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Pierre Strong

Patriots sitting on a sophomore sleeper

Pierre Strong averaged 10 yards per carry last year. That gets my attention. In the Super Bowl era, no other running back with at least 10 carries has done that.

Ridiculously small sample size, of course. Strong got there by busting loose for 44- and 19-yard runs in a Monday night game in Arizona. He carried only 10 times all year, and they went for 100 yards, with one short touchdowns. Nonetheless, he looked good on those runs, making it reasonable to wonder just how good he might become going forward.

It’s common for running backs to marinate for a year, particularly in New England. Damien Harris, James White and Shane Vereen didn’t play much in their first seasons for the Patriots.

Strong is similar to those guys in terms of stature coming in. He’s a fourth-round pick, having run for 1,686 yards his final year at South Dakota State. He ran a 4.37 at the combine. He’s not a stab-in-the-dark nobody who happened to make the roster; the Patriots selected him with the hope he might develop into something.

Strong passes the eyeball test. On both of those long runs last year, his speed and athleticism played a role in making them happen. On the 44-yard run, some slower backs wouldn’t have been able to get to the edge. And the 19-yarder involved a unexpected cut to the outside. He looks pretty good.

I would think he’ll be a backup and change-of-pace for the Patriots, and that should make him a notable player at some point this year. He’s not real big (205 pounds), so I wonder if they might have him share time with somebody else if and when Rhamondre Stevenson misses some games. And I wonder if they’re hoping to turn him into more of a third-down back like White or Vereen. Strong caught all 7 passes thrown his way late last year, but it would be a big ask to expect him to step in as a second-year player and perform like another White or Kevin Faulk.

His player grade will be influenced by how things play out in August. For now, I like him as a later-round pick.

I ran some numbers on Strong, but I don’t think they’re particularly revealing or meaningful. Below see the 26 other running backs in their first, second or third year who carried the ball at least 10 times and averaged at least 7 yards per carry. I took those backs, then looked at how they did in the next season.

Only one of those 26 finished with top-40 cumulative numbers in PPR formations. Jerome Harrison the next year ran for 862 yards, with another 220 on 24 catches. Four others ranked between 41st and 50. Not a whole lot of success.

Scoring down the list and ticking guys off by hand, I see five guys who made it onto the radar at some point in their career – guys who were starters in typical fantasy leagues for at least a stretch. Harrison, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw, LaMont Jordan and Rod Bernstine (and I’ve got those guys tagged in the chart).

1981Willie McClendon, Chi.10-88-130742409.8135
1987Thomas Sanders, Chi.27-224-523122353126.5114
1987Randall Morris, Sea.19-149-121710007.1201
1990• Rod Bernstine, S.D.15-137-1124589840494.950
1994Lorenzo Neal, N.O.21-175-1309029117.9100
1996Jerry Ellison, T.B.26-218-53510618208049.478
1998Jerris McPhail, Mia.17-146-100000.0--
2001Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, Pitt.21-149-112045316127498.045
2002Michael Wiley, Dall.34-247-02216813144150.275
2002• LaMont Jordan, NYJ39-292-18431617160382.651
2003Doug Chapman, Min.12-89-015331805.1140
2003Michael Wiley, Dall.22-168-100000.0--
2008• Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG23-190-167355542256.773
2008De Dorsey, Cin.21-183-05824907.7137
2009Patrick Cobbs, Mia.12-88-163632308.9127
2009• Felix Jones, Dall.30-266-3116685191193117.443
2009• Jerome Harrison, Cle.34-246-1194862342207184.222
2009P.J. Pope, Den.17-130-000000.0--
2012Jonathan Dwyer, Pitt.16-123-0156623181062102.941
2013Cedric Peerman, Cin.36-258-18170001.7151
2014Chris Polk, Phil.11-98-346172216550.883
2017Kerwynn Williams, Ariz.18-157-21204261093167.971
2018Corey Grant, Jac.30-248-21340967019.797
2019Brian Hill, Atl.20-157-0783231069367.265
2020Reggie Bonnafon, Car.16-116-11269218116.7116
2022Travis Homer, Sea.21-177-1197416157145.177
2023Pierre Strong, N.E.10-100-1???????

—Ian Allan

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