Bleacher Report has shocking pick for Patriots potential ‘Rookie Gem’
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots didn’t care to target value in the 2022 draft.
That became evident after they drafted Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange, a projected Day 3 pick, at No. 29 overall after they traded back, and it continued when they nabbed Baylor wideout Tyquan Thornton in the middle of Round 2.
It’s tough to say who will be the surprise standout of the Patriots’ 10-player class. Rhamondre Stevenson held that title last year after he logged 606 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry as a fourth-round pick.
Despite Stevenson, Damien Harris, James White and JJ Taylor all returning, New England drafted two more running backs this year: South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. in Round 4 and South Carolina’s Kevin Harris in Round 6.
It’s unclear what kind of role, if any, Strong Jr. and Harris will have as rookies. They’re likely to play more on special teams than get meaningful snaps in the backfield, but Bleacher Report writer Ian Wharton doesn’t see it that way.
In picking potential “Rookie Gems” for each team, Wharton shockingly gave Harris the nod for the Patriots.
Bleacher Report thinks Patriots sixth-round pick Kevin Harris will be a surprise contributor as a rookie.
What prompted Wharton to give Harris the nod over Strong Jr.? While he believes the South Dakota State product is the more impressive athlete and has greater upside, he thinks Harris has the more “pro-ready skill set.”
"Kevin Harris was a dominant rusher at South Carolina before a back injury derailed his collegiate career and drastically hurt his draft stock. He’s similar to incumbent starter Damien Harris. Considering Damien Harris missed two games in 2021 and that he’s a free agent after this season, the door is open for his replacement to earn a solid workload."
We hate to push back on Wharton’s analysis, but Harris faces an uphill climb (to say the least) to make the roster, let alone crack the rotation. Does that formula really sound conducive to producing a “rookie gem”?
The Patriots’ embraced the popular running back-by-committee approach with Harris and Stevenson last season, who combined to post 1,535 rushing yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns. With both players navigating injuries, the offense turned to the experienced Brandon Bolden, who saw 44 carries as a third-stringer.
Will Bill Belichick entrust Harris with that role? Over White, Ty Montgomery, Taylor and Strong Jr.? Barring an injury or two, Harris will be hard-pressed to carve out a role for himself as a rookie. Even if he defies the odds and makes the 53-man roster, we can’t say with any confidence he’ll get enough touches to become a “gem” on the Pats’ offense.
We’d love to be wrong, but this feels like wishful thinking on Wharton’s part.