Many experts and analysts write off the Patriots roster as a roster that doesn’t have a lot of top-tier talent. However, the team may have some diamonds in the rough.
Ramondre Stevenson was ranked third on Football Outsiders’ River McCown’s annual list of 25 young, under-the-radar players who could breakout in the upcoming season.
McCown, who only selected players outside the first round through the 2019-21 draft for the list, held Stevenson so high in part because of his success rate on the runs. Stevenson ranks third in the success rate (59 percent), a Football Outsiders stat that determines how many running back rushes were “successful” by down and distance as a rookie.
“Stevenson finished in the top 20 in both DVOA (brings one running back per game) and DYAR (which brings one running back to total value),” McCown wrote in an article for ESPN.com. “He also had 0.53 rushing yards compared to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which is a top-10 figure in the NFL. And he was behind [Damien] Harris in all three categories. ,
While Stevenson rated well in the Metrics, which measures proficiency as a rookie, McCown cautioned those who might want to pick Stevenson for their fantasy draft given the Patriots’ running condition.
McCown wrote, “Harris remains ahead of Stevenson on the depth chart in 2022. That doesn’t mean we can rule out Stevenson taking up the bulk of the backfield.” With James White re-signed to play third-down back and rookie Pierre Strong Jr., Stevenson will have to beat Harris to get a part of the lead role in this backfield. He has the ability to do so. There is talent, but any kind of imminent breakout due to competition may require some patience.”
In the first week of Patriots training camp (which was all padless practice), Stevenson was heavily featured. Although Harris was still getting first-team reps in the rushing drill, Stevenson was heavily used during the passing drill and had some work with the first team at 7-on-7 and 11-on-11.
Of course, White has been physically unable to perform because of his hip injury from last season. However, there is some concern about the retreating veteran’s future, as ESPN’s Mike Reiss notes to White. Still walking with “an uncomfortable gait” First in July. Strong was also limited in Patriots exercises last week.
After a solid rookie season on the field (4.6 yards per carry and 606 yards on five touchdowns), Stevenson shared that he wanted to be a factor in the passing game during the spring.
“I did a lot” [practicing on my receiving], Stevenson said on Thursday. “Running route, getting better with my hands, and pass-protection. All of the above.”
Not only is Stevenson looking to improve from his 14-reception mark last season, he has also worked on his conditioning. He said after Thursday’s practice that he lost seven pounds during the season because the Patriots also use him to kick in practice.
“Just regular conditioning, to be honest,” Stevenson said of his off-season physical transformation. “I knew how I was last year. I really didn’t get in the best shape. All I needed to do was know what to do and take these steps to get in better shape.”
“I think I can run a lot more,” Stevenson said. “I feel better overall. I’m really not sure how to describe it. I just feel better.”
Stevenson’s superior physical shape may not be the only reason for Patriots fans to drop out in 2022. McCown actually has a good track record with potential breakout players on the Patriots in recent years. He placed Harris No. 1 in the 2021 edition of the list. The Patriots’ return proved McCown right, running for 929 yards (4.6 per carry) and 15 touchdowns last season.
McCown selected former Patriots corner Jesse Jackson as a breakout player in the second edition of the list. Jackson finished second in league interceptions the past two seasons, helping him earn a Pro Bowl nod in 2021.
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