Fantasy Football 2020: Damien Harris or Sony Michel? Finding the Best Value on the Patriots

By Alex Kurpeski & Angel Maldonado

 

Alex’s Pick: RB Sony Michel, ADP of 8.08 in PPR Leagues (as of July 30, 2020)

It’s rare to see a starting running back in their third professional season with an ADP as low as Michel, though the reasons behind this (inconsistent play, poor receiving outputs, never-ending lower-body injuries) make his case much more understandable. The 2018 first-round pick is coming off of a disappointing campaign that saw him finish as the RB31 overall in fantasy despite playing in all 16 games and finishing tied for 8th in the league in total rushing attempts (247). The fact that Michel failed to produce despite the bevy of opportunities presented to him suggests that his issue may simply be a lack of talent. With his latest injury, it’s hard to have much faith in the former Georgia star’s upside, as the potential for Michel to miss time only bogs down his potential output even more. Yet even with all of the glaring red flags surrounding Michel this season, he stands out as a tremendous value pick for redraft leagues. 

Say what you will about Michel’s spotty track record, as his uninspiring career average of 4.0 YPC suggests that he’s little more than a plodding power back at this stage in his career. As unexciting of a pick as Michel may be, the fact of the matter is that he is a starting running back who should still see a heavy workload in what appears to be a rather run-heavy Patriots offense. With the addition of Cam Newton, Michel could benefit from the play-action looks that the team will likely rely upon. The added threat of Newton as a runner — something that Tom Brady never brought to the table — could create more space for Michel to run, particularly on RPO’s and other option plays. While I don’t expect Michel to do much as a receiver, I do think that the team has faith in his pass-catching abilities. As we saw with Leonard Fournette last season, even the most cinder block handed backs can be turned into receiving backs if they put their minds to it. Opportunity is everything, so I’m going to bet on Michel’s upside as a potential RB2 in the latter half of round 8. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that the third-year back is currently the best value at the position overall, despite his injury concerns. I don’t think a 1,000 yard season is out of the question for Michel in 2020, especially with New England’s lack of receiving talent.  

 

Angel’s Pick: RB Damien Harris, ADP of 11.09 in PPR Leagues (as of July 30, 2020)

I agree with Alex, I also want a share of the Patriots backfield. That being said, Michel is not who I am placing my bet on this season. There is another back on the Patriots roster that is younger, stronger, and even cheaper in terms of ADP than Michel. That back is Damien Harris.

 

The former Alabama star had an uninspiring 2019, finishing the season with 4 carries for 12 yards. Those aren’t numbers that have most people clamoring for more. Still, he’s shown a tendency to break past initial contact, a trait Belichick loves in all of his running backs. He isn’t explosive; he lacks the creative vision, acceleration, and speed to break away from defenders, but he will run over them as he seeks out contact. More than his own ability, Harris is going to have an opportunity to impress Belichick and the rest of the staff as Michel continues to rehab his surgically repaired foot. Even if Michel is ready for camp, an outcome looking less likely every passing day, he won’t be at full strength for a while. Not only that, but Michel didn’t exactly impress after a Super Bowl-winning rookie season, finishing with fewer yards than his rookie season despite toting the ball 38 more times. While neither Harris nor Michel will receive much work in the passing game, Harris should remain a short-yardage/goal-line threat at the very least. 

 

Even if you do believe Michel is the lead back in New England, Harris serves as a free handcuff that ensures your safety and peace of mind. At worst, you’re using a 14th round pick on a young player with upside. At best, you’re receiving what could be a low-end RB2. Harris is by far the best value on the Patriots.

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