Dynasty Buys Series: Damien Harris
We carry on our dynasty buys series with the running backs, the cornerstones of our fantasy teams, and for our feature player we look to the team that has been affected the most by the pandemic and opt-outs the New England Patriots.
23 year old Damien Harris, now entering his 2nd season as an NFL running back, doesn’t have a clear run to the starting job in New England and that’s not surprising after his disappointing rookie campaign having been drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. This murkiness and uncertainty is likely to put off most fantasy football players doing redrafts in 2020 but it is this beautiful lack of clarity that dynasty owners can take a punt on and now is the time to take that gamble.
Harris’ ADP was on the rise a couple of weeks ago until being somewhat halted by the surprise signing of Lamar Miller. Currently Damien Harris has an ADP outside the top 200 in dynasty leagues, placing outside of the top 70 running backs drafted.
To be successful at Dynasty football you must find the right time to buy and sell players. I like to buy when generally people are selling which is where you get the rock bottom prices. A good opportunity of this for this offseason is to take advantage of peoples short term memory of Damien Harris performing badly in 2019 (Only 4 attempts for 12 yards) and to go buy him, I’ll tell you why this could be a move worth making:
Firstly, apart from the QBs in a Superflex league, the RB position is the hardest to find value from. Dynasty players are always trying to find new RBs and upgrade the RBs they already have so you have to pay a premium to get them. However, Damien Harris is either firmly to the bottom of someone’s bench or if you’re lucky you might find him floating about on the waiver wire in smaller leagues. I’ve seen him go for as little as a 3rd or 4th round rookie pick.
The College Stats
Damien Harris earned top scouting reviews when he declared for the 2019 NFL Draft having been an efficient runner. Whilst not having the top end production for Alabama, he totalled 3070 yards in 4 seasons, scoring 23 rushing TDs along with 407 receiving yards and 2 receiving TDs.
Times are changing in New England and although head coach Bill Belichick remains, QB Tom Brady has now finally moved on, with Cam Newton bought in presumably to take the reigns and bring a whole new offense to the Patriots. The current RB room lacks any stars and struggled to move the ball in 2019, lead back Sony Michel was a big disappointment and in May had surgery to remove discomfort on his foot. When camp opened he was recently placed on the active/PUP list, placing his status for the opening games currently up in the air. Miller was bought into the fold recently but was immediately placed on the PUP List alongside Michel.
If Michel & Miller are not up to full speed at the start of the season there are going to be opportunities for 30-year-old Rex Burkhead or second year player Damien Harris. Long-time Patriot James White is going to be the dominant pass catching back but the potential opportunity is there for Harris to establish himself as a reliable guy in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Harris fits the mould of a classic NFL RB who could handle a large workload, measuring at 5’11” and 213 lbs. He has never had blistering breakaway speed, but from his college days he does possess great patience when waiting for plays to develop and has excellent ball security. He’s demonstrated the ability to be an all-round back, and although clearly raw he didn’t lose many one on ones when pass protecting.
New England is clearly in a new era and is no longer looked at as among the favourites for the Super Bowl. Does this mean they will they look to move on from their aging backfield soon? Burkhead (30) and White (28) have been mainstays in the team for at least the past four seasons. Sony Michel regressed in 2019 from a solid 2018 rookie campaign but should continue his lead back role in 2020, as long as he can come back fully healthy. Damien Harris will have increased but limited opportunities in 2020 but we are not buying him for this season…
The Harris rumbles are starting to get louder as positional battles play out at practice and it’s becoming a reality that the second year back is genuinely fighting for the starting job according to Patriot media outlets. I grabbed my shares of Harris weeks ago and then increased my shares with the Lamar Miller signing (Harris shares hit rock bottom, I was able to pick him off waivers from a guy who dropped him for Ito Smith!). You need to act fast though if you want to acquire any shares. The fantasy community are starting to warm again to the possibility that Harris can contribute this season so the cost is starting to creep up.
2020 is the year of the surprise and Harris could have a meaningful workload which didn’t look to be possible only a few weeks back. If 2020 is the surprise, then 2021 could really be the Damien Harris show. It would need a few things to fall his way (Michel to disappoint again when he’s healthy and Harris would need to impress in his opportunities in 2020) but looking ahead just one year, Harris could find himself as the starting running back in a Cam Newton led Patriots offense with a heavy workload. His value this time next off-season could very well be much MUCH higher.