New Orleans Saints wide receiver and return specialist Deonte Harris may need to step up as Michael Thomas deals with a high ankle sprain — how Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the rest of the offensive machine pivot in Thomas’ absence early in the season sets the tone for 2020. Will Harris, the 2019 Pro Bowl selection and First-Team All Pro, be involved enough to be added to your fantasy football roster?
Should I add Deonte Harris to my 12-team roster?
The short answer here is no. No, you shouldn’t. While Harris flashed in the season opener, he was primarily used in a gadget role. His first and only carry was on the Saints’ second drive after their initial offensive outing lasted four plays before a Thomas Morestead punt. His lone target on the day went for 17 yards on a quick screen to show the Buccaneers something they haven’t seen on tape.
Sustaining that type of production is also contingent on the quantity of snaps, which depends on Harris navigating a field of Tre’Quan Smith, Bennie Fowler, and Marquez Callaway as well. Two offensive touches just do not bode well for Harris and his fantasy future. A more than slight uptick in involvement would be necessary for him even to make waivers. However, there are certain types of leagues where he is a valuable addition.
Despite playing a middle-of-the-pack Las Vegas Raiders defense, it’s hard to trust the opportunity with the depth chart clog as well as the likely regression to the mean on his production-per-play basis. Harris is likely relegated to niche fantasy leagues that give individual players return yardage as opposed to defense/special teams-based leagues.
Where is Deonte Harris’ fantasy value?
Harris, like any other specialist, is primarily usable in fantasy leagues that reward punt and kickoff return yardage. Last year, Harris led the league in punt return yardage and was one of only two players to eclipse 300 yards in that category. While he did not lead the league in kick return yardage, he was one of six players to surpass 600 yards. These specialty leagues help take advantage of players like Harris that are useful to their NFL team but do not have offensive skill sets to take advantage of in weekly lineups.
A.J. Cole punted the ball three times for the Raiders in Week 1 vs. the Carolina Panthers for a punt average of 42.3 — with two punt returns for 29 yards. In a scenario where the Raiders are scoring or punting, Harris has the opportunity for more return yardage production. In addition, the over/under for the Saints/Raiders game is in the top five in terms of totals across the NFL landscape. Sportsbooks anticipate scoring in this game.
Will Deonte Harris get a more significant role with Michael Thomas out?
Although Thomas leaves a large hole in this offense for as long as he is gone, the Saints have other options to involve on the offensive end consistently. Emmanuel Sanders was brought in to provide a solid complement to Thomas, but he still has the skill set to take over for short stints like this.
Beyond that, Harris’ fantasy production faces roadblocks in the rotation at WR that the aforementioned names of Smith, Fowler, Callaway, and a slew of practice squad call-ups. Since the days of Marques Colston, Brees has spread the ball around, and each matchup post-Thomas injury will undoubtedly involve individual matchups.
The most likely solution is more tight end involvement with Jared Cook playing the role of a big slot receiver, featuring Josh Hill and Adam Trautman. Plus, with a new contract, Alvin Kamara should assume partial duties as a receiver while Latavius Murray could fill in a larger backfield role in his absence. The chances of Harris having a semi-prominent role in the offense seems far-fetched aside from the gimmicky role he occupied in Week 1.
Andrew Thomas Jordan is an editor and analyst for the Pro Football Network covering fantasy football: dynasty, redraft, best ball, DFS, and more. You can follow him @The_ATJ on Twitter and hear him weekly as co-host of The Fantasy Force Podcast.