The New England Patriots no longer have to worry if all of their 2019 draft picks will be in minicamp. Everybody is signed, with running back Damien Harris agreeing to a contract Tuesday night.
The Alabama product was one of two third-round picks in the Patriots’ 2019 draft class, selected No. 87 overall. (The other was Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich, who agreed to a contract earlier in the week.) He was the last of this year’s 10 selections to reach terms.
Harris, 22, joins a running back group that includes Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and James Develin. If he adapts quickly and emerges as a better pass-blocker, he may challenge Michel as the offense’s featured back.
Or offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could choose to split carries among the two to reduce workloads. Between the regular season and playoffs, Michel shouldered 280 carries and seemed to wear down toward the end of his rookie campaign. Going back to his college career at Georgia, Michel has battled knee injuries and those flared up last year.
Even before agreeing to a contract, Harris participated in OTAs and minicamp drills. With Michel absent from spring workouts for unknown reasons, Harris has gotten more reps and made an impression catching passes from Tom Brady.
“I’m fortunate to learn from a guy like that, a guy that’s been through a lot of things and had a lot of success in this program,” Harris told reporters on Tuesday, including NESN’s Doug Kyed. “So he’s a guy that I can lean on and learn from. And I know if I need something, I can depend on him.”
Harris was Alabama’s leading rusher during the past three seasons. Overall, he compiled over 3,000 yards on the ground with 23 touchdowns in four years with the Crimson Tide. He also caught 52 passes for 407 yards, showing he can be a dual threat out of the backfield. Additionally, Harris stood out as a pass-blocker which could give him an edge over Michel.
Adding a talented runner like Harris to provides even more depth to what was already a deep collection of backs on the New England roster. The argument could be made that the Patriots have the deepest group in the NFL, stocked with backs who can run and catch, and even add some sledgehammer hitting from their fullback.