Patriots running backs
Photo by Wesley Hitt: Getty Images

Stay Away From Patriots Running Backs in 2021 Fantasy Football

The Patriots running back position might be the most fluid position in the NFL. Over the years, coach Belichick has featured a single back other than the Corey Dillon and Curtis Martin days. So can any Patriots running backs be trust in 2021 fantasy football?

The 2021 Patriots running back room consists of Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and JJ Taylor. Bolden is mostly a special teams guy while Taylor will not get enough snaps to be productive in fantasy. The other four will rotate frequently, with White being more of a third-down passing threat, Stevenson used around the goal line à la LeGarrette Blount while Harris and Michel will get most of the rushing attempts. The split load that the Patriots implore is scary when it comes to fantasy, as different backs will tend to get more touches week to week based on matchups, health, and other factors.

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Damien Harris seemed to be the primary back last year despite only playing in ten games. In those ten games, Harris had 137 attempts, 691 yards, and only two touchdowns. Although he runs with anger and intensity and finishes his cuts, Harris was not a productive fantasy back, averaging 8.6 points and eclipsing double-digit points in only four games. Michel only played in nine games and was not very fantasy-productive or productive in general – he averaged 7.6 points a game and only had two double-digit weeks.

Another factor that needs to be taken into account is how different this offense looks with Cam Newton. Newton led the league in rushing touchdowns for a quarterback with twelve and ran for almost 600 yards on the season. It was evident that when the Patriots got inside the five-yard line that Newton was going to run the ball. New England had the second-highest rush rate in the league at 51.28%, but I expect that to do down in 2021. The Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft went on an unusual spending spree this offseason and brought in the likes of Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne. With an upgraded supporting cast and Cam’s second year in the system, I expect the Patriots to pass a lot more in 2021.

I would advise staying away from Patriots running backs in fantasy this year. Damien Harris is the least risky of the bunch but running back committees worry me in fantasy, as it is hard to rely on backs for consistent fantasy production if they are not getting sufficient rushing attempts. Harris, Michel, and Stevenson will get a majority of the carries with White getting the catches, but I do not see the unit scoring a lot of touchdowns.

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