2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Najee Harris (Fantasy Football)
With the Super Bowl and the 2020-2021 season in the rearview mirror, it’s officially time to turn the page towards the 2021 offseason, and that includes the NFL Draft. The team here at the Fantasy Footballers will be cranking out tons of rookie content for this 2021 class with in-depth profiles on all of the top guys, including Travis Etienne and Rondale Moore.
If you’re looking for even more rookie content, be sure to check out the brand new tools in the Dynasty Pass, and exclusive add on for the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit. It’s got everything you need to crush your rookie draft – rankings, advanced metrics, and mock drafts from some of the industry’s best dynasty minds.
For today’s rookie evaluation, we turn to one of, if not the best back in the class, Najee Harris out of Alabama. There’s a lot to love about the RB out of Bama but before we get to what shows up on tape and how Harris projects to the NFL, let’s take a deeper look at his college production profile.
College Production Profile
|Games||Rush Att||Rush Yards||Yards/Att||Rush TD||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Rec TD|
Like most running backs that go to Alabama, Najee Harris had to wait his turn as a freshman and a sophomore. He began his college career playing behind future NFL backs, Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, and Josh Jacobs, to name a few. As a result, it’s not surprising that Harris’ first two seasons in Tuscaloosa weren’t all that productive, but don’t let that fool you. He was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and per 247Sports, was the most heavily recruited back in the country before deciding on Alabama.
When Najee finally got his chance to be a consistent producer as a junior in 2019, he showed many why he was so heavily recruited with a breakout campaign in both the rushing attack and receiving game. Some NFL Draft analysts thought Harris might declare after the 2019 season as a mid-round pick, but he decided to return to school for his senior season, which ended up being a smart decision. Harris’ 1,446 rushing yards were the most in the SEC and third-most in the country. His 26 rushing touchdowns led the country, helping him secure the 2020 Doak Walker Award as the country’s top RB.
Before we move onto Harris’ measurables and what’s on tape, take a minute to admire the names of these Crimson Tide backs on this list who Harris beat out for the most rushing yards in Alabama history:
|6’2″||230 lbs.||81 inches||10 inches||5-star recruit|
*Note: Measurables taken from Senior Bowl
At this stage in the scouting process, we don’t have official speed and strength testing, but Najee Harris certainly profiles as a prototypical lead back in the NFL. At 6’2″ and about 230 lbs., Harris has the build you look for in a back who can tote the rock 20+ times. His reported 4.45 40-yard dash from one of Alabama’s fall practices is a fantastic number for a back of his size and that speed definitely shows up on tape. It’ll be intriguing to see if Harris tests at Alabama’s pro day in the spring. The thing I want to highlight here with Harris is his size, primarily because he doesn’t move like a back that’s over six feet tall and 230 lbs. He’s fluid with the ball in his hands, impressive for a back of his size. Be sure to check back after Bama’s pro day for updated numbers regarding Najee’s athletic testing.
What’s On Tape
Games Viewed: LSU (2019), Tennesee (2019), Auburn (2019), Kentucky (2020), Ohio State (2020), Georgia (2020)
1. Najee Harris has fantastic wiggle and agility for a bigger back. He can make defenders miss in a phone booth.
With a back the size of Najee Harris, most assume that he’s going to just be a power back, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While he does have excellent power and can run over linebackers, he’s got the ability to shake a would-be tackler to pick up extra yardage. For example, in this clip below, Najee does a great job of setting up the defender with his outside hip, dipping his shoulders to freeze the defender, and bursts through the contact to pick up extra yards. This is a staple of Najee’s game, and he’s fantastic in these situations.
2. Harris is an exceptional pass catcher with a ridiculous catch radius, thanks to his large frame.
When I watch Najee Harris catch the football, I think of Matt Forte. Harris is a natural hands catcher of the football, which bodes well for his ability to translate to today’s NFL where pass-catching backs are the norm these days. Najee took a huge step forward in his final two seasons at Bama, totaling over 700 receiving yards. Harris has the best chance of translating to a three-down role in the NFL of any back in the class.
3. Najee Harris’ unique combination of power and agility help him break tackles with ease in the open field.
Per PFF, Harris broke 25 tackles on his 43 receptions in 2020. For those that love math, that’s more than half the team…a.k.a. Harris has better than a 50% chance of breaking at least one tackle when he catches the ball in space. On tape, Harris shows his tackle-breaking ability in the run game, too, and what’s most impressive about the way he breaks tackles is that Harris shows vision to set up the next defender. In other words, he doesn’t just break one tackle then go down.
What’s Not On Tape
1. Harris has good enough long speed, but he lacks the elite long speed to rip off huge runs consistently.
This is nitpicking a bit, I’ll be honest. But when a running prospect is as good as Najee Harris, you almost have to look for weaknesses. They’re few and far between. Regardless, Harris only logged 25 runs of 20+ yards in his collegiate career. He isn’t going to explode into the second level for a long TD run often, but honestly who is? This is a ‘weakness’ I’m willing to overlook given how few and far between these types of runs are in the NFL. Harris did, however, lead the country in number of 10+ yard runs so he’s plenty explosive to get to the second level.
2. At times, Harris runs upright at the point of contact, and while he was a tackle-breaking machine in college, I could see bigger linebackers being able to take him down when he gets to the NFL.
When Najee gets to the NFL, linebackers are going to be bigger, faster, and stronger. Harris was easily able to fend off college linebackers and defensive backs relatively easily in college but if he continues to run with a more upright style, he may find some difficulty in getting to the second level. He’ll benefit from getting his pads lower to drive through contact.
2021 Fantasy Football Outlook
Najee Harris has the skill set you look for when trying to identify the next game-breaker at the position. He can produce on early downs and contribute in the passing game right away at the NFL level, which should help him get on the field very early in his career. As with all running backs, Harris is a bit landing spot dependent in terms of projecting his workload and fantasy relevance in his rookie season, but Harris is so good that he can easily beat out the incumbent in just about any backfield if he lands on a team with a starter already in place. If he lands with a team that needs a starter in 2021, let’s say, for example, the Steelers or the Dolphins, Harris would legitimately push for top 10 RB production in redraft leagues this season.
In dynasty formats, Harris deserves to go in the first three picks of rookie drafts and is the odds on favorite to be the most popular selection at the 1.01 this spring. There is likely to be a narrative out there that Harris older for a rookie running back. He turns 23 in March, so there is some merit to this, but if you’re playing dynasty with a three to four-year lens, that’s a narrative to fade. He looks primed to be a top 10 dynasty RB for the next few seasons.