NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt, one of the architects of how scouting is done in football today, released a list of his eight rookies he feels are in the best position to succeed in 2021. Leading that list, just above franchise quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, is Steelers’ running back Najee Harris.
Brandt gave Harris the top spot over Lawrence and Wilson, citing his bell cow potential and the Steelers’ major need to improve its running game. Brandt wrote about his ranking:
“The winner of last season’s Doak Walker Award, given to college football’s best running back, Harris has all the markings of the kind of bell-cow rushing-and-receiving weapon the team has been searching for since Le’Veon Bell‘s last season with the Steelers, in 2017. Pittsburgh needed to boost the NFL’s worst rushing attack of 2020 (3.6 yards per carry) to take some of the pressure off 39-year-old QB Ben Roethlisberger‘s shoulders this year, and to help give the revamped offensive line some time to click after the departures of long-time left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and center Maurkice Pouncey. Harris will have the chance to be a true difference maker for this offense as the team tries to extend its competitive window under Big Ben.”
Harris does bring the Steelers the type of running back who has been missing since Le’Veon Bell was showcasing his patented patient approach. His rushing ability revitalizes the Steelers’ offense, and will only serve to help build the confidence of a line featuring new full-time starters at left tackle (Chukwuma Okorafor), left guard (Kevin Dotson), center (Kendrick Green or B.J. Finney), and right tackle (Zach Banner, injured early last season).
Reviews from minicamp are already raving of Harris’ ability to become the type of player Pittsburgh needs. Stories from our Alex Kozora and Matthew Marczi detail positive reviews of Harris as a leader and bell cow runner.
Harris, the first running back off the board in the 2021 Draft, is the only back to appear on Brandt’s list. Lauded QB prospect Lawrence of Jacksonville followed at No. 2, and Wilson came in at No. 3 as the savior of the New York Jets. The remainder of the list began with generational tight end prospect Kyle Pitts fourth (Atlanta), tackle Dillon Radunz (Tennessee), and receiver Jaylen Waddle (Miami). He ended his list with defense, naming Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons seventh, and Denver cornerback Patrick Surtain II eighth.