BOSTON (CBS) — While most teams in the NFL are going away from the running back position, the New England Patriots are making it a priority.
They drafted Sony Michel in the first round last year and it worked out pretty well for everyone, as Michel turned into their primary back and was the only player to score a touchdown in New England’s Super Bowl LIII victory over the L.A. Rams.
The Patriots didn’t need to draft another running back this year, but they added to their stable Friday night, drafting Alabama rusher Damien Harris in the third round with the 87th overall pick.
Harris played four seasons with the Crimson Tide, racking up over 3,000 rushing yards as he split playing time with an array of other backs. He ran for 876 yards as a senior, and rushed for over 1,000 yards in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He also caught 52 passes out of the backfield for 407 yards in his four years at Alabama. Overall, Harris found the end zone 25 times (23 rushing, two receiving scores) during his collegiate career.
Harris, who stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs in at 216-lbs, joins Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and Brandon Bolden on New England’s depth chart. He’ll likely be Michel’s backup as New England’s early-down back, and he may even steal some playing time from Burkhead given his ability to contribute in the passing game.
It may seem a bit odd that the Patriots would draft another running back over positions of need, such as tight end, safety, linebacker and offensive line (they drafted left tackle Yodny Cajuste with their final pick on Friday). But they probably remember last season when they needed receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to take snaps at running back as Michel and Burkhead dealt with injuries, and wanted to add a little more depth at a position they see as an important part of their evolving offense.