The Patriots drafted Damien Harris in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, which was a bit of a surprise to many. His selection left some speculating that the Patriots have legitimate concerns about Sony Michel's knee issues, and with Michel starting training camp on the PUP list, Harris should step right into preseason volume. Harris averaged 6.4 yards per carry in his four-year career at Alabama, and he also displayed excellent receiving skills that culminated in 200 receiving yards in 2018.
Of course, it's also possible that Harris was simply the highest-graded player on New England's draft board at the time of the pick, that the Patriots don't expect Michel to miss time, and that they envision Harris' role as a depth option as insurance against injury to either Michel or Burkhead. Sony Michel was barely used as a receiver in his rookie season despite showing proficiency in that role in college, and it wouldn't be shocking for Harris to experience the same thing, given the level of precision expected by Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady in the passing game.
2019 Bottom Line
Based on ADP across multiple sites, Harris is being drafted as the RB47 in the late 11th/early 12th round. 4for4 has him projected as the RB62, a disparity that suggests he's being heavily overdrafted at ADP. A significant role is within his range of outcomes, but it's reliant on a Michel injury, underperformance by or an injury to Burkhead and immediate usage as a receiver despite James White likely commanding a high volume of targets. With the Patriots likely to take a cautious approach with Michel in the preseason, Harris' ADP is likely to become further inflated with preseason usage.