The New England Patriots typically have a type when drafting running backs. Most stand around 5-foot-11 and weigh in at roughly 215 pounds.
New England broke that mold Saturday.
In the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson, who at 6 feet, 231 pounds is both the second-heaviest back in this year’s draft class and the heaviest the Patriots ever have drafted under Bill Belichick.
The Patriots have rostered burlier backs before, however, and Stevenson’s playing style sparks memories of one in particular: LeGarrette Blount.
Blount, who rushed for 1,161 yards and an NFL-best 18 touchdowns as a Patriot in 2016, was a 247-pound bull who used his size and tenacity to plow through opposing defenses. Stevenson isn’t quite that massive, but he was similarly difficult to bring down during his two seasons at Oklahoma, posting the fifth-best forced missed tackle rate among FBS backs in 2020. Only second-round pick Javonte Williams broke tackles at a higher rate while totaling more rushing attempts.
And yes, Stevenson is very familiar with Blount’s game.
“I’m pretty familiar with the history of the running backs that the Patriots have had, and one that comes to mind is LeGarrette Blount,” Stevenson said. “I loved his game. I just love how north-and-south of a runner he was.”
In Stevenson’s NFL.com draft profile, NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein describes him as a “wrecking ball of a runner” who attacks defenders with a “willful and belligerent” running style. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry for the Sooners, piling up 665 yards and seven touchdowns in just six games last season.
But unlike Blount, an early-down bruiser who caught just 19 passes in 29 games for New England, Stevenson could provide some value in the passing game, as well. He tallied 18 catches for 211 yards in his suspension-shortened 2020 season — strong numbers for a back his size — and generally held up well in pass protection.
Asked to describe his playing style, Stevenson used the word “versatile.”
“I just know in the NFL, you have to be very versatile,” he said. “So versatility, I take very much pride in. I just try to be a complete back. That’s the main objective in my eyes, and that’s what I’m going to try to get done.”
He also added: “I don’t like to lose yards, so I just try to fall forward after contact.”
Stevenson also is experienced on special teams, earning high marks for his work in kick coverage. He might need to prove his worth in that area if he hopes to avoid the Patriots’ traditional running back redshirt year. (Damien Harris, James White and Shane Vereen all hardly played as rookies.)
“I can’t wait to just get to the NFL and just learn how to train myself like a pro, learn the game, learn the install and just learn from the backs that have been in the NFL,” Stevenson said. “They know how it goes, they have more games in the NFL than me. So I’m just ready to learn, and I know that Coach will put me in the best position to do that and be successful, whether it’s sooner or later.”
Stevenson met with Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears and multiple New England scouts in a pre-draft Zoom call but said he had more contract with other teams. Because of that, he was “surprised” when the Patriots selected him with the 120th overall pick.
In New England, he’ll join a running back group that could look significantly different after this season. White re-signed in March, but only on a one-year deal. 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel could be entering a contract year, as well, if the Patriots decline his fifth-year option. Harris projects as the team’s lead back, with Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor filling out the depth chart.
“It’s a great feeling just knowing that I’ve got Bill Belichick as the head coach,” Stevenson said. “He’s a great coach, he’s a genius and he loves what he does. I just know he’s going to coach me hard, as well as the other people on the coaching staff. I’m just excited.”