Should You Start Damien Harris vs. Vikings? Fantasy Outlook for Patriots RB

What is Damien Harris' fantasy value for their Week 12 Thanksgiving game against the Minnesota Vikings, and should you risk starting him?

Damien Harris has frustrated fantasy football managers in recent weeks with injuries and illnesses limiting his playing time. Heading into the New England Patriots‘ Thanksgiving Day game against the Minnesota Vikings, can fantasy managers trust Harris to bounce back this week?

Damien Harris’ Fantasy Outlook for Week 12

It’s been a roller coaster for Harris and his fantasy owners in recent weeks. He started the first five games of the season, seeing double-digit touches in the first four games before getting hurt in Week 5.

Harris subsequently missed Week 6 before returning in a limited fashion on Monday Night Football in Week 7. He was back to his normal usage in Week 8 before missing Week 9 with an illness.

After the bye, the thought was Harris would drop straight back into his normal usage, but that was not the case. Harris played on just 24% of the offensive snaps, carrying the ball eight times for 65 yards. He added two receptions from his two targets for 28 yards. Despite reduced usage, he finished with 93 total yards and two receptions for 10.3 fantasy points in half-PPR.

This is what makes Harris such a tough player to judge on a weekly basis. In the first four weeks, he averaged 38% or more of the offensive snaps, scoring double-digit fantasy points in three of those four. All three of those required Harris to find the end zone, despite averaging 14.7 rushing attempts and two targets per game.

Throughout the season, Rhamondre Stevenson continues to establish himself as the lead back in New England’s backfield. He has played more than 60% of the offensive snaps in every game since Week 2. Additionally, even in the games where Harris was playing, Stevenson averaged 12.3 rushing attempts per game and 4.5 targets per game.

MORE: Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer Week 12

Even with Harris seemingly back to full health last week, Stevenson played 78% of the offensive snaps. He carried the ball 15 times and added six targets. Stevenson out-snapped Harris by almost a three-to-one ratio and had double the touches of the fourth-year back.

Harris’ role this week is extremely uncertain. Stevenson’s disparity of touches to Harris may have been driven by circumstance, with Stevenson tending to be a more frequent option on third-and-long. Additionally, the pair tend to rotate by drive, so if the Patriots have some extended drives with Harris in the game, the pair could end up almost splitting time.

This week’s matchup for the Patriots is intriguing. Last week, Cowboys RBs wreaked havoc on the Vikings’ defense, totaling 55.6 fantasy points between them. While Harris and Stevenson do not have the combined pedigree and dynamism we see from Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, they are a one-two punch capable of causing the Vikings issues.

Overall this season, the Vikings’ defense has allowed the ninth-highest fantasy points to opposing RBs this season (21.3). However, in the last five games, they have allowed 10 or fewer fantasy points in three of them. The defense struggled a little more the last two weeks, but it is certainly not a lock that the Patriots’ backs will have a big day.

Should Fantasy Managers Start Harris in Week 12?

There is so much uncertainty over Harris this week in terms of usage. Last week was the first time he had scored double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR without finding the end zone. Therein lies part of the problem: New England’s defense has not been overly impressive in recent weeks.

In Week 11, the offense contributed three points, although Nick Folk did miss two field-goal attempts. In Week 9, they scored just one touchdown, relying on four field goals (three of which were over 40 yards) and an interception return for a touchdown to help provide value. This offense has scored just four touchdowns in the last four games and just two in the past 14 quarters of action.

With the offense scoring points inconsistently and no guarantee of what his usage will look like, fantasy managers should have some trepidation. In a week with no teams on a bye, it is tough to view Harris as an ideal 12-team starting consideration. He ranks as the RB39 in Tommy Garrett’s Week 12 RB fantasy rankings, which puts him firmly in the 14-team range, but outside serious 12-team consideration.

Harris is an intriguing option in Underdog Fantasy Best Ball leagues this week. We have seen the Patriots utilize both backs around the goal line, but when healthy, Harris has had the edge. Therefore, he may actually possess the greater ceiling of the two if the Patriots can have multiple goal-line opportunities in this game.

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