With just hours remaining until the Sunday slate of games kicks off for fantasy football in Week 11, one player to keep an eye on is New England Patriots RB Damien Harris, as he is back on the injury report. Fantasy managers should be used to this by now as we know the Patriots tend to put everyone on the report, but should we be worried about Damien Harris and his injury designation? Does the impending return of Sony Michel and the backfield usage result in a larger problem as we move closer to the playoffs?
Sunday, November 22 Update: Damien Harris is active for the Patriots Week 11 matchup with the Houston Texans. His fantasy value also sees a boost with Sony Michel inactive for the game.
RB Damien Harris has been limited in practice
Damien Harris is back on the injury report in Week 11, this time with what the team has listed as chest and ankle injuries. After being a limited participant on Wednesday, along with 12 other players, everyone, including Harris, was a limited participant again on both Thursday and Friday.
Harris has been nursing a chest injury that he suffered Monday night against the New York Jets. Still, a report by Ian Rapoport on Saturday stated that Damien Harris is expected to play in the Week 11 matchup with the Texans.
That didn’t stop him from having another solid performance in Week 10 against the Baltimore Ravens, though. Harris rushed 22 times for 121 yards, but due to his complete exclusion in the passing game, he was only RB21 on the week.
When he has been on the field, Harris has impressed – he has rushed 85 times in his five games this year for 471 yards and one touchdown. It was easy to see why there was optimism in the offseason for him to be the opening week starter before having surgery on his hand that delayed the start of his season.
The downside of Harris is the complete lack of usage in the passing game, which drastically caps his ceiling in any given week. He has seen just two targets in his NFL career. Harris currently sits as the RB39 in PPR scoring.
There is no bellcow back in New England, making it difficult to trust any option
This statement is nothing new. We have been saying it for years, but 2020 made things even more complicated by adding Cam Newton, one of the best rushing quarterbacks in NFL history.
Even though the Patriots have rushed the most times in the NFL (301) for the third-most yards (1,450), there has been little to benefit from a fantasy perspective. In total scrimmage yards, Damien Harris leads the team with 497 all-purpose yards, but as we said, he is only RB39.
The better option on the team has been Rex Burkhead. He has rushed 63 times for 267 yards and three touchdowns while adding 23 receptions on 30 targets for an additional 187 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those receiving touchdowns came on Sunday against Baltimore, where Burkhead finished as the RB5 in Week 10. However, on the season, his is RB22, which is a far cry for someone you would have any faith in week to week.
Honestly, that RB22 is a complete lie in my eyes. Here are Rex Burkhead’s weekly finishes on the season, and I will even use PPR scoring, which is the most beneficial for him and his role: 64, 35, 2, 43, 67, 34, 50, 8, 6.
Just because someone ranks as an RB22 on the season does not mean they are on a week to week basis.
Then there is RB James White, who is just a complete afterthought in this offense. The 2019 RB18 in PPR, White has just 254 yards on the season. He has rushed 16 times for 51 yards and has caught 27 of 32 targets for 203 yards. However, he has failed to find the end zone.
Let’s not forget the impending return or Sony Michel.
Having been on IR since Week 3 due to a quad issue, Sony Michel is on his third week of practice since starting the clock on his return from injured reserve. By rule, the Patriots had to activate Michel following the Week 11 matchup, or he would have been on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Bringing him back further complicates an already crowded backfield.
Michel, who has rushed for over 900 yards in each of his first two seasons as a Patriot, had 26 carries for 173 yards in the first three weeks of the season. His best game was his last one, with nine carries for 117 yards against the Raiders.
Throw Cam Newton into the mix, and an injury is the last concern for the fantasy value of Damien Harris.
Can you trust Damien Harris is Week 11 for fantasy?
Trust is a strong word but using recent games as any barometer, but I think Damien Harris is a decent RB2 play in Week 11. Running backs have averaged 30.83 PPR points per game against the Texans, which ranks as the third-highest number in the league. The majority of this coming from the league-leading 27.88 carries they see every week. Combine that with the 5.53 yards per carry average they allow, and Damien Harris could easily crack the 100-yard mark again this week. But he will need a touchdown to see himself break the RB12 range as we know there is no passing game work in his future.
However, this is all contingent on how the Patriots use Sony Michel. If he is heavily involved, then Harris could struggle to provide any fantasy value. Rex Burkhead is intriguing as an RB4, but as we’ve seen this season, he’s a boom-or-bust in fantasy. This whole situation has become even more complicated this week.
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