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Damien Harris: Forgotten Man

A Cam Newton heavy run offense, Michel’s injury problems, and James White becoming a free agent after the 2020 season….Things are looking up for Damien Harris! @DynastyJon explores the Patriots’ backfield situation heading into the new season!

A New Era

The Patriots are going to have a very different image in 2020. After 20 years in the Brady era, we’re itching to see what they look like with a new QB under the center. I’m sure Josh McDaniels and Belichick will have something up their sleeve, but it’ll undoubtedly look a lot different if Cam Newton is under center.

Almost every position is up for grabs. We’ve seen offenses with Newton take off (E.g., The Panthers in 2015), and we’ve seen McDaniels have a ton of success over the years. The Patriots know football, no matter what personnel they have. For that reason, we still expect them to have success. With success comes fantasy value.

Credit: Getty Images

Due to the fact every position is up for grabs, there could be several steals in this offense. Edelman appears to be the only member of the offense locked in. We expect N’Keal Harry to take a jump, but what happens with Sanu, which rookie TE looks the most promising, and who takes over the backfield?

On the Rise

This is where Damien Harris plays in. James White was heavily utilized in the Brady offense, which I expect to remain the case. That being said, who will take the early-down work? Over the years, the Patriots have always split their backfield work. Bill has previously found lots of washed-up RBs, making the draft selection of Sony Michel in the first round even more peculiar. Since being selected, Michel has disappointed, which opens the door for an alternate option. How long of a leash does Bill give?

For every LeGarrette Blount, there has been a Danny Woodhead or Shane Vereen. With White locked into the Woodhead role and Michel’s struggles, I think Damien Harris could take the Blount role. Despite that, he appears to have been forgotten by the Dynasty Community.

The Patriots invested a 3rd round pick in Harris in the 2019 draft and only gave him four carries in his rookie season. At some point, they’re going to give him a more significant role. The 5’11” 213-pound bruiser may see that role increase sooner rather than later due to Michel’s injury struggles. Due to a foot injury and chronic knee issues dating back to high school, the explosion no longer seems to be there in Michel’s game.

Not Afraid of a Challenge

Harris has previously performed under a competitive regime. During his time at Alabama, Harris almost rushed for 3,000 yards in his final three seasons. In his final season, Harris led Alabama in rushing and arguably outperformed both Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris. It’s therefore not out of the question that he outperforms a beat-up Sony Michel either. A breakdown of Harris’ college stats can be seen below:

In addition to the Michel injury/performance situation, James White and Rex Burkhead are free agents after the 2020 season. That may be even more reason for them to give him a look during the 2020 campaign.

Harris has openly stated that his rookie season was a disappointment. Still, he’s been working out at the Patriots’ player only training camps this offseason and has stated how he plans to work hard to meet his expectations.

If Newton gets the starting gig, the offense will undoubtedly become more of a pass-heavy one. Opportunities will be there to a greater degree than years gone by. Harris currently sits 226th in the latest Dynasty Nerds rankings. That makes him the RB68. For a guy that could become the Patriots early-down RB in a heavy run offense, that seems far too low. Now is the time to take advantage.

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