Draft grades are often meaningless immediately after the draft, largely due to how subjective they are to each analysts pre-draft rankings.
Grading rookies midway through a season is also subjective, depending on the analyst and how he views the game.
Knowing all that though, it’s still incredibly frustrating and puzzling to see Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie first-round running back Najee Harris garner a C+ from CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso in his latest piece grading each of the 32 first-round rookies on Thursday.
Harris, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month for October, has been quite the find for the Steelers, who are starting to find their footing offensively and are putting together consistent efforts on the ground. Add in Harris’s ability to make plays out of the backfield as a pass catcher and it’s quite clear he was a great overall pick for the Steelers.
Through seven games, Harris has rushed for 479 yards and three touchdowns on 128 carries and has added 273 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 37 catches. Those numbers might not be overly eye-popping on paper, but Harris is having a really good year overall and has helped transform the Steelers’ offense in recent weeks.
Somehow though, that’s only good enough for a C+ from Trapasso.
“Harris himself wasn’t going to fix the Steelers run game. But the 2020 Doak Walker winner sure is trying,” Trapasso writes. “He leads all rookies with 128 carries but averages just 3.7 yards per carry to date. Most of that is on Pittsburgh average run-blocking unit. The flashy runs have been few and far between, but there’s only so much a ball carrier as big and talented as Harris can do. He’s been a godsend for Ben Roethlisberger in the pass game with 37 receptions and 273 yards and two scores. However, toting the rock behind this iteration of Pittsburgh’s offensive line isn’t quite the same as doing so at Alabama over the past four years.”
Again, using yards per carry to just a running back in today’s day and age is archaic. That said, the low YPC number is largely due to the first three games of the season behind a rebuilt offensive line that needed time to gel. Since the turn of the calendar to October (and now November) Harris has been really good, recording at least 90 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in each of his four games in the month, leading to Offensive Rookie of the Month honors. Harris also totaled 356 rushing yards on 88 attempts (4.1 ypc) and had 17 receptions for 124 receiving yards for a total of 480 scrimmage yards (120 scrimmage yards per game) while scoring four touchdowns.
Additionally, in the month of October his successful run rate sits just below 60% at 59.1% (52 of 88 carries were successful), which is pretty darn close to his collegiate successful run rate of 65% behind a stacked offensive line.
This feels grossly like boxscore scouting from Trapasso, with a hint of pre-draft never-draft-an-RB-in-the-first bias mixed in, leading to a puzzling C+ grade.
At worse, Najee is a B at this point in his Steelers’ career, considering all that he can do as a three-down running back.