The 2021 NFL season may barely be in the books, but Dave Richard is already getting a jump on his 2022 preparation by highlighting at least one key statistic to know for each NFL team that had a major bearing on their 2021 performance and could mean a great deal for their 2022 outlook. In this space, Dave dives into the New England Patriots
New England Patriots stats to know
Accurately predicting which Patriots running back will help Fantasy managers the most over the course of a season is, in a word, tough. From week to week it's a little bit easier given how the Patriots have historically utilized multiple backs based on down and distance, but nothing is guaranteed. So it might be a waste of time breaking down the Patriots runners in hopes of figuring out which one is worth drafting.
- Harris: 4.6 yards per carry, -0.02 EPA per play, 1.85 yards before contact, 2.75 yards after contact, 15.8% of runs went for zero/negative yards, 8.4% of runs were explosive (12-plus yards), 21.3% of runs involved an avoided tackle
- Stevenson: 4.56 yards per carry, -0.03 EPA per play, 1.30 yards before contact, 3.26 yards after contact, 15.8% of runs went for zero/negative yards, 9.8% of runs were explosive (12-plus yards), 31.6% of runs involved an avoided tackle
This is good news for the Patriots, bad news for us. Harris and Stevenson were virtually interchangeable over the course of the season. Not that they were used on a 50-50 basis like, say, the Broncos' running backs. Harris usually led the charge; he played 392 snaps and had 202 carries while Stevenson, a rookie, played 252 snaps and earned 133 totes.
Harris especially had an edge on working downs of three or fewer yards, and he was notably better than Stevenson anywhere on the field including near the goal line.
- Harris: 60 snaps on three or fewer yards to go, 78.9% conversion rate overall and 72.7% conversion rate on goal-to-go carries, eight touchdowns
- Stevenson: 32 snaps on three or fewer yards to go, 68.4% conversion rate overall and 60% conversion rate on goal-to-go carries, three touchdowns
It's worth mentioning that four of Stevenson's five rushing touchdowns came in special circumstances: Harris didn't play when Stevenson scored twice on the Browns, and Harris was resting on the bench when Stevenson scored twice in a blowout against the Jaguars in Week 17.
And all of these guys' numbers are overshadowed by the obvious: They aren't asked to play in obvious passing situations. On the year, Harris and Stevenson combined to play 15 snaps on third down with four-plus yards to go.
Bottom line? Stevenson didn't do enough last year to put himself on a path to overtake Harris. He'll need either an injury or a bad training camp from Harris to vault past him. Harris remains the better pick, especially since he had so much goal-line work and should continue to. His Round 4/5 price tag shouldn't be scoffed at.