots look considerably different than in past years, most notably under center where Cam Newton has taken the reins after Tom Brady’s two decades with the team. Still, other areas of the roster remain relatively similar. Most of the running backs New England leaned on a season ago remain in place, with many of the same questions still surrounding them.

Fantasy Football analysis: Patriots RBs James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead

While discussions about the Patriots’ backfield typically focus on Bill Belichick’s indifference toward committing to a lead back, that conversation took a back seat following the tragedies endured by James White’s family. White took some time away from the team after learning that a car accident took the life of his father, a captain of the Miami-Dade Police Department, and hospitalized his mother. The veteran running back has not played since the accident. However, he returned to practice this week.

During White’s absence, the Patriots focused more heavily on Rex Burkhead, who received 26 combined carries and targets during that stretch. Sony Michel received more rush attempts (16) and delivered a 117-rushing-yard performance against the Las Vegas Raiders, but Burkhead saw the more valuable work in the red zone.

From a fantasy lens, White’s impending return further muddles the situation in New England. He should absorb some of the receiving opportunities from Burkhead and, in a matchup with the high-scoring Kansas City Chiefs, could cut into the snap count of the more one-dimensional Michel.

Fantasy Start/Sit Recommendation

Neither White nor Burkhead appear likely to receive adequate opportunities to merit more than an emergency flex slot this week. Michel has more upside given the Patriots’ commitment to the run so long as his quadriceps injury doesn’t hamper him on game day, making him a low-end flex option.