In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.
Merely thinking about the New England Patriots’ backfield will give fantasy owners a sense of fear and trepidation. The inability to predict who will get the touches or who will come out of nowhere to score three touchdowns in a single game serves to frustrate both opposing teams and fantasy players alike. Jonas Gray is a name fantasy owners will not soon forget.
A third-round pick, now in his second season, Damien Harris got his chance to shine. His impressive production in Week 4 leaves fantasy owners in an all too familiar situation: is this a sign of things to come, or is this all just smoke and mirrors?
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris was one of the few bright spots for this offense in Week 4. Harris rushed 17 times for 100 yards in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a nice outing for Harris, but sadly he was strictly used in the ground game. The Pats used Rex Burkhead and James White as the receiving backs. That is likely going to be the case going forward, so Harris will have limited fantasy value. He might be worth a look as an RB3 for next week versus the Denver Broncos.
Talent But No Opportunity
As a rookie, Harris appeared in just two games but only recorded stats in one. The stunning contrast from his productive career at Alabama, the most recent in a line of successful running backs, was puzzling. His athletic build and production profile likely would have granted him more opportunity on any other team, but as fantasy owners know, the Patriots’ backfield is perennially unique.
Harris’ college production offered him some exciting comps, but it was his combine comps that turned more than a few heads.
Players like Kareem Hunt, Alfred Morris, and Alvin Kamara tested at similar benchmarks as Harris. With those players as his ceiling, it seemed he only needed a chance, something he never truly received as a rookie.
In Week 4, Harris got his chance and reached the 100-yard rushing mark on just 17 carries. It was, unsurprisingly, by far the best game of his brief career.
His performance came with teammate Sony Michel on Injured Reserve. His total lack of involvement in the receiving game highlights the struggle of breaking down the Patriots’ backfield. Burkhead and White saw participation in both the rushing and receiving game. The passing work has always elevated White’s value, and Burkhead has been known to make splash plays on a given week.
A 100-yard rushing performance would typically garner more attention and excitement. However, without a high volume of rushing touchdowns or a semblance of involvement in the receiving game, Harris offers no more than deep-league flex appeal. A rash of injuries to the running back position this season could afford him value, but fantasy owners should be cautious after a single game.