By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots fans have been happy to finally see Damien Harris get some run in the New England backfield, after he essentially spent his rookie season redshirting.
Now that he’s gotten steady playing time, Harris has certainly turned many heads in the region — and beyond.
Take, for instance, Pro Football Focus, which currently has Harris ranked as the No. 1 graded running back in the entire NFL.
In a world with Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott and a ton of other big-name running backs, it likely comes as a surprise to many to see Harris’ name at the top of the list. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old out of Alabama has clearly thrived when given the opportunity this year.
Harris’ 90.8 rating ranks him above the aforementioned Henry (89.0) and Cook (86.3).
🥇 Damien Harris
🥈 Derrick Henry
🥉 Dalvin Cook
PFF's Highest-Graded RBs of 2020 🏆 pic.twitter.com/CyhewBo3fY
— PFF (@PFF) December 1, 2020
A closer look at the grades of the top running backs shows that Harris isn’t quite at Henry’s level as a rusher (because, really, nobody is) but that Harris’ work as a pass catcher and as a pass blocker has elevated him above the other two contenders.
1. Henry, 89.2
2. Harris, 87.8
3. Cook, 86.6
1. Harris, 67.6
2. Cook, 55.1
3. Henry, 55.1
1. Harris, 82.5
2. Cook, 59.6
3. Henry, 58.3
Harris’ placement is, of course, notable, but it’s also a product of usage. Harris has been on the field for just 196 offensive snaps this year, compared to 484 for Henry and 447 for Cook. As Harris’ usage rises, the Pro Bowlers are likely to pass him on the overall grades.
Nevertheless, the takeaway from this particular rating at this particular point in time is that Harris is already a success, and he should have a bright, sustainable future in Foxboro.