Amid his breakout season, should RB Damien Harris be considered the Patriots’ best offensive draft pick since 2016?
After barely seeing the field as a rookie last season, Patriots running back Damien Harris has burst onto the scene in a huge way this year, promptly removing the dreaded bust label that several media members attached to his name.
The Alabama product has established himself as the Pats’ No. 1 RB for the rest of the 2020 campaign and (hopefully) beyond. Through six games, he’s taken 85 carries for 471 yards, which is good for an elite 5.5 yards per attempt, and one touchdown.
You have to think that Harris’ emergence will make the Patriots’ impending decision on Sony Michel’s fifth-year option a heck of a lot easier than fans anticipated heading into the season. His 2019 combination of speed and power has added an entirely new dynamic to the offense, and he better continue to be the workhorse when Michel is activated off injured reserve.
So, with all of this in mind, is it time to crown Harris as the Patriots’ best offensive draft pick of the last five years? No, seriously. Like, actually.
Let’s take a look at the other candidates, shall we?
In our eyes, the only other draftees who could make Harris sweat in this debate are offensive linemen Joe Thuney, a third-round pick in 2016, and Isaiah Wynn, a first-rounder in 2018. The former has undoubtedly been the unsung hero of the Patriots’ offense over the last five seasons, whereas the latter is finally beginning to flash potential after struggling with injuries over his first two years in the league.
Ironically enough, the other most noteworthy candidate is 2020 sixth-round gem Michael Onwenu, who, according to Pro Football Focus, has been the best offensive rookie so far this season. Considering the other studs in his draft class, that feat speaks volumes as to how exceptional he’s been in the trenches for the Patriots.
Objectively speaking, those are the only three players who can potentially divide opinions among fans in this debate. To put Harris’ breakout year into perspective, only three running backs — Derrick Henry (five), Dalvin Cook (four) and Ronald Jones (four) — have had more 100-yard rushing games than him this season, and it really makes you wonder why the Patriots essentially red-shirted him as a rookie.
Given that he’s been the anchor of New England’s offensive line for four seasons and has yet to miss a game in his career, we probably have to give the nod to Thuney. However, with his Patriots’ future very much in question, Harris could assume that mantle as soon as players arrive for training in the offseason.
Outside of Thuney’s existence, Harris is already the runaway winner through his abbreviated tenure, and that’s insane. Best selection in several years. Take note.