After drafting two Alabama players in Mac Jones and Christian Barmore early in the NFL Draft, the Patriots turned to two Oklahoma standouts in the third and fourth rounds.
New England selected defensive end Ronnie Perkins in the third round Friday and running back Rhamondre Stevenson on Saturday. Stevenson said Perkins is a close friend, and he’s thrilled to end up on the same NFL team as Perkins after discussing that possibility last season.
Stevenson, 6-foot, 231-pound “battering ram” originally from Las Vegas, joins a deep running back room that features Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, J.J. Taylor, and Brandon Bolden.
Even he didn’t see it coming.
“It was totally a surprise to me, actually,” Stevenson said.
Here’s what to know about Stevenson, whom one analyst compared to Le’Veon Bell:
He started out as a zero-star recruit who competed at the JUCO level.
Stevenson wasn’t a highly regarded player coming out of high school.
In fact, he was just the opposite. A foot injury held him back and he was a zero-star recruit. He spent two years at Cerritos College in California and eventually hit his stride, rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns.
He emerged as the No. 12 overall junior-college recruit by ESPN. He chose the Sooners over Texas and USC.
While evolving from a zero-star recruit to an NFL player is very rare, it isn’t unheard of. He’s following in the footsteps of Jeremy Chinn, Justin Jefferson, and others.
He starred at Oklahoma despite dealing with a suspension.
At Oklahoma, he averaged a team-high eight yards per carry in 2019 and registered a pair of 100-yard rushing performances. He also scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime of the Big 12 championship vs. Baylor.
This past year, he missed the first five games due to a suspension after failing an NCAA drug test. He came back and totaled a team-high 665 yards and seven touchdowns on 101 carries and averaged more than 110 yards per game.
Stevenson was named most outstanding offensive player in the Cotton Bowl in 2020, when Oklahoma thumped Florida, 55-20. He racked up 18 carries for a career-high 186 yards.
Rhamondre Stevenson's #NFLDraft Selection Highlight Reels.— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) May 1, 2021
"Don't let the 4.63 speed fool you. When this guy gets to the second level, it's over. He's a home run type hitter.
"Almost Leveon Bell-esque as far as being patient trying to find his hole."#OUDNA x #GoPats pic.twitter.com/4G9QuRbHTz
His location on Twitter is “Endzone,” and it’s a fitting one for a player who has spent much of his time there.
“He had a four-star type of year,” ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said.
An ESPN analyst called him “Le’Veon Bell-esque.”
Though Stevenson’s 4.63 speed is a bit slower than some of his counterparts, Riddick said it’s important to not be fooled by that number.
“When this guy gets to the second level, it’s over,” Riddick said. “He’s a home run-type hitter. Very patient, almost Le’Veon Bell-esque, as far as being patient, trying to find his hole. When he hits it, on the second level, he is gone.”
Riddick said Stevenson can catch the ball out of the backfield and also excels in pass protection.
Stevenson said he’s familiar with former LeGarrette Blount and loves his game.
“He’s a battering ram,” Riddick said of Stevenson. “Think about what New England wants to do up there in terms of running the football. He fits perfectly.”
Stevenson has learned from DeMarco Murray.
Stevenson said he’s benefitted a great deal from Sooners running backs coach DeMarco Murray. Murray has helped him master not letting a defender bring him down once contact has been made.
“You have to make the first person miss, whether you break the tackle or juke and make them miss,” Stevenson said. “You can never let the first person tackle you.”
Stevenson’s college coach, Lincoln Riley, compared him to former Oklahoma standout Samaje Perine, who lit up Kansas with a 427-yard performance in 2014.
“Very similar build,” Riley said. “Kind of a low, stocky, low center of gravity, very difficult to tackle and wrap up, and then has some big-play ability to go with that.”
Riley said that it was clear Stevenson had “played some ball” and improved throughout the course of his career.
“When you get a guy that’s tough to tackle and has some breakaway and catches the ball pretty good and is able to jump cut right and left, great feet, it’s a good combination,” Riley told reporters. “And I think, too, his experience has shown.”
Teammate Spencer Rattler said Stevenson “can do it all,” never loses yards, and is a positive runner.
He’ll work to earn a spot with the Patriots.
Stevenson is overjoyed to be on the Patriots.
“It’s a great feeling to know I have Bill Belichick as a head coach,” Stevenson said. “I know he’s a great coach, he’s a genius.”
It’s unclear how much of a role Stevenson will have right away, with other catalysts in the mix at running back, but it is clear he knows some of his teammates well. He said he’s watched film on Taylor and Michel.
It may be tough for Stevenson to get many carries as a rookie, but if his path from a zero-star recruit to NFL draft pick is any indication, where he starts isn’t necessarily where he’ll finish.