As Week 11 of the fantasy football and NFL season draws closer, waiver wire claims are the hot topic as fantasy managers target players who can give them an edge to get a much-needed win. High on the fantasy waiver wire priority list is New England Patriots rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson who is coming off a career-best outing last week. As the team gets set for a Thursday Night Football bout with the Atlanta Falcons, what are the expectations for Stevenson, and could this blossom into a more significant role for the remainder of the season?
Rhamondre Stevenson rumbles for over 100 yards in a breakout performance
More times than not, we enter a week without a genuine must-add, top-priority, can’t-miss player who will be at the top of everyone’s list of waiver wire targets. The majority of the time, it is a player who we feel is in a position to succeed or increase in value. But Week 11 is a bit of an outlier, as Stevenson will be the top claim of the week.
With Damien Harris unable to clear concussion protocol, Stevenson assumed No. 1 duties for the Patriots and was simply sensational in a breakout performance. He rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries with 2 touchdowns on Sunday. Yet, the intriguing part is he also saw 5 targets, recording 4 receptions for 14 yards.
Sure, that might not seem like a significant number. But, in context, this is substantial. Not only did Stevenson take on Harris’ rushing role while never missing a beat, but he also did something Harris has never done. His 5 targets in a single game are more than Harris has ever seen. And I mean in the NFL or college.
That’s almost as impressive as what he did on the ground. Now, by no means am I saying Stevenson is a route-running savant. However, the fact that in his first game as a starter, the Patriots and Mac Jones trusted him enough to give him that many targets is eye-opening. Given the Patriots’ history for rotating RBs at will, it’s challenging to trust Stevenson or any back entirely. Nevertheless, if this is a sign of things to come, he needs to be rostered in every format.
Damien Harris remains in concussion protocol with little time to spare
The crux of whether or not Stevenson can duplicate his production in Week 11 hinges on Harris’ status. Due to New England playing on Thursday Night Football, the team did not hold a formal practice. Nevertheless, based on the estimated ability of players, Harris was deemed a DNP. On Tuesday, Harris was spotted at practice by Mike Reiss of ESPN.
Harris was a limited participant on Tuesday and remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He has less than two days to gain clearance from an independent neurologist before he can suit up for a game.
Harris has been a workhorse for the Patriots this season but has also been banged up at times. He’s dealt with rib/chest issues, and most recently, the concussion suffered in Week 9.
Harris currently sits 20th in RB standings, averaging 11.6 fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR). He sits 10th amongst running backs in yards with 547, rushing 133 times with 7 touchdowns.
Stevenson has season-long value as a fantasy waiver wire claim
It’s easy to point at Week 11 and say this is the window where Stevenson will be relevant. To an extent, that is accurate. Whether or not Harris can suit up, Stevenson should see a significant workload.
The Falcons allow the third-most fantasy points to running backs at 28.8 per game, and the Patriots want to run the ball. Currently, they are 10th in rush attempts per game (28) and ninth in rush rate (44.3%). Without Harris, Stevenson would be a mid-to-high-end RB2 for fantasy managers.
Even with Harris back in the lineup, I’m not so sure Stevenson has not earned a more prominent role moving forward. Harris has done enough not to lose the starting job. But if he plays as only a two-down back, Stevenson could cut into his snap count as he gains more and more work in high-leverage situations or on passing downs, something only Brandon Bolden has done as he fills the James White role.
It will assuredly be a headache trying to know when to start Stevenson or what the Patriots will do when both backs are healthy. Still, in case he does gain traction in this backfield, now is the time to add Stevenson to your fantasy team.