For the second year in a row, the Patriots drafted a prominent running back from college football’s Southeastern Conference. New England will hope that third-round pick Damien Harris is as productive as a rookie as Sony Michel was a year ago.
The obvious question will be exactly where the Alabama running back fits into the Patriots’ increasingly crowded backfield.
New England’s current depth chart lists Harris behind Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. He’ll also compete with Brandon Bolden (recently re-signed after a year with the Dolphins).
Harris, who was the No. 8 overall recruit according to Rivals in 2015, has the ability to contribute right away. At the very least, he will provide depth in case the Patriots encounter injuries in 2019.Here are a few other things to know about the newest Patriots running back:
He’s a ‘football player’ by the Patriots’ definition.
The term “football player” is used in describing some of the classic Patriots (extending even to Adam Vinatieri). More than compartmentalized dominance of a particular position, stereotypical Bill Belichick players are prized more for their versatility. They aren’t just good kickers or running backs, but are instead “football players” who are good in multiple roles.
With Harris, it’s clear that the Patriots see him in this mold.
“Whatever else you’re looking at, he falls into the good football player category that’s been consistently productive over the course of however many years,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft.
At Alabama, Harris rushed for 2,913 yards in the three seasons he was prominently involved in the offense. He scored 20 rushing touchdowns in his final two years, combining elusiveness with power when he carried the ball.
Yet Harris also contributed as an effective blocker, and was willing to serve on special teams. In the 2017 season opener against Florida State, Harris — who started the game at tailback and would also score a touchdown — also blocked at a punt.His well-rounded ability could fit in well with the Patriots.
He’s used to competing for carries.Though he arrived on campus as a five-star recruit out of high school, Harris wasn’t just given the starting running back job. After all, Alabama regularly carries the nation’s best recruiting class.
Of the Crimson Tide running backs Harris competed with for carries, virtually every single one was (or will be) drafted into the NFL as well.
Fierce competition within his own positional group is a theme that will carry over in New England. Given the productivity the Patriots already have at the position, Harris will be part of a committee. That said, his college experience means he already understands the benefits of this strategy.“Being here I see it as more of an advantage than a disadvantage,” said Harris of splitting carries in 2017. “A lot of people think it takes away from how many carries you get or how many yards you potentially get or how much attention you get from being the premier guy at a program like Alabama, but I think that it helps you in the long run because it’s a long a season.
“Over the course of 14, 15 games throughout the course of a long season, it’s nice to have guys come in and split reps with you and split time with you. It keeps you from getting banged up. It keeps you from being tired and worn down throughout the year. I kind of think that’s one of the advantages of having a lot of guys.”
Like Tom Brady, Harris found success in a dietary choice.
While Brady has the TB12 Method, which includes a strict set of principles that he applies to his diet, Harris has a more straightforward method.Prior to his junior season, Harris was caught from behind in the open field by tacklers on several occasions. He set out to remedy the problem during the offseason, and adopted a new diet. The hardest thing he had to give up?
“Honey Buns,” Harris told reporters in 2017. “I love Honey Buns. I haven’t had one in months, since probably June or July, and it hurts to talk about it.”
Alabama’s Twitter account savored the accomplishment with a special highlight video:His opinion of Tom Brady is not in question.
On multiple occasions (including the aftermath of Super Bowl LI), Harris has shared some Twitter thoughts on Brady.