AFC East

How Does Harris Impact Michel? – Joe Salmeri

by Joe Salmeri

When talking about the New England Patriots, we are talking about potentially again one of the most potent offenses in the NFL this upcoming season. With Tom Brady again leading the helm and the addition of new offensive weapons like N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, and Damien Harris we could see an offensive output that matches some of the best Patriot offenses to date, even with the loss of an aging and injury prone Rob Gronkowski.

A very important part of the Patriots offensive potential will rely on a loaded backfield, last year we saw Sony Michel leading the charge for a majority of the season as Jeremy Hill tore his ACL early in the season and Rex Burkhead had lingering neck problems through the course of the season. This resulted in very productive numbers for the 2018 first round draft pick Michel where he rushed for close to 1000 yards, averaged close to five yards per carry and had 6 touchdowns without even being the workhorse back for the entirety of the season. Michel showed potential to be an every down back with explosive hole hitting ability and great vision, he also showed ability to catch the ball out of the backfield like he did at Georgia, although this was overshadowed by James White‘s stellar season catching the ball out of the backfield to compliment the rushing ability of Sony Michel.

In the 2019 draft the Patriots again selected a running back, this time it was Damien Harris in the third round. At Alabama, Harris was essentially the lead back complimented by the versatility of first round pick Josh Jacobs (Oakland Raiders). Harris was a bruising, powerfully built running back at Alabama where he eclipsed 1000 yards twice and averaged close to an exceptional 6.5 yards per carry.

How will this affect Sony Michel we ask? We can look at the regular season and playoff splits of Michel with Rex Burkhead and without him for reference. In the regular season with Burkhead involved in the backfield, Michel’s numbers decreased from about 80 yards per to game to about 65 yards per game. He also averaged about two to three less touches per game. However, when it came time for do or die in the playoffs these numbers were dramatically different, as the Patriots put full trust in Michel as their lead back with Michel averaging over 100 yards per game and about 24 touches per game.

There’s no denying there will be a lot of mouths to feed with the addition of Damien Harris, but that does not mean we should sway from the fact that the Patriots still have one of the best and most explosive offenses in the NFL and showed that they trust Michel as their primary running back. Belichick and the Patriots have shown they will use the running back by committee approach and the addition of Harris may take away a few touches from Michel, but Michel will still be an effective and reliable fantasy running back with low end RB1 upside, even with Harris in the mix. Currently we are looking at Michel being an early third to mid third round option as there are a lot of teams that look like they will be taking the running back by committee approach this year in the NFL.

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