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Meet Kevin Harris, the bruising running back drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots

Kevin Harris led all South Carolina rushers last season.Sean Rayford/Associated Press

The Patriots double-dipped at running back on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.

After taking South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. with one of its three fourth-round picks, New England selected South Carolina’s Kevin Harris with its first sixth-round pick (183rd overall).

Here’s what to know about him.

He was one of the SEC’s top running backs in 2020.

Harris had a huge 2020 season for the Gamecocks. He ran for 1,138 yards (6.2 per carry), which was the second-most in arguably the nation’s best football conference. His 15 rushing touchdowns were also the second-most in the conference that season (trailing only Najee Harris in both stats) and were the fifth-most in the NCAA.


Harris had a pair of 200-plus yard rushing games that season. His first came in Week 7 when he rushed for 243 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-42 loss against Ole Miss. In the final game of the season, Harris ran for 210 yards and a touchdown in a 41-18 loss to Kentucky.

He had back surgery between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In July 2021, a month before camp began, Harris had surgery on his back to remove a cyst from a spinal nerve. The injury didn’t cause Harris to miss any games during the 2021 season, though he did miss the season-opener due to an illness.

Harris’s back surgery wasn’t the first injury he had in college. Just a few games into his freshman year in 2019, Harris tore a tendon off his pubic bone (one of the bones that makes up the pelvis), ending his season.

He wasn’t able to repeat his 2020 performance in 2021.

Harris’s back injury forced him to miss the start of fall camp in 2021, and he struggled in his first few games back.

In his first game, Harris rushed for just 24 yards on seven carries against East Carolina. He had the tough task of going up against Georiga’s historic defense the next week, rushing for only 31 yards on 16 carries.


He started to turn things around in Game 4 against Troy, rushing for 49 yards on 11 carries and catching two passes for 49 yards. A week later, Harris rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee.

Harris finally broke the century mark for rushing yards in a game in Week 9 against Florida, rushing 128 yards on 16 carries in a South Carolina win. He had another efficient performance against Auburn when he ran for 63 yards on 13 carries.

Finally, Harris ended his college career on a bang. He ran for a season-high 182 yards and a touchdown against North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Harris’s final stat line for the season was 660 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

He has a bruising running style.

With a 5-foot-10, 221-pound frame, Harris used his body to power through defenders in the SEC.

NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes that Harris’s power style made him a good Day 3 pick entering the draft.

“He creates for himself with contact and tackle-breaking talent, but typically drops and finishes against an open-field tackler rather than avoiding him,” Zierlein wrote. “He’s a chain mover with excellent ball security as a battering ram inside. He will be limited as an outside runner and needs to come off the field on passing downs. Harris has talent and his impressive 2020 was no mirage.”

Now that he’s a year removed from back surgery, Harris is looking forward to showing his power in the NFL.


“I’m eager. Definitely. You have to wait and see,” Harris said.

Scouting report

Here’s a rundown of the scouting report from Zierlein:

The overview: Zierlein says Harris is a “big, bruising runner with good vision and the self-awareness to understand that power running is what will butter his bread.” Harris was injured for much of 2021, and his productivity fell off substantially from his breakout sophomore season in 2020.

But Zierlein says Harris “creates for himself with contact and tackle-breaking talent” but will finish against a tackler in the open field, instead of just dodging him.

“He’s a chain mover with excellent ball security as a battering ram inside,” Zierlein says, but Harris will be limited as an outside runner.

The strengths: Zierlein notes a few keys, including that Harris “knows he’s a big back and finishes like it.” Harris has thick muscles, and great build-up speed. He’s “capable of reading and cutting off blocks effectively” and only fumbled once in 358 carries at South Carolina. He’s able to shrug off upper-body tackles.

The weaknesses: Zierlein notes the back surgery Harris underwent in 2020 as a key weakness. Sometimes Harris lacks “early creativity” on a run, and changing direction can sap his momentum. Also, Zierlein writes that Harris “catches the football like it’s made of lava.”

Highlight reel

You can see some of Harris’s TD runs here.

Other scouting reports

Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.