The New England Patriots entered training camp with a crowded backfield and some questions about their recent early round selections in that position group. They finished the preseason with fewer concerns, as Damien Harris emerged as the team’s most skilled back while Sony Michel departed in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
Haris’ work helped the Patriots feel comfortable parting with Michel, but so did the play of 2021 fourth-round pick Rhamodre Stevenson. The rookie led all players in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns during the preseason and made his case for a significant role in the offense.
Throughout training camp and the preseason, Harris demonstrated complete control of the No. 1 job. He worked with the Patriots’ offensive starters and performed well against the opposing No. 1 defenses, displaying the burst and vision that helped him take over the job last year. While Michel’s performance looked fine on the stat sheet — 13 carries for 59 yards — he didn’t move as suddenly or decisively as Harris. That ultimately contributed to New England’s decision to part ways for a pair of Day 3 draft picks. Stevenson impressed as well — 30 carries for 216 yards and five touchdowns — but his damage came mostly against backups.
Fantasy football implications
With Harris now positioned to take the lion’s share of the snaps at running back and less competition in New England, expect him to come off the boards in the RB2 range. Stevenson will have value as a sleeper should Harris miss time.