Patriots Unexpectedly Pick Big Running Back, Not Pass-Catcher In Draft

The Patriots zigged at running back when they were expected to zag

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The New England Patriots were expected to take a running back midway through the 2021 NFL Draft, but a third-down pass catcher seemed like a bigger need than another big bruiser.

The Patriots drafted the latter, however, landing Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick.

Stevenson is 6-feet, 231 pounds and ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash with a 4.15-second short shuttle, 7.09-second 3-cone drill, 31.5-inch vertical leap and 9-feet, 4-inch broad jump. While Stevenson didn’t test well overall, he did have the fourth-best short shuttle among running backs listed on Arif Hasan of The Athletic’s consensus big board.

Stevenson carried the ball 101 times for 665 yards with seven touchdowns and one fumble in six games with the Sooners in 2020. He also added 18 catches for 211 yards. That’s impressive versatility for a big back.

Stevenson missed one game in 2019 and five games in 2020 after being suspended for failing a drug test (reportedly marijuana). The Patriots’ third-round pick, Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins, also failed a drug test at the same time and was suspended in the same period.

This is the second time the Patriots have drafted college teammates this year. Their first two picks were Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore.

Stevenson carried the ball 165 times for 1,180 yards with 13 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 298 receiving yards in his last two college seasons. He began his college career at Cerritos (Calif.) Community College.

Stevenson ranked fifth in PFF’s missed tackles forced per attempt metric among 238 qualified FBS running backs. He was 40th in yards after contact per attempt. His game isn’t necessarily what you might expect out of a 231-pound running back. He picked up yards with his quickness and cutting ability rather than his pure size.

The Patriots could use him in a variety of ways as he joins Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, J.J. Taylor and Brandon Bolden on the running back depth chart. With his size, they could envision him as an early-down runner or goal-line back. His pass-catching ability makes things interesting, however, since he has the versatility to play on all three downs.

Michel, a first-round pick in 2018, could be a free agent after the 2021 season if New England doesn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Both Michel and Harris missed time with injuries last season. White, the Patriots’ current third-down back, will be a free agent again after the 2021 season.

So, Stevenson gives the Patriots a different look plus some valuable depth at the running back position.

The Patriots have one fifth-round pick, two sixth-round selections and a seventh-rounder to close out the draft. They still have needs at wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker and on their offensive line.

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