In his first mock draft of the season, NFL.com’s Charles Davis is making a safe and predictable pick at #24 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has the team taking Alabama RB Najee Harris at that spot. In explaining the pick, Davis writes:
“There’s a screaming need for O-line help, and that will be addressed later. It’s hard to pass on Harris, a physical runner with exceptional pass-catching skills.”
His point about Harris’ pass-catching ability is an underrated one. For as much as we’ve discussed Harris as a runner, he’s an excellent receiver. Despite sharing the field with a slew of top receivers, Harris still caught 70 passes over the past two seasons. They weren’t just checkdowns, either. He averaged over 10 yards per catch, and had 11 touchdowns.
Here’s how that stacks up with other top backs in the class, and what they’ve done in the passing game since 2019.
Najee Harris: 80/729/11
Travis Etienne: 85/1020/6
Javonte Williams: 42/481/4
Trey Sermon: 20/166/1
Chuba Hubbard: 31/250/1
Michael Carter: 46/421/4
Harris and Etienne are in a tier of their own. The rest had average to below receiving numbers. In our scouting report, we noted Harris as being an excellent receiver, showing comfort playing out in space, running wide receiver routes, and making difficult, combat catches.
The Steelers have plenty of reasons to strongly consider Harris at #24, and he’s one of the favorites to be the pick. But as we noted yesterday, there are many who have Etienne as the top back. Running back will be one of the Steelers’ top needs but who they end up taking remains a mystery.
Etienne doesn’t show up in the first round of Davis’ mock. Harris is the only runner to go in the top 32. Elsewhere around the league, the 49ers select Alabama QB Mac Jones while Joe Tryon is a slightly surprising entry into the first round, going #30 to the Buffalo Bills.