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2021's Fantasy Football Breakout Running Back: Damien Harris

Oct 25, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) runs with the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In this series of articles, I’m looking at the fantasy football breakout potential of running backs heading into the 2021 NFL season. (Find the entire series on breakout running backs here.)

This builds off of my recent breakout receiver articles that profiled each of the second-year wide receivers. My research on 10 years of historical data points to second- and third-year backs as the most likely to break out and also most likely to generate the most excess value.

Editor's Note: PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide and 2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets are LIVE!

This article will focus on New England Patriots running back Damien Harris. One of the best ways to determine the range of outcomes and the probability of success for fantasy players is by comparing them to similar historical players. In this analysis, I’ll compare the potential breakout running backs to hundreds of running backs drafted since 2006 and project the likelihood of a breakout based on those who had the most similar size, speed, draft position, college production and rookie metrics.

I’ll be especially focused on the receiving potential for these backs, as the outperformance in receiving volume and efficiency has been the most common trait for breakout running backs in the past.

METHODOLOGY

The matching methodology is similar to what we used to focus on 2021 wide receiver and running back prospect comps, where I found the closest statistically comparable players using principal component analysis (PCA) and the euclidean distance between the players' components and then gave each a “Similarity” score based on percentile of distance.

The metrics for PCA are draft position, weight, 40-yard dash time, rookie and second-year rushing attempts and rookie and second-year targets per game. We'll also look at rookie and second-year PPR fantasy points per game and second-year top-24 weekly finishes.

DAMIEN HARRIS COMPS

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