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Najee Harris 2021 NFL Draft profile: Fantasy football outlook, team fits, pro comparison, scouting report

Najee Harris has been used to accolades and high expectations his whole football-playing life. A five-star recruit out of Antioch High School in the San Francisco suburbs thanks to 94 rushing touchdowns over four years, Harris was basically a top-3 overall prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout. He received offers from pretty much every single college football powerhouse, committing to the Crimson Tide in 2015.

After a few years, Harris earned significant playing time as a co-lead back with Damien Harris in 2019 before leading the Alabama run game in 2020. In his four years in school he played in three championship games, winning two (2017, 2020). He also was a unanimous All-American in 2020 along with a first-teamer in the SEC and the Doak Walker Award winner for best running back in the nation. Harris even continued his overachieving ways by practicing at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl against the wishes of his agents, but didn’t play in the game.

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Harris from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.

Fantasy fits

Atlanta Falcons

Many will compare Harris to fellow former Alabama running back Derrick Henry because of his physical running style. It’s Henry who helped make Arthur Smith a prolific play caller and thusly the head coach of the Falcons. Harris could become Smith’s new version of Henry, albeit in an offense with a richer passing game than Tennessee’s, plus the offensive line is close to being good. Harris would rack up some serious numbers with this version of the Falcons.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers aren’t quite the same offensively as they were in the Le’Veon Bell era, but it’s a team that would embrace Harris’ rushing style. More importantly, head coach Mike Tomlin has embraced every-down workhorse running backs in the past and would almost certainly do the same with Harris. Pittsburgh is in desperate need of rushing assistance to help take pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger’s declining arm — Harris would work for them and work for Fantasy purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Harris is a perfect match for Bruce Arians, who has long-preferred physical, strong running backs who can catch. A consistent backfield bully next to Tom Brady would give the Tampa Bay offense an added edge it didn’t really carry through much of their title run in the regular season. He would have to master pass protection in short order to stay on the field all the time, though. The cherry-topper is that Tampa Bay’s offensive line is a great unit, further helping Harris find strong numbers. Maybe it’s a longshot, but Harris would be a Fantasy darling if he wound up with the Bucs.  

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Dynasty outlook

Harris should become a great three-down player, but running backs like him tend to incur injuries at a higher rate than others. He will also be 23 years old when he comes into the NFL with 530 touches over his past two seasons. He’s expected to play at a high level, but for how long? That’s really the biggest issue because he’s otherwise a very polished, NFL-ready feature back who should be in line for a minimum of 15 touches from Week 1 on. Harris is in consideration for the 1.01 selection in every rookie-only draft and won’t be there by 1.06.

Scouting report

Strengths

  • Big, strong frame with thick thighs.
  • Excelled in both zone and power blocking schemes.
  • Excellent at following his blocks. When his blocks disintegrated and he freelanced, his vision to find a new way to roam was very good.
  • Powerful, physical runner with low center of gravity. Frequently broke lower-body tackles and arm wraps, sometimes dragging a defender with him, to consistently pick up numbers. Also fell forward for a couple of extra yards at the end of his runs consistently.
  • Very good athletic instincts that manifested in jump cuts, blistering spin moves, hurdles and stiff-arms. This tool kit of moves helped him pick up extra yardage often.
  • Very fluid when changing directions. Has zero issues running in and through tight spaces.
  • Good acceleration and suddenness, especially for a 230-pound runner.
  • Reliable ball-carrier: three fumbles (one lost) over entire collegiate career.
  • A natural at bringing in receptions. Also good at adjusting to off-target throws. Gets head turned around to look downfield and react quickly to oncoming defenders.
  • Available! Only suffered two minor injuries while at Alabama: a foot injury in 2018 that required a cast but he didn’t miss a game; and an ankle injury suffered in the 2020 National Championship Game (he practiced at the Senior Bowl weeks later).
  • Seems like a bright, thoughtful, mature football player. Team-focused player who regularly praised his offensive line for helping him deliver numbers.

Concerns

  • Had 460 carries and 70 catches across 26 games in 2019-20. Also will be 23 years old when entering the league.
  • Patience was inconsistent — sometimes he waited for his blockers to do their work and he’d flash, sometimes he’d shuffle his feet instead of move forward, sometimes he’d bounce right into a lineman’s backside.
  • Seemed to run to contact often. Needs to learn to hop out of bounds to preserve his body.
  • Created yards through power and agility, not speed. Top speed is solid but will get caught from behind.
  • Occasionally got the sense he benefitted from his offensive line clearing space for him. He may not be able to consistently create yards behind a bad offensive line.
  • Pass protection needs significant work — some of his best pass protection snaps involved him barely making contact with defenders and the quarterback just barely getting the ball away. 

Stats breakdown

G Att RuYds Avg TD Rec ReYds Avg TD
2020 13 251 1466 5.8 13 43 425 9.9 4
2020 v top 25 6 122 673 5.5 8 21 246 11.7 4
2019 v top 25 4 90 542 6 4 10 89 8.9 2
Career 51 638 3843 6 46 80 781 9.8 11

Advanced stats to know

  • 962 yards after contact, third-most in college football (PFF)
  • 69 missed tackles forced, second-most in college football (PFF)
  • 3.26 yards after contact per attempt, a surprisingly low 89th in college football (PFF)
  • Only 25 career carries of 20-plus yards
  • 22 broken tackles on 43 catches this year
  • Just one drop in 2020, just one fumble lost in his entire college career

NFL comparison

When you see Harris drag defenders while in an Alabama uniform, you think about Derrick Henry or maybe Eddie Lacy, but he’s not as massive as those guys. When you see Harris with good moves in the passing game, you think back to David Montgomery or Kareem Hunt, but Harris profiles as a little more athletic with a little more size. Think about Todd Gurley‘s collegiate game — he was strong, tough, physical and versatile. Harris might not be exactly as fast as Gurley, but otherwise, there are some legitimate similarities. 




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