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The Beast from the East: Is Rhamondre Stevenson the AFC East’s next RB1?

Is it finally time to 100% buy into Rhamondre Stevenson? Let @MJohrendt23 tell you why the New England RB is in a great spot for 2023.

Any concerns of Rhamondre Stevenson being stuck in a timeshare have gone out the window after Damien Harris departed for Buffalo, and the New England Patriots did not draft any running backs. While there are some free agents that could impact his bell-cow status (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette), it seems unlikely.

Recent Fantasy History

In 2022, the Patriots were around the league average (42.25%) in rushing play percentage, down three percent from 2021. Even though Stevenson did share work with Harris and others, he earned 210 of the team’s 356 RB carries (~59%).

Tied with Joe Mixon and Tyler Allgeier for the 16th-most carries on the year, it’s fair to say that Stevenson left a lot left on the bone last year in terms of carries he should have earned. But with Harris out of the picture, expect those numbers to increase.

A huge benefit to Stevenson’s workload that helped overcome his middling carries was his receiving work – earning 89 touches (third-most) and hauling in 69 balls (fourth-most) certainly raises his ceiling, especially in PPR formats. With the Patriots not seeming to be confident in Mac Jones as their quarterback of the future, Stevenson is the primary beneficiary of that, and last year was a good look at the kind of safe floor he has.

What’s New for 2023

As previously said, the most significant aspect of 2023 is that Stevenson has the backfield to himself. With Matt Patricia gone, Bill O’Brien is now the offensive coordinator, with reports saying that the offense will look completely different.

Could these changes mean that Stevenson receives less rushing work? Anything is possible, but no signs indicate any major changes that would negatively impact Stevenson’s stock for 2023.

In terms of receiving work, that should be the area that Stevenson truthers may need to worry a bit. While an older source, there is some truth to O’Brien playing favorites in the passing game, specifically tight ends.

When O’Brien had his first go at the offensive coordinator role in New England, he helped orchestrate the two-headed tight end attack with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, jumpstarting the passing attack. Obviously, Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry are far from the talent that O’Brien coached in the early 2010s, but it still should act as a look into the type of outlook that he has had in the past when running an NFL offense.

Another wrinkle ‘working against’ Stevenson is the addition of Juju Smith-Schuster, who will command a ton of slot work. This could lead to slot work once given to Stevenson (13 receptions) being given to Smith-Schuster, limiting Stevenson’s ceiling.

It is tough to tell what kind of offensive changes, both minor and major, O’Brien has in store for the Patriots in 2023, which makes it slightly tough to pinpoint what type of growth Stevenson’s role should see.

Dynasty Trade Values

  • Travis Etienne for Rhamondre Stevenson
  • 2024 1st & 2024 2nd for Rhamondre Stevenson
  • 2023 1st & Treylon Burks for Rhamondre Stevenson

When perusing the DynastyGM trade browser, the value for Stevenson seems to be all over the board, but in the month of May alone, there is a ton of action involving teams looking to acquire the New England RB1.

A swap of young stud running backs in the first deal is super interesting, but Stevenson’s full control of that backfield currently makes him much closer in value to Travis Etienne than you may think.

The second deal involving two 2024 selections is a fair move to make, with a ton of uncertainty built in for the side receiving the picks. This is certainly a deal on the lighter side for Stevenson unless the 1st is a guaranteed top-3 pick (I would still probably take the Stevenson side).

For the third package, a back-end 2023 first and Burks still feels like a slight overpay, but it’s semi-close in value. A mid-first and Burks wins that deal, and a top-3 first & Burks easily wins that deal as well – this could be seen as a bit of an over-correction in the market, buying the dip but overpaying for it.

Final Thoughts

Even with some of the uncertainties surrounding New England’s offense in ’23, Stevenson is one of the surest bets on the entire team. While he certainly is not in the ‘Buy High’ territory, Stevenson is a player you should be looking to acquire if you can.

There may be a slight buy-low window currently because of the generally-negative opinion surrounding any sort of offensive fantasy piece for the Patriots, but that window, if it’s even open, will likely shut soon.

A breakout season could be underway soon for Stevenson, even if the Patriots’ offense is once again stagnant. Make sure you get in at the ground floor now because the price to acquire that will only continue to rise.

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