NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Alabama RB Najee Harris

Najee Harris hurdle

From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#22 Najee Harris/RB Alabama – 6’2 230

The Good

– Rare size and frame for the position, one of the biggest backs in his class but carries weight well
– Well-rounded player capable of succeeding in any facet of the game
– Unique blend of power and quickness, potential to be a complete NFL back
– Finishes runs, good power and difficult for one defender to take him down, routinely falls forward and drags pile with him
– Downhill run style at the first level, gets skinny through the hole despite his size
– Runs with impressive pad level for back of his height
– Good athlete, light week, shows short-area quickness, decisive jump cuts to get in and out of the hole and make defenders miss
– – Shows patience and allows blocks to develop, then shows acceleration and gets vertical, able to plant foot in the ground and work upfield
– Capable of highlight reel players, one of the most successful hurdlers I’ve watched
– Able to create behind line of scrimmage, make something out of nothing
– Makes serious impact in passing game
– Comfortable playing out in space, detached from backfield and split out wide
– Fluid route runner, makes combat catches, great hands and impressive body control, makes tough catches on WR routes and threat after the catch
– Willing pass protector, frame helps absorb contact, able to square up and shows effort
– Plus ball security, didn’t fumble often
– Functioned in every-down role
– Excellent production as runner and receiver, successful and decorated player

The Bad

– Average straight line speed, not a home run hitter and has to run through more often than he runs past
– Benefited from playing with All-Star cast around him, including best offensive line in football
– Occasional drop, will take eyes of football and let one through his hands
– Inconsistent in pass pro, needs to play with better base, will lose reps
– Tendency to dance more than he should in open field instead of barreling forward

Bio

– Two-year starter for the Crimson Tide
– Career: 638 carries, 3843 yards (6.0 YPC) 46 TDs, 80 receptions, 781 yards 11 TDs
– 2020: 251 carries, 1466 yards (5.8 YPC) 26 TDs, 40 receptions 425 yards 4 TDs
– Named 1st Team AP All-American in 2020
– Set school record for rushing TDs and total TDs
– Five-star recruit out of HS, one of the country’s top prospects, had 29 offers coming out

Tape Breakdown

I knew Najee Harris was a great prospect. You could tell by just casually watching over these last two years. But really digging into his game made me appreciate how talented he is.

Harris has every trait you look for in a back. Not just at a baseline “good enough” level. He’s good to great in almost every area. A blend of power and quicks as a runner. A tremendously talented receiver. A fundamental player. A pretty good blocker. The flaws in his game are minor and small.

So let’s talk about the good. And I’m not sure where to start. At 230 pounds, you’d expect a back to run with power. And Harris does. Not an elite level bruiser like say, Brandon Jacobs, but he packs a punch. Best example of that comes against LSU last year, sending 1st round pick Patrick Queen (#8) flying.

 

But he has quickness, too. Light feet, good jump cuts, and he shows impressive contact balance to step out of tackles.

 

Most backs you evaluate coming out of college are pure runners. Harris is the complete package. He’s an excellent receiver, even by a WRs standards. Check out this contested back shoulder fade he caught for a TD against LSU. And in the follow up clip, he takes a checkdown pass all the way to the end zone, showcasing a blend of power and athleticism.

 

Pittsburgh needs a back who can finish. Someone who excels in short-yardage situations. I don’t have data to quantify it, I’m sure someone has it somewhere, but Harris was a guy who can finish in short-yardage/goal line. Dude has a nose for the marker or the end zone. He’s always carrying guys with him.

 

It’s hard to find obvious flaws in his game. Pass protection isn’t amazing but it’s good for a college back. Very rare to find a college back whose great in pass protection out of the box. You can see Harris lose a couple battles here.

And sometimes he will do a little too much in space. Like this reception vs Tennessee. Jumps in, jumps out, instead of just getting vertical. Happens most often vs multiple defenders in space, not 1v1. But it’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

 

This is a tall comparison to make but man, Harris reminds me so much of Le’Veon Bell. Near identical frames, run styles, excellent receivers, all-around game, they both are even impressive hurdlers. Harris doesn’t quite show Bell’s wait-wait-wait patience but everything else is a mirror image. You guys know I’m generally in the “don’t draft a RB in the first round” camp but if there’s a guy to break that philosophy, it’s Harris. Fits the Steelers’ lead-back system really well.

Projection: Mid-Late First Round

Games Watched: at South Carolina (2019), vs LSU (2019), at Missouri, at Tennessee, vs Notre Dame

Previous 2021 NFL Draft Player Profiles
OC Drake Jackson OC Landon Dickerson TE Pat Freiermuth RB Javonte Williams
CB Patrick Surtain II OG Deonte Brown TE Kylen Granson TE Brevin Jordan
OL Trey Smith OT Adrian Ealy CB Jaycee Horn CB Kary Vincent Jr.
RB Elijah Mitchell OT Alex Leatherwood TE Hunter Long
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