NFL Draft

Evaluating The Value: Alabama RB Najee Harris

It might have been a surprise to see the Steelers have some quality options with pick 24 in the first round. When Pittsburgh got on the clock, several presumed options remained available. That included tackle Teven Jenkins, running back Najee Harris, and center Landon Dickerson. All three appeared in recent days as three of the Steelers’ primary targets.

In this scenario, there was hope or at least consideration by some that they might trade down to possibly add an extra pick or two. It takes two to tango, and the Steelers did not find a dance partner. And in seemingly Pittsburgh fashion they did not wait for the full allotted 10 minutes to elapse before making its pick.

Pittsburgh handed its card in quickly, and the favorite of many fans and Steelers Depot contributors ended up being the selection. Running back Najee Harris fills a need in the offense and has the pedigree to impress. He checks the boxes with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert as well as offensive coordinator Matt Canada and running back coach Eddie Faulkner at his Pro Day. They had a Zoom/in-person meeting with him in the process. He has production, with over 4,600 total yards and 57 touchdowns.

Here is where other draft outlets ranked him.

The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah had him listed as his #20 player and had this to say, “Overall, Harris isn’t a home-run hitter, but he’s a very skilled runner with excellent value in the passing game. I see similarities to former Chicago Bears star Matt Forte when he was coming out of college.”

Gil Brandt had him listed at #32 in his Hot 100 “Harris — who stayed at Alabama for a fourth year — is a great pass-catcher (70 receptions for 729 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons) with above-average running skills.”

Lance Zierlein of gave him a 6.46 grade (Will be starter within first two seasons) and opined, “Plus-sized runner who elevated his game and draft stock with a well-rounded performance in 2020. Harris showed improved short-area creativity and elusiveness to go with his trademark physicality. Creates additional yardage with both wiggle and power, but he lacks desired top gear to change games in a flash. He handled a heavier lift in 2020, with almost 300 total touches in 13 games. Harris’ value as a third-down option out of the backfield and as a personal protector should not be underestimated after his performance in his senior year. His running style could shorten his career, but he’s a tough, three-down runner who can immediately upgrade a running game.”

Alex Kozora did our report and was reminded of a familiar face, “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.”

Overall, this is a high value pick based on need and fit within the offense. He landed in the area of where the experts had him ranked and should give the running game a big bump in production and quality.

In what might be Ben Roethlisberger’s final year, Harris could help improve the offense to take some of the pressure off the veteran QB and hopefully become more balanced. Harris is about as complete a running back as you can find. He was an easy selection for the Steelers’ brass to make.

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