Patriots Rookie RB Faces ‘Impossible’ Task, Says NFL Analyst

Getty Pierre Strong Jr.

The chances of New England Patriots RB Pierre Strong Jr. getting any real playing time this year is zero, according to Pro Football Focus’ Ian Hartitz.

The fantasy football expert says it will be “impossible” for Strong to make a mark in 2022 because of the Patriots’ history of holding their late-round RB picks back.

Hartitz is Right About Strong, To a Degree

Hartitz is correct, Harris didn’t play much when he was a rookie in 2019. The Patriots drafted him in the third round out of Alabama, but Harris played in just two games, tallying 12 yards on four rushes.

However, just last year, an example goes against Hartitz’s theory on Patriots rookie running backs drafted in the fourth round. Rhamondre Stevenson didn’t just play, the Oklahoma alum was set up to be a major part of the Patriots’ attack in 2021 before fumbling and blocking issues temporarily landed him in the doghouse early in the season.

Still, Stevenson appeared in 12 games. He started in two and rushed 606 yards on 133 attempts with 5 TDs. He also had 14 receptions for 123 yards. Quite honestly, were it not for some minor injuries and the early benching, Stevenson could have come really close to rushing for 1,000 yards. The opportunity, which Hartitz implies won’t be there for Strong, was there for Stevenson.

Strong’s situation may be different from Stevenson considering there are two young running backs with experience ahead of him. Stevenson didn’t have that issue because the Patriots shipped Sony Michel off to the Los Angeles Rams ahead of the 2021 season which made room for the rookie.

Barring an injury or trade, it might be hard for Strong to make an impact, but it may not be because he’s a rookie taken in the fourth round. It would be more because he has two productive guys 25 years old or younger ahead of him on the depth chart.

Strong Was a Dominant Force in College

Strong attended South Dakota State, where he ran roughshod over the competition to the tune of 1,686 yards and 18 TDs this past fall. This isn’t to say he will be on this level as a pro, but in watching his tape, Strong’s running style is similar to former Patriots and New York Jets’ great Curtis Martin.

Strong runs with a similar pad level, very little wasted motion, and he finishes runs. We will need to see him show production on the NFL level, but he looks like the real deal. There is a chance the Patriots could look into trading Harris if they feel confident enough in what they see from Stevenson and Strong.

New England has very little cap flexibility, and Harris is the most expensive running back on their roster. Harris is a free agent at the end of this season and has a $1.1 million cap hit. He’s also still young with upside. A team in need of a running back–as the Rams were at the beginning of last season–could be interested in Harris if the Patriots make him available.

Because of this possibility, Patriots fans should watch the play of all three running backs as well as Kevin Harris, another rookie at the position, during training camp and the preseason

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