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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Damien Harris No. 65

The Patriots starting RB comes in at 65 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) carries the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at SoFi Stadium.  Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are known for their convoluted running back by committees, but as it is with most backfields, injuries cause the most convolusion. Damien Harris was the lead back last season in New England, but he did share work and missed six games due to injury. Coming into this season he is the lead back on a team that should improve from last season. Can he stay healthy and consistent in 2021?

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 65, Damien Harris, New England Patriots, RB

Harris averaged five yards per carry on 137 rushing attempts and only had seven targets through 10 games in 2020. The Patriots would love for him to be able to stay healthy and take over the job for 17 weeks, but they haven’t had a back able to do that very often. Like with most running backs in this section of your drafts, health is key. That’s how it is with all players, but players like Harris could lose their jobs completely with just a few weeks off.

Competition for touches

The Patriots added Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round of the draft and kept James White around for another season. Sony Michel is also on the team, but there is some speculation that Stevenson could beat him out and take his spot on the roster. Michel’s injury woes have shown that he may not be long for the league, but he did average 5.7 yards per carry in nine games last season. Harris was the lead back the few times he and Michel were both healthy, so I expect that to continue no matter who is backing Harris up this season.

Team offensive expectations

The Patriots lost Tom Brady last season and had Cam Newton come in during Covid-19, which slowed his progress with the playbook. Newton also got Covid and the team had no receivers to speak of with Julian Edelman out for much of the season. This off season they added a stable of wide receivers and tight ends to help boost production through the air. They also drafted Mac Jones, who should at least push Newton early on and could take over early.

What’s his upside?

Harris’ upside is that of a starting running back on a team that should be able to run the ball and have more scoring opportunities than last season. His lack of receptions is troubling, but if he can stay healthy and the offense improves, he should beat his ADP.

What’s his downside?

There is a chance Stevenson could start getting some run and if Harris misses time, the odds he could lose touches go up. He’s risky to be sure, but there are positives for getting him at his current ADP.

Projection

210 attempts, 1150 yards, 7 touchdowns — 20 receptions, 145 yards, 1 touchdown