Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft starting on April 29th, we will be releasing several draft profiles of prospects who could potentially see themselves on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up…
Najee Harris (Running Back) Alabama, Senior
Harris weighs in at 230lbs, standing at 6’2″. Arguably the best running back in the draft.
From 5-star recruit out of high school, to potential top draft pick, being near the top of most people’s lists isn’t anything new for Najee Harris. Harris had the pick of the litter when he decided to attend Alabama, and he didn’t get that choice wrong. While it took a couple years for Harris to see significant playing time, once he did, there was no question his god given talents. As a junior in 2019, Harris looked like the total package. He became a runner that looked comfortable taking on defenders with his size, showed good vision, and showed great hands catching the ball out of the backfield. He would have been one of the top running backs in the 2019 NFL Draft, but shocking everyone he decided to return for his senior season. Harris proceeded to confirm everyone’s beliefs that he is a stellar RB prospect for the NFL who has very few weaknesses. All while helping Alabama win a National Championship in the process. Harris does everything well at a minimum, but the question is, can he elevate his game to the elite level in the NFL?
- Size – Simply put, Harris possesses size at the running back position that only a few others share, and carries it very well
- Very good quickness, especially for someone his size
- Runs with power and rarely goes down on first contact because of it
- Shows good vision and patience in his running style, won’t panic if a whole isn’t available immediately
- Experienced pass catcher, can run more sophisticated routes than most running backs and plays the ball well
- Willing pass blocker who isn’t going to chop and whiff, doesn’t shy away from engaging
- Good ball security, 3 total fumbles across 700+ touches, only one lost
- Always falls forward and rarely gets pushed back on contact
- Can come in and start day one without needing to limit him in certain situations
- Not many elite traits, very good at everything but not the best at any one thing
- Pass pro technique needs some work, very willing but needs to firm up his base and hand positioning
- Little resistance across his career as he had one of the best, if not the best, offensive lines in the country
- Lack of a top gear, gets up to speed quick but won’t outrun the faster linebackers or defensive backs
Steeler Nation is absolutely in love with the idea of Harris being selected by the Steelers in the 2021 NFL Draft. Even just watching games on TV throughout the season it was very easy to see why, as he makes an impact in many ways in every game.
There are a lot of things to like about Harris when talking about his vision. Whenever there is a hole in front of him, he finds a way to get to it and to hit it. Even when the holes are small, he does a good job of getting skinny and getting through the line. He also shows good patience with the ball in his hands and if there isn’t a hole there immediately, he will take his time and wait to find one that develops. Only downfall he has in this area is will occasionally dance around if the hole isn’t right in front of him, which can cause holes to close up before he gets to them.
If someone wants to get back to the “Steelers way” of running the football, Harris is exactly that. He is a big bodied, tough, and physical runner who doesn’t shy away from contact. However he will not be considered a true power back like Eddy Lacy or Derrick Henry. Very rarely does Harris find a time where he is brought down by the first defender once he gets moving as most aren’t able to match his physicality. Upon contact he displays good balance and is able to still maneuver while gaining yards and staying upright. He has very good quickness for his size and isn’t limited for moves in the open field, whether it is going through, around, or over a defender. Some running backs coming out of college there are questions around his feel for running the ball in tight spots, but none of those are present with Harris.
Don’t get it wrong, while Harris won’t ever be considered the next Christian McCaffrey, he is far from the next Jerome Bettis in the passing game. Harris can do anything asked in the passing game and opposing defenses will have to account for him. Whether it be running wheel routes, choice routes on linebackers, or slants out of the slot, he can do it and be a threat. When the ball is thrown to him, he does a good job to adjust to the ball location and is capable of catching it when located outside of his frame. He does have the occasional concentration drop over the years, but that is far from a real concern with him. In terms of pass protection, Harris is someone that can survive in the NFL day one, which most running backs coming from college can’t say. That isn’t to say Harris doesn’t have room to improve, because he can be beat due to not having consistent fundamentals, but he is better than most. Harris’ skillset in the passing game allows him to be a three down back on day one.
NFL Comparison – Le’Veon Bell:
Some people aren’t going to be a fan of comparing him to Bell with the iffy emotions with him, but it is a very fair comparison. Harris possesses better quickness than Bell coming out of college, but comparing him to Bell in the NFL, there isn’t much difference. Harris doesn’t have the meditation patience Bell has behind the line, which might be a good thing, but they look like the same guy playing the game.
Draft Projection – Late 1st/2nd Round Pick:
I’m not saying Harris would be my first pick for the Steelers at #24 overall, but he wouldn’t be a true reach if they went that route. Ideally they’d be able to get him in the second round or trade back and grab him, but the latter isn’t the Steelers way. There is a good chance Harris is the first running back off the board.
Let us know below what you think about Harris as a prospect, and let us know what other prospects you could be interested in seeing a profile on!