N'Keal Harry isn't the only high-profile rookie on the Patriots offense struggling to find a role.
While Harry, the team's first-round pick, has received more attention thus far, another highly-touted prospect, third-round pick Damien Harris, hasn't been able to get on the field much either.
Despite the mediocre performance of the team's running game, Harris has only dressed for two games through the bye week. He has just four carries for 12 yards. And all of those opportunities came in garbage time of the team's blowout win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
On the surface, this may be surprising. After all, Harris had two 1,000-yard seasons at Alabama and totaled 20 touchdowns over the course of his last two seasons. He was considered to be one of the best running backs available in the 2019 NFL Draft. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had him ranked as the 66th-best player in the class and fourth-overall among running backs.
And just look at some of his dominant plays from his college days.
So why aren't the Patriots playing him much? The answer is fairly simple.
It's par for the course for Bill Belichick to give non-first-round running backs a year to get acclimated to the NFL.
Since 2011, Belichick and the Patriots have drafted four running backs outside of the first round. They are Harris (2019), James White (2014), Shane Vereen (2011), and Stevan Ridley (2011).
We already dove into Harris' first-year stats so far, and they are pretty much non-existent. But the other runners on this list weren't very productive as rookies either.
Ridley was the best of the bunch, playing in all 16 games during his rookie season and logging 441 yards and a score on 87 carries. He served as an early-downs option in the team's backfield-by-committee approach, splitting time with the likes of Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
However, neither Vereen nor White did much at all as rookies. They played in five and three games respectively and posted very similar yardage totals (Vereen had 15 touches for 57 yards while White had 14 for 51). But for the most part, each was relegated to the inactives list on gameday.
Though they didn't do much as rookies, both Vereen and White would eventually find their strides with the Patriots and become key role players for the squad. So too would Ridley.
White, in particular, has developed well, and he is currently one of the best receiving backs in the NFL. He even made a case to be the Super Bowl 52 MVP after his record-breaking performance helped to key the team's comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
Harris figures to follow a similar path to these three. He'll see a little work as a rookie and if he develops, he could easily become an impactful player in the Patriots' offense. It just may not be this year.
Of course, Harris could end up getting a chance to prove himself if the running game continues to sputter. But it's not a major surprise that he hasn't done much yet. Belichick simply likes to take time to develop his running backs, so he's choosing to trust the more veteran options on New England's roster.
Harris is patiently awaiting his opportunity, and it will eventually come. Just don't be surprised if his big chance doesn't arrive until his second season in the NFL.
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