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The NFL draft has come and gone. We are finally starting to get a clear picture of what the NFL team’s depth charts will look like for this upcoming season. As a dynasty manager, you should be starting to realize just how muddled the running back position has become. Outside of Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, and DAndre Swift, the dynasty running back landscape is tough to distinguish between, and even Harris and Swift have question marks. There is no clear consensus for the position, and with a vaunted 2023 class coming next year, it makes it even harder to identify running backs you want to acquire for your dynasty rosters. However, the 2023 class isn’t here yet, and we need to win leagues this year. With that in mind, in this series of articles, we will be looking at five crowded running back rooms and just how you should be attacking each this season. Next up is the New England Patriots.
One of the biggest question marks heading into 2022 for the New England Patriots is how they will replace long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, now the head coach in Las Vegas. The Patriots also lost other key offensive coaches in Mick Lombardi (wide receivers), Bo Hardegree (assistant quarterbacks), and Carmen Bricillo (offensive line). With those losses, there will be considerable growing pains with the 2022 offensive system, and all reports out of New England is there will be some minor changes to the system but drastic changes to the terminology.
The Patriots have said they will rely on Joe Judge and Matt Patricia this season, and head coach Bill Belichick will call plays. Judge is currently working with the quarterbacks while Patricia is coaching the offensive line. There is some belief among NFL insiders that the Patriots will be simplifying their run concepts to include an outside zone scheme to fit the personnel on their roster. NFL personnel are essentially calling it the Shanahan Offense. That switch in offensive systems would hurt Damien Harris the most as he led the league in most gap-styled runs in 2021. This new system change could be why the Patriots added offensive lineman Cole Strange and running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris in the NFL draft. Those players could fit the long-term direction of this team better than the current personnel.
We also saw Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in New England for their OTAs, which has caused speculation that the Patriots could be implementing more RPO concepts into their offensive system. The RPO system is something Mac Jones is comfortable with, having run it over 30 percent of the time at Alabama in 2020. In that system, Najee Harris was able to rush for 1,466 yards and twenty-six touchdowns, so there should be optimism with the change if that's the direction the Patriots decide to take with their offense.
Before diving into the individual players, let's look at New England’s offensive line. Matt Patricia will be coaching this unit. Patrica was a former offensive lineman who started his career as an offensive assistant and line coach. The Patriots had a top ten offensive unit last season but lost two starters in 2021. They traded right guard Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost utility lineman Ted Karras to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. Here is what the projected offensive line should look like in 2022:
- LT: Isaiah Wynn
- LG: Cole Strange
- C: David Andrews
- RG: Mike Onwenu
- RT: Trent Brown
First-round pick Cole Strange should replace Ted Karras as an immediate starter at left guard. But uncharacteristically, the Patriots lack depth. If any of these players miss any significant time, we could see a big dip in their production, affecting the rushing attack. Nonetheless, the off-season moves tell us they are most likely shifting their focus to an outside zone scheme. They looked to add pieces that could be versatile enough to get to the second level of defenses. There will undoubtedly be growing pains in the first year; however long term; this could be a beneficial scheme change for this offense.
- Contract Status: 1 year, $1,186,534 contract
- Dynasty ADP: 10th Round RB32
Damien Harris is in a unique position as a dynasty asset. If you are a contender, he is one of the cheapest buys in fantasy football. He is on a one-year contract, and all signs point to him moving on next season in free agency, which has hurt his long-term dynasty value. However, Damien Harris is set up to have another RB2 season in 2022. Last season he saw the second-most rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line in the NFL, which led to a team-high fifteen touchdowns. The Patriots also have historically run players into the ground their last season with the team, and Harris won’t be an exception. If you're a contender, Harris should be a top target in leagues, and if you're looking to sell, wait for the start of the season when Harris is a high-end RB2. A mid-late 2023 second-round pick is the appropriate value for Harris in your dynasty leagues.
Dynasty Meter: Buy/Sell
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