In the past two off-seasons, I have done a dynasty battle series highlighting players with similar dynasty ADPs at the same position on the same team. These articles are perfect to revisit, as I had to compare two players and decide between them. Therefore, I either got the call right or wrong, and it gives me a chance to be accountable for that choice.
With that said, let’s review my article on Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson!
Previous Article Summary
In July 2022, I wrote an article comparing the dynasty value of Harris and Stevenson, both Patriots’ running backs. At the time, the Patriots had an extremely crowded backfield, including both Harris and Stevenson and rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. Additionally, James White remained on the roster as a veteran holdover.
Previously, I discussed Harris’s superior NFL production. He scored 15 rushing touchdowns in 2021, finishing as the RB13 overall and the RB19 in fantasy points per game. Stevenson saw some playing time in his 2021 rookie season but hadn’t yet made a consistent fantasy impact.
However, even though Stevenson hadn’t done much in the NFL, he seemed to be on a superior career trajectory to Harris. Below is a look back on part of that article.
As I discussed in the previous article, Stevenson saw relatively impressive volume for a Patriots rookie, especially for a fourth-rounder. In contrast, Harris only had four carries as a rookie, serving as a healthy scratch for most of the year.
Interestingly, I started writing the original article expecting to say that I preferred Harris over Stevenson in dynasty formats. However, as I put the piece together, I changed my mind, focusing on Stevenson’s youth and rookie production. Additionally, Stevenson had a better receiving profile than Harris, which helped me lean his way.
Of course, Stevenson vaulted into workhorse territory in 2022. White retired before the season opened, and the Patriots cut Kevin Harris, leaving only Stevenson, Damien Harris, and Pierre Strong as significant running backs on the roster. Harris struggled with many injuries, while Strong developed slowly, leaving most of the backfield touches open for Stevenson.
Through 16 weeks, Stevenson has had an impressive statistical profile.
Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
He’s averaged 4.8 YPC and 61.8 rushing yards per game, but he’s genuinely impressed with 64 receptions for 393 yards. Due to his receiving volume, he’s currently the RB10 and 14th in fantasy PPG.
Additionally, there’s no question who served as the better fantasy asset between Stevenson and Harris.
Chart courtesy of DLF Player Scoring History App.
As you can see, Stevenson outscored Harris in six of the ten games they both played, and only Stevenson offered an actual fantasy ceiling. He exceeded 20 fantasy points in six games, while Harris topped out at 16.7 fantasy points. Harris wasn’t awful in the games he played, but his lack of receiving work and lower rushing efficiency led to mediocre fantasy numbers.
2023 and Beyond
Of course, Harris is a free agent this off-season, and I doubt the Patriots will make any effort to retain his services.
Interestingly, Stevenson’s role barely changed with or without Harris in the lineup. He averaged similar carries, targets, and PPR points whether Harris played or not. These splits indicate that Stevenson locked down his role as the Patriots’ lead back and didn’t only benefit from Harris’s injuries.
Chart courtesy of DLF Player Splits App.
The Patriots could bring in a veteran or rookie draft pick to complement Stevenson in 2023, but his role has differed from any previous Patriots’ running back. Typically, even the Patriots’ lead back tops out around a 50% snap share, as they use a two or three-way committee no matter their personnel. However, Stevenson defied that trend in 2022.
Chart courtesy of DLF Snap Count App.
Outside of week one and an injury-shortened week 14, Stevenson broke a 55% snap share in every other game. He broke 80% in five games, unheard of for a Patriots’ running back. Therefore, I fully believe he’s their workhorse back moving forward to 2023, no matter their other options.
As for Harris, I believe he’s a fine running back who should find another job in 2023. However, he’s fighting for a committee role at best, as he doesn’t contribute in the passing game. I’ll be interested to see where he signs, but he’s more of a depth piece and a fantasy flier.
The most significant part of my previous article is how I changed my mind from Harris to Stevenson while writing it. I learned that it’s important to evaluate your dynasty process constantly, even while producing content. I brought that same thinking to Ask DLF on the DLF YouTube channel throughout the 2022 season, and I plan to continue that during the off-season.
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