Damien Harris Fantasy Outlook: Is he a must-start in Week 1?

This offseason has seen Damien Harris’ fantasy football outlook clarified significantly, but can you trust the Patriots RB in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins?

Damien Harris’ fantasy value in Week 1

The trade of Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams cleared the path for Damien Harris to be the lead back in New England. Additionally, the Patriots did not draft a running back early in the 2021 NFL Draft, instead choosing to add Rhamondre Stevenson later.

All of that leaves Harris atop the depth chart heading into Week 1, but the situation remains clouded. As well as Stevenson, the Patriots have James White, J.J. Taylor, and Brandon Bolden all on their 53-man roster. While some of them may not be active today, there will be considerable competition for touches.

Harris had intriguing numbers for fantasy managers in 2021

Harris is coming off a 2020 season where he averaged 5.0 yards per carry, rushing for 691 yards and 2 touchdowns. Additionally, Harris was second on the team in red-zone carries last season (19). He was behind only QB Cam Newton, who is no longer on the roster. That should open up more opportunities for Harris in scoring positions.

There is reason to be cautious in Week 1

Harris played in 10 games last season and could only rank 33rd in fantasy points per game at 8.6. That is a major concern for Harris’ fantasy managers, who will be hoping for much more when putting him in their lineup.

The most frustrating element is that Harris started all 10 games he played in, but the numbers were inconsistent. His carries varied from 6 to 22, with an average of 13.7 per game. However, the lack of passing-game action was the most concerning. Harris was targeted just 7 times in those 10 games. With White and Taylor on the roster, we could see that all over again.

Stevenson could steal goal-line carries

No running back in the NFL was more effective in the preseason than Stevenson. The rookie RB had 30 attempts for 216 yards and 5 touchdowns. If you played in a preseason fantasy league, Stevenson would have led all backs with 52 points in those three games. That comes despite averaging just 10 rushing attempts and 1.33 targets per game.

Stevenson was particularly effective in finding the end zone and could steal some of that work vacated by the departure of Newton. Losing the goal-line work would be catastrophic for Harris’ fantasy value.

Should you start Damien Harris for fantasy in Week 1?

Harris is going to be a head-scratcher this week for many fantasy managers. He is clearly talented and looks likely to lead the team in rush attempts per game. However, the presence of White, Taylor, and Stevenson severely limits his upside.

Additionally, the Miami Dolphins were one of the best teams against RBs last season. They allowed an average of 18.69 fantasy points per game to the position, per NFL.com. They allowed just 9 touchdowns all season to the position and an average of 74.3 rushing yards per game.

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