Here are Damien Harris’ full NFL stats.
|Year||Games||Carries||Yards||YPC||TDs||Fantasy Rank||Fantasy PPG||PPG Rank|
The Patriots selected Harris with the 87th overall pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. They had a relatively crowded backfield at the time, consisting of 2019 first-round pick Sony Michel, pass-catcher James White, and veteran Rex Burkhead. Given Michel’s relatively inefficient performances as a rookie, some people thought that Harris could challenge for the starting role. Even if Harris wouldn’t be the immediate starter, I believed he could compete with Michel for early-down work, alongside White as the third-down back.
Unfortunately, none of that came to pass. Not only did Harris not pose any threat to Michel’s workload, but he also didn’t surpass Rex Burkhead as the Patriots’ backup running back. Michel took 247 carries, maintaining his two-down role from 2018. Burkhead contributed 65 carries while Harris only had four. Harris only dressed for a handful of games throughout the season, and he only recorded offensive stats in two contests. Essentially, Harris had a redshirt rookie year.
2020 PERFORMANCE AND OUTLOOK
Going into 2020, little changed in the Patriots’ backfield. They did move on from longtime quarterback Tom Brady, replacing him with Cam Newton. Newton has played as a pseudo-goal-line back throughout his career, so his signing reduced the ceiling for all Patriots’ running backs.
However, Michel suffered a foot injury during the offseason, forcing him to miss most of training camp. In Michel’s absence, Harris had an excellent camp, looking like he was about to steal the starting running back job. But, Harris suffered a pinkie injury on the eve of the season and required surgery. The Patriots placed Harris on injured reserve, and he missed the opening three games.
In those three games, the Patriots used a muddy committee of Burkhead, Michel, White, and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor. White missed two games due to the tragic death of his father, who was in a car accident. The Patriots turned to Burkhead to pick up the slack while using Michel sparingly.
Before Week 4, the Patriots placed Michel on injured reserve with a new quad injury, and they activated Harris from injured reserve in a corresponding move. In Harris’ first game, he had 17 carries for 100 yards, although he saw no work in the receiving game. However, Harris saw fewer snaps than both White and Burkhead, and he practically carried the ball whenever he was on the field.
Harris seems to have taken Michel’s old grinder role, with Burkhead as a change-of-pace back and White as the pass-catcher. Since Harris won’t catch many passes, he’s only a low-upside RB3 or flex option until Michel returns. Newton will also vulture goal-line carries when he comes off the COVID-19 reserve list, and Michel will further confuse the backfield later on. You can’t rely on Harris for any consistent production in 2020.
Even though I don’t expect Harris to provide much fantasy value in 2020, I believe he’s the most talented running back on the Patriots right now. Both Burkhead and White will be free agents after 2020, and I don’t think the Patriots will re-sign either player, especially Burkhead. The Patriots still have Michel under contract for 2021, although they will undoubtedly decline his 2022 fifth-year option.
Harris’ problem is that the Patriots will almost certainly replace White if they don’t retain him. Head coach Bill Belichick loves to use a running back committee, and Harris isn’t a unique talent that would force him to change his approach. Therefore, Harris will likely never be more than a low-end RB2, even if he completely consolidates the early-down work. Keep that ceiling in mind when evaluating him in dynasty leagues.
Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Karp. I love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out at any time! I take fantasy questions and help with all formats, so keep sending those questions my way.