When it comes to drafting running backs late, you want to find a guy with upside.
There's no exact science to upside. But you want a reasonably talented back who could see opportunity. You also want him in an offense that can maximize his skill set.
The New England Patriots are a team that maximizes running back value as good as any in the NFL. It's also looking like they will be doing much more of that in 2019.
Last season's success
The Patriots ran the ball a lot more in 2018.
They used a combination of James White and Sony Michel and the results were solid.
Both running backs finished in the Top 25 overall. Only the Chicago Bears achieved the same feat with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard.
In Week 4, White and Michel combined for over 40 fantasy points.
The reason this worked was because Michel was the ground guy, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown. White finished with eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. So he was the clear receiving back.
But things got messy when Michel went down with an injury. In Week 13, backup running back James Develin sniped 2 touchdowns on 4 carries.
This Patriots offense has a clear system with running backs that works. This is why backup Damien Harris could become a major fantasy asset this season.
Why the Patriots offense is good for running backs
The Patriots are a SMART team. There's a reason they've won as 6 Super Bowls despite being in a league where it's hard to stay on top.
This is because they follow the analytics. One of those analytics is rushing attempts inside the 5.
The Patriots ran the ball a lot on the goal line. Michel had 12 carries inside the 5 last season, tied for fifth most in the NFL.
Harris is a power back who would be an ideal goal line guy for New England.
Two, they throw the ball to running backs on first down a lot. This is the new way to get first downs in the modern game. It also leads to more scoring opportunities.
2019 offensive outlook for New England
The Patriots are going to be one of the more run-heavy teams in the league again this season. This is largely because they don't have much at receiver this year. They lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement. There have been reports that rookie N'Keal Harry has struggled with drops in camp. Josh Gordon's status for reinstatement is still up in the air and Phillip Dorsett is just a guy. As of now, Julian Edelman is the only sure thing they have. But he's only a slot receiver.
Why Harris is a good selection
The biggest reason Harris is a good selection is Michel's injury status. There's a lot of concern that Michel's knee injury is worse than most of its kind. It's likely he could be held out the entire preseason. This is giving Harris valuable reps to get up to speed faster.
Plus, Harris is a power back who will fill Michel's role nicely. His ball security and pass protection ability are both excellent for a rookie. He should instill trust in coach Bill Bellichick right out of the gate. He's a threat to take carries away from Michel at some point during the season.
Great ADP value
As of now, Harris is going off draft boards as an RB44. He's behind other backup running backs like Ronald Jones II and Latavius Murray.
Harris is probably a better choice than both of those backs. His offensive line is better. His skill set fits perfectly for his specific role. Plus he will also have plenty of red zone running opportunities.
Now, all of Harris's fantasy value rests on the health of Michel. So if Michel turns out to be fine, then Harris won't matter. But there's enough question marks on Michel to make Harris worth the risk. If you even want to call it that considering there isn't much else to draft at that spot.
So buy as much Harris stock as you can in 2019. You'll be glad you did.