The Patriots, according to their website, are signing Ezekiel Elliott. But expectations should be modest. At 28, he’s not the back he’s been in the past.

The Patriots have Rhamondre Stevenson starting, and his role might not change much. He’s a lot better than Elliott at this point – bigger, faster, stronger.

Consider their effectiveness last year. Stevenson averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Elliott averaged 3.8 per attempt, 38th among the 42 running backs with at least 100 carries. Tony Pollard played behind the same line in Dallas and averaged 5.2.

Khalil Herbert, Chi.1297315.74
Aaron Jones, G.B.21311215.32
• Tony Pollard, Dall.19310075.29
Travis Etienne, Jac.22011255.15
Nick Chubb, Cle.30215255.012
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.21010405.05
Tyler Allgeier, Atl.21010354.93
Raheem Mostert, Mia.1818914.93
Miles Sanders, Phil.25912694.911
Jeff Wilson, 2TM1768604.95
Isiah Pacheco, K.C.1708304.95
Josh Jacobs, L.V.34016534.912
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atl.1446954.88
Christian McCaffrey, 2TM24411394.78
Devin Singletary, Buff.1778194.65
Kenneth Walker, Sea.22810504.69
D'Onta Foreman, Car.2039144.55
Austin Ekeler, LAC2049154.513
Jonathan Taylor, Ind.1928614.54
Saquon Barkley, NYG29513124.410
Latavius Murray, 2TM1717604.46
Dalvin Cook, Min.26411734.48
Kenyan Drake, Balt.1094824.44
Derrick Henry, Ten.34915384.413
Damien Harris, N.E.1064624.43
James Conner, Ariz.1837824.37
Dameon Pierce, Hou.2209394.34
Cam Akers, LAR1887864.27
AJ Dillon, G.B.1867704.17
Jamaal Williams, Det.26210664.117
Alvin Kamara, N.O.2238974.02
David Montgomery, Chi.2018014.05
Brian Robinson, Was.2057973.92
Joe Mixon, Cin.2108143.97
James Robinson, 2TM1104253.93
Kareem Hunt, Cle.1234683.83
Najee Harris, Pitt.27210343.87
Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.2318763.812
Rachaad White, T.B.1294813.71
Antonio Gibson, Was.1495463.73
Leonard Fournette, T.B.1896683.53
Michael Carter, NYJ1144023.53

Elliott potentially could fill a backup role. Pierre Strong is really fast and picked up 100 yards on his 10 carries late in his rookie season. But they might feel that Strong isn’t ready to be more than a situational player. (And Kevin Harris, he’s more of a “I’d like to make the roster” guy.)

If Elliott is going to be a factor in New England, it could be in goal-line situations. He’s still effective in short yardage – by the numbers, the best in the league last year. The Cowboys went to Elliott 20 times last year when they needed 1 yard to either score or keep a drive alive in a third-and-one or fourth-and-one situation. He was successful on all but one of those carries.

For fantasy purposes, I’m thinking Elliott is now a late-round guy. I’m not sure whether to rank him above Strong. And Stevenson likely falls just a little in the early rounds.

—Ian Allan