Even with Rex Burkhead remaining unsigned, the New England Patriots had one of the deepest offensive backfields in the NFL entering draft weekend. Damien Harris and Sony Michel are a solid one-two punch, with James White a team leader and one of the best receiving backs in football; J.J. Taylor offers developmental upside and Brandon Bolden experience both as a change-of-pace back and a core special teamer.
Nonetheless, New England still invested in another back in the fourth round of the draft. Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson projects as more of an early-down runner compared to players such as White and Taylor, and could very well be the heir to the role currently held by former first-round selection Sony Michel.
While Michel has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the first three seasons of his career, Stevenson brings a near-clean slate to the equation — further explaining why New England might have felt good spending the 120th overall selection in him. With that said, let’s take a look at his injury history and find out what it means from the Patriots’ perspective.
2015 (Centennial High School): Stevenson entered his senior season poised to build on an impressive 2014 campaign that saw him rush for 1,457 yards and 19 touchdowns and be named Las Vegas’ High School Football Player of the Year. Just two games in, however, he suffered a broken foot and had to miss most of the season. While he was able to return for the Bulldogs’ playoff run, he failed to have the same impact he previously had within their offense.
What this means for the Patriots
“Once I broke my foot, I couldn’t play. I honestly thought my football career was over. And then after that, I even took a year off from football after my senior year. So it was a just scary moment for me, but it definitely taught me to just keep going, keep going, and in due time, things will work out if you keep your head on and just do the right thing and push,” Stevenson told Sports Illustrated last year about his injury.
While the ailment changed his outlook entering the college level — he took a year off and spent two years at a junior college before joining Oklahoma — it is nothing the Patriots should feel worried about entering the 2021 season. Stevenson, after all, showed some impressive durability during his time as a Sooner: he played 19 games over his two seasons in Norman, only missing time due to a suspension after a positive drug test.
When it comes to his physical readiness for his upcoming rookie campaign, however, there is nothing to be worried about from his or the team’s point of view.