Why Najee Harris Should Be A First Round Pick
(Photo Credit: Gene Puskar)
As a person who had roughly one million shares of Clyde Edwards-Helaire last season, and screamed at just about anyone who would listen that CEH was destined for a historic rookie season, I understand the skepticism.
However, Najee Harris will undoubtedly cause those wary of drafting rookie running backs early more headaches than CEH owners last year.
Let me remind you all of the old fantasy equation that has never failed: talent + opportunity = success. Let’s begin with Najee Harris’ opportunities. Mike Tomlin has an extremely long history of producing fantasy relevant backs. Just one example is force-feeding the less talented James Conner.
Since 2007, the year Mike Tomlin took over, Pittsburgh starting running back have averaged 235.5 carries a season. This includes the likes of Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Dwyer, and Rashard Mendenhall, all of whom were serviceable at best.
Excluding 2015 in which he only played 6 games, Le'veon Bell, Tomlin’s most talented running back, averaged 279 carries a season. According to Scott Barrett, Steelers starting running backs since 2014 have averaged 22 fantasy points per game and a RB2.5 finish. The Steelers threw the ball the 2nd most last year(42 attempts/game) but are clearly looking to break their old habits.
Even Art Rooney, the owner of the Steelers, commented on running the ball more.
“I think Mike and I certainly agreed coming off the season that we need to run the ball more consistently to get to where we want to get to," said Rooney. "We need to figure out how to get better running the football.”
It's also vital that we discuss the talent of Najee Harris. For the Crimson Tide in 2020, Harris had 294 touches, 1891 total yards, and 30 total touchdowns. According to Scott Barrett, Najee Harris led Power-5 running backs in missed tackles forced, total first downs, and was top-3 in rushing yards after contact.
Harris is also an elite receiving back, despite what many people think. Per Graham Barfield, Najee Harris was first in missed tackles forced per reception(0.58) over the past 6 seasons. Despite being 229 pounds, he racked up 43 receptions on 57 targets (per player profiler) and a 13.4% target share.
The only real concern with Najee Harris is his offensive line. Last year they were PFF’s 31st run blocking unit, however this should not deter people from drafting Harris. Per PFF, last season’s bottom-five offensive lines in PFF’s run blocking grade produced the same amount of top-24 PPR running backs as the top-five o-lines.
Everything points to Najee Harris being given a monster workload, and making the most out of these opportunities. He is currently being drafted at the end of the 2nd round, which is an absolute steal.
1010 Rushing Yards
230 Receiving Yards
11 Total Touchdowns