At the beginning of training camp early last month, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said something that sent major ripples through the fantasy football world. He talked up third-year running back Damien Harris, pointing to the improvement the Alabama product has shown from last season to this one and, most enticing of all, noted that Harris has a chance to compete for the lead spot.
Of course, this being the Patriots backfield, it’s not so easy. Harris has some competition from Sony Michel and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. If past is prologue, the Patriots are unlikely to have a true three-down running back. Stevenson, who was activated off the injury list prior to camp, is likely competing for snaps on passing downs with Michel. While Harris has the chance to handle a heavier load on the first two downs and goal-line situations, looking to build on the average of just under 14 carries per contest in 10 games last year.
Here’s the latest.
Latest camp news
Week 2 preseason recap: Rhamondre Stevenson continued to show out in the Pats’ 35-0 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday. The rookie had 15 carries for 66 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also caught a pass for eight yards. Here’s him juking a bunch of Eagle defenders...
Rhamondre Stevenson has the talent to be RB1 on an NFL roster pic.twitter.com/y8SzpRL9qc— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) August 20, 2021
Michel got his fair share of touches, getting seven carries for 34 yards and four receptions for 37. Harris also got plenty of burn, going six carries for 14 yards.
Week 1 preseason recap: The fourth-round pick Stevenson made a statement in the Patriots’ 22-13 win over the Washington Football Team last Thursday, taking 10 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns for the night. The biggest highlight came late in the fourth when he put the game to bed for New England with a 91-yard score.
Michel had 13 snaps on the evening and took six carries for 26 yards. Harris had a relatively light load with eight snaps for four carries and 17 yards in the win.
RHAMONDRE STEVENSON COAST TO COST— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 13, 2021
August 10: Harris has been crushing it at camp. On Sunday, August 8, with a session focused heavily on the run game, Harris led all backs in total workload. By all accounts, he’s looked great so far. Michel got some praise on Monday making an over-the-shoulder catch on a pass from rookie QB Mac Jones. Stevenson was mixing it up earlier in the week with defensive back Myles Bryant, but running backs coach Ivan Fears’ only assessment of Stevenson so far is that he has a lot to learn.
Next preseason game: at New York Giants
The Pats will close the preseason on Sunday, August 29 at 6 p.m. ET at MetLife Stadium when taking on the New York Giants. Harris’ touches will most likely go up with it being close to the regular season and Michel will get a steady dose as well. But Stevenson has been electric and they’d be foolish to stop feeding him.
Fantasy football verdict
Heading into Week 3 preseason: Harris and Michel will still be primed as one and two on the depth charts with both guys holding value as a Flex/RB2 option at best. But continue to keep tabs on Stevenson as he’s surely played his way into a spot on the final 53-man roster. He may be a late-round diamond in the rough when this is all said and done.
Heading into Week 2 preseason: Out of this trio, still bank on Harris being the one who emerges as RB1 as he’s still listed at the top of unofficial Patriots depth charts. His value as a top fantasy prospect diminishes somewhat with Michel bound to get his fair share of carries and James White always lurking as a pass catching threat. Stevenson is intriguing in his bid to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster. He’ll be a person to keep tabs on in the waiver wire throughout the season if he can continue to prove himself as a viable back.