New England Patriots

Dec 5, 2020; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Rhamondre Stevenson (29) runs as Baylor Bears safety JT Woods (22) defends during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have traditionally valued previous NFL experience when it comes to player evaluations. Nowhere has that belief been more clear than at the running back position.

Assuming he plays, fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson would be the 16th rookie running back to play for the Patriots in the Belichick era. But history tells us we may not get to see him on a regular basis until 2022.

Of the previous 15* rookie backs, only three saw significant playing time as rookies. Of those three, two were first-round picks (Sony Michel, Laurence Maroney) while the other (J.R. Redmond) was a part of Belichick’s initial rookie draft class in 2000.

Other backs that would go on to become core pieces in the team’s offense barely saw the field in year one. Shane Vereen, despite being a second-round pick, recorded just 15 touches (carries + catches) in five games as a rookie. James White had 14. Damien Harris only four.

Is this a focused pattern, or a coincidence? Asked about the traditional “redshirt” year for rookie running backs on Thursday, Patriots’ running backs coach Ivan Fears said the team views the situations on a player-by-player basis.


*The Pro Football Reference list also includes fullbacks, but given the nature of the position they’re not factored into the tallies here.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at