Is there a decent chance that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris could wind up being the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2021? With Harris expected to be the Steelers starting running back right out of the chute to start the 2021 season, he should have a great chance at winning the annual award. Harris also figures to be the top rookie selected for 2021 fantasy football redraft leagues as well, according to an ESPN fantasy analysts roundtable discussion.
When asked which rookie they each are most excited to draft in 2021 season-long fantasy leagues, three of the eight ESPN fantasy analysts indicated that it is Harris. Those three who named Harris were Stephania Bell, Matthew Berry and Field Yates.
“Harris’ versatility is a desirable quality for running backs in PPR formats,” Bell said. “A back who can be a high-volume back and catches the ball with ease is a fantasy gold mine. The biggest question is can Harris stay healthy? Concerns about his ankle heading into the draft were largely overstated, but playing in the NFL will pose new challenges to any running back’s durability. It’s fair to question just how productive he will be behind an offensive line that was problematic last season (although the Steelers did draft an interior lineman in Kendrick Green who should be able to contribute right away).”
Berry also have a detailed reason for masking Harris his choice.
“Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Berry said of making Harris his choice. “Yes, there are legit offensive line issues in Pittsburgh. But I’m betting on Harris’ talent and high volume to counterbalance the issues with the line. He is a true three-down superstar and the Steelers have so many weapons in the passing game that defenses will be forced to play back often, opening up running lanes for a talented RB who will likely flirt with 20-plus touches a game.”
As for Yates choosing Harris, his reason for doing so was more direct and to the point.
“Harris is the easy answer for a few reasons, starting with the fact that he’s an exceptional talent,” Yates indicated. “He landed with a Pittsburgh team that needed a go-to runner and the Steelers have already made it clear that they don’t plan to hold back with Harris this season. Rookie running backs have a stronger track record of instant success in fantasy than wide receivers, so give me Harris.”
So, what kind of stats is Harris expected to post in 2021? Mike Clay of ESPN has already updated his predicted player stats for all 32 teams since the draft ended and he has Harris projected for 961 yards and seven touchdowns on 223 total carries. Clay also projects that Harris will catch 51 passes for another 385 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.
In total, Clay has Harris registering 1346 total yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns on 275 total touches. The Steelers have never had a rookie player registered more than 1259 total yards from scrimmage in the history of the franchise. Running back Le’Veon Bell registered 1,259 yards as a rookie in 2013 while Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris had 1235 total yards from scrimmage during his 1972 rookie season.
Personally, I think Harris should be expected to his at least 1,346 total yards from scrimmage in 2021. If he doesn’t, maybe it wasn’t so wise for the Steelers to select a running back in the first round. The only way Harris probably doesn’t hit 1300 yards as a rookie in 2021 would be because of injury or extremely poor offensive line play.