Najee Harris - RB - University of Alabama
The best rookie RB of the class, here we delve into the profile for Najee Harris. We all know the highlight plays, big stiff arms, and iconic hurdles from Najee Harris. He surprised many when he announced his return for his senior season to the University of Alabama, but greatly improved in multiple areas from the 2019 to 2020 season. Playing four years, he accrued many accolades and accomplishments including the Doak Walker Award, Second Team All-SEC, First Team All-SEC, unanimous All-American, two SEC Championships (2020 MVP), and two National Championships with the Tide.
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 230 lbs
40-yard dash: DNP
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
College Career Stats
Harris was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, and in the top 8 all-time recruits to commit to the University of Alabama, per 247 sports. As a true freshman, Najee was able to carve out a solid workload throughout 10 games. He competed for touches with current NFL players such as running backs Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, and dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts. Following up his solid freshman year Harris had an equally efficient sophomore season with twice as many carries. He was still competing with Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and newcomer Brian Robinson. With Jacobs and Harris both declaring for the draft in 2019, Najee was the clear lead back and delivered a breakout season with 1500+ all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns. Many considered Najee as a top-tier running back prospect and everyone assumed he would declare for the draft in 2019. Surprising to many, Najee made the decision to return to the University of Alabama for his senior season. Somehow he was able to improve upon his breakout season putting up almost 1900 all-purpose yards and 30 total touchdowns. He also showed growth from his junior to senior season on tape, improving his burst and showing he’s even more capable in the receiving game.
Najee Harris looks like he is primed to be a 3 down workhorse in the NFL with great size at 6’1” and 230 lbs. He consistently improved every year, especially in the receiving game. He not only showed he could be a capable receiver out of the backfield, but he also ran legitimate routes with reliable hands. Harris utilizes his big frame in his powerful running style, demonstrating solid contact balance and power. He showed great elusiveness, being able to “make defenders miss in a phone booth”. If a defender does get close to making contact, Najee will show off his signature hurdle or stiff arm. Behind the line of scrimmage, Harris showed top-tier vision and patience, allowing blockers to set up in front of him and find the hole or cutback lanes. Najee rarely gets caught in the backfield, always seeming to fall forward or evade tackles. All in all, Najee is a very well-rounded running back, not lacking in many areas.
Najee will be entering his rookie year at the age of 23. That is fairly old to be entering the NFL, especially at the running back position. That being said, he doesn’t show any signs that he wouldn’t be able to at least play out his first contract. On film, most of his concerns are very nit-picky, as he truly is a top-tier prospect in this class. A potential concern is his lack of straight-line speed. He definitely is not a burner, but his game speed looks fast enough to not be a major concern. There are times that Najee would seek out contact, appearing to try to break off a big run instead of taking what is there. This can be worrisome when he gets to the NFL as those hits are coming from bigger and faster defenders.
Expected Draft Capital:
Best Draft Fits:
Najee would be a great fit for any team that is running back needy and wants an immediate boost to their backfield. He can instantly provide a day one, three-down workhorse, or fill a more niche role exceptionally well. There are very few landing spots in the NFL where Najee would not pan out as his skill set is so versatile. Prime landing spots with needs at the running back position would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and the Atlanta Falcons.
Post Draft Analysis
Pittsburgh Steelers: Round 1, Pick 24
Najee Harris was the first running back off the board to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 24th pick in the first round. This landing spot has been called by many analysts for almost the entire offseason. Pittsburgh let James Conner, their leading rusher the past 3 years, go this past offseason to join the Arizona Cardinals. On the roster currently, they have Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland. Both players have shown they are best in a change of pace role in the offense and have not taken the opportunity when Conner missed time to take control of the backfield.
Najee appears to be walking into a great situation all around. He will be the clear cut lead back, getting the lion’s share of the running back touches. The offense is led by long time veteran and leader Ben Roethlisburger, Najee will provide an excellent outlet for Ben’s dump-off passes and there are plenty of talented wide receivers on the outside to keep the defense honest. What’s not to like? Well, one major concern is the offensive line. They no longer have the dominant offensive line they once had in Le’Veon Bell’s hay day. With major pieces of the offensive line either retiring or leaving in free agency, the Steelers failed to address this issue in the draft until the 3rd and 4th round. So even though Najee will get a majority of the running back volume, it’s hard to see his carries being efficient like they were behind Alabama’s stacked offensive line during his tenure there.
Najee Harris is one of the most complete backs to come out in the 2021 NFL Draft, providing an excellent rushing and receiving ability. He appears to be a perfect fit for the Steelers, giving them a running back that can carry a large workload and play smash mouth football. He also provides a nice ppr (points per reception) floor as Roethlisburger is happy to dump it down to his running back and utilize him in the passing game. The biggest question mark is whether the offensive line can be serviceable this year and if the volume can counteract the offensive line if they don’t play up to par. For redraft, Najee is a great target as a team’s running back two, most likely providing low end running back one to high end running back two numbers on a consistent basis. For dynasty leagues, Najee will most likely be the first running back off the board. He is a high floor/high ceiling prospect that landed in a very solid situation. Najee will provide top 24 running back numbers consistently throughout his first contract with the Steelers and most likely flirt with top 12 running back numbers more often than not.
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Image Credit: John David Mercer – USA TODAY Sports