Damien Harris is the Running Back Lottery Ticket to Purchase in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
Bill Belichick has been the Head Coach in New England for 20 seasons now and his offenses have finished in the top-13 in the league in rushing attempts in 15 of those 20 seasons. To be fair, his offenses have also finished top-12 in the league in passing attempts 16 of those 20 seasons. But with Cam Newton projected to lead the offense in 2020, designing a run-heavy offense that plays to Newton and the team’s strengths seems extremely plausible. And it’s what I’m projecting.
Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead all return and Lamar Miller has been added, seemingly making it improbable for any other Running Back on the roster to make a significant impact. However, White is locked in as the pass-catching RB and Burkhead never has seen more than 65 carries in a season over three years in New England.
That leaves Michel and Miller to battle it out for the rushing role, right? Not so fast. Michel is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after offseason foot surgery and has dealt with numerous injuries in his career to date. Let’s consider the fact Miller may have been brought in mainly for Michel insurance. If so, Michel’s health could be worse than we even realize. And even if Belichick envisions a larger role for Lamar, there is no guarantee that will come to fruition after he missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL. So let’s not bury Damien Harris just yet.
Belichick’s Limited RB Draft History
Belichick has only drafted ten RBs in 20 seasons as the head coach in New England and only six of them were drafted in the first three rounds. That puts Damien Harris in rare company, joining Sony Michel, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Laurence Maroney, and J.R. Redmond.
All five prior to Harris played a significant role for Belichick at some point, even if for a short period of time. Harris certainly has a chance to join that group this season thanks to Michel’s shaky health, questions regarding how much Miller has left in the tank, and the Patriots’ likely run-heavy gameplan overall.
Here’s a quick comparison of Michel and Harris showing they’re similar players.
|Player||Height||Weight||College Rush Yards||College Receiving Yards||40 Yard Dash||Speed Score (Player Profiler)|
|Sony Michel||5' 11"||214||3,613||621||4.54||67th-percentile|
|Damien Harris||5' 10"||216||3,070||407||4.57||60th-percentile|
Michel certainly has a bit of a leg up, which helps explain why he was a first-round pick in 2018. However, Harris was a third-round pick last season in his own right, meaning Belichick and the Patriots’ organization certainly saw plenty they liked, especially considering their rare history of investing draft capital into the position during the Belichick era.
Value and Upside
Only one of these two similar RBs is currently healthy and that is Damien Harris. And according to Yahoo Half PPR scoring, Harris’ ADP doesn’t even register and in 104 FFPC Best Ball Drafts over the past two weeks, Harris’ ADP registers as RB54 and 155.2 overall in the 13th-round of 12 team leagues. That data was collected before the Lamar Miller signing. Harris used to have an affordable cost but even better, he’ll essentially be free now.
Reward largely outweighs risk late in drafts and Harris’ upside is the lead runner in a successful ground attack if the dominoes fall his way. Sony Michel saw 267 opportunities (16.7 per game) last season and until he’s healthy or if his injury concerns continue, those valuable chances will be there for the taking if Harris can beat out Miller or at least earn a part-time role. Don’t overlook Harris just because he may appear “buried” on the depth chart upon first glance. Digging deeper, striking gold with Harris is more probable than most realize.