It might be one-part running backs sticking together but NFL.com’s and former Jaguars’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew thinks Najee Harris will take the league by storm this season.
The site’s analysts were asked to pick one rookie – excluding quarterbacks – who will make the biggest impact this year. Quarterbacks, of course, always win out in terms of value, especially in a strong class like 2021’s. Here’s what MJD wrote about Harris.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers have been searching for a dynamic running back since Le’Veon Bell‘s departure. Finding that missing piece was a huge priority for the team this offseason after having a rushing attack that ranked last in the NFL in 2020. Enter Najee Harris. The Steelers couldn’t have made a better decision with their first-round draft pick, as Harris boasts the talent and skill set to provide a more balanced offense — something the Steelers gravely missed last season. The rookie will take a ton of pressure off Ben Roethlisberger and help set the tone for this dynamic unit.”
Hard to disagree with anything he wrote there. Pittsburgh made no secret they were looking for a three-down feature back and got one by taking Harris. He’s expected to be the team’s workhorse from Day One. Based on comments made by QB Ben Roethlisberger today, Harris is in good shape to achieve that goal.
MJD is one who knows the value of a good rookie season. A 2nd round pick in 2006, he rushed for nearly 1000 yards and 15 total scores his first year, creating a dynamic one-two punch with Fred Taylor.
Harris won’t exactly be a dynamic back in the home-run hitting sense but he’ll churn out tough yards and will be a unique threat as a wide receiver, taking advantage of matchups on linebackers in the open space. Already, the Steelers have gotten comfortable with splitting Harris out wide, either isolated or in the slot, something he often did at Alabama. It allowed him to catch 80 passes over the past two seasons.
As Jones-Drew touched on, Harris will hopefully allow balance and more importantly efficiency with the Steelers’ offense. Last season, they were one-dimensional with zero running game and it hurt them in so many ways, especially as the losses piled up by season’s end.
Putting all the top quarterbacks aside, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, it’s hard to go with anyone else other than Harris. He was the best player at his position going to a team that will use him as much as possible. But some analysts went in a different direction. Other rookies to be selected were Eagles’ WR DeVonta Smith, Bengals’ WR Ja’Marr Chase, Dolphins’ WR Jaylen Waddle, and the Jets’ Alijah Vera-Tucker.