Last week Thursday on the most recent edition of The Fantasy Footballers Podcast, show hosts Andy Holloway, Jason Moore, and Mike Wright hit on the topic of potential fantasy “busts,” which are often characterized as players that don’t perform up to where their average draft position (ADP) is in fantasy football drafts before the start of the regular season.
During this episode, which is also featured on YouTube, the three hosts each pick a bust relative to where they are currently going in drafts. Andy Holloway’s selection? Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris.
“Last year he finished as the RB4. He’s being drafted as the RB5, and look, it was a massive workload as a rookie. 307 carries. 74 receptions. The argument of him not paying off on draft value to me is an argument of odds. Can he repeat what he did?”
For the regular season, Steelers rookie RB Najee Harris finished with 1,200 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 307 carries. He also had 74 receptions for another 467 yards and three touchdowns. Total of 381 total touches for 1,667 yards. #Steelers #NFL
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) January 10, 2022
When it comes to opportunity, Najee Harris will have every opportunity to repeat as a top 5 running back in fantasy football in 2022. As the saying goes in fantasy football at the running back position, “Volume is King”. And as Holloway mentioned, Harris received that volume in large amounts last season. He was second in the league in carries only to Colts RB Jonathan Taylor and tacked on 74 receptions, totaling 381 touches in the regular season.
Still, while there are concerned that his overall workload could drop this season amid the rumors that Pittsburgh may try and take him off the field more in 2022 to conserve his body from further punishment, Harris still figures to have one of the highest usage rates of any running back in fantasy football.
Most Touches in a Season by a Rookie
Eric Dickerson: 441 (1983)
Edgerrin James: 431 (1999)
Curtis Martin: 398 (1995)
LaDainian Tomlinson: 398 (2001)
George Rogers: 394 (1981)
Najee Harris: 381 (2021)
Shows why Steelers want to ease Najee’s workload. Got to preserve those tires.
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) June 8, 2022
However, the sticking point Holloway and the other Fantasy Footballers made during the episode that truly could be a concern for Harris in 2022 in regard to him repeating as a top 5 RB in fantasy this season falls on an often-brought-up topic here at Steelers Depot: efficiency.
“He wasn’t an efficient runner on the ground. Big runs are not Najee Harris’s forte. He doesn’t erase the concern of inefficiency to me. Six rookie running backs average less than four yards per carry with 250+ touches. Two of them were elite the next season. Le’Veon Bell and David Montgomery. The other four were pure busts. Trent Richardson, Zac Stacy, Leonard Fournette, and now you got Najee now. But that’s the question mark? Can the efficiency improve? Can the touchdown numbers go up if he doesn’t receive that massive 74 receptions and 400+ receiving yards?”
Najee Harris is on pace to become the first rookie with 250+ carries and a < 3.6 YPC average since Trent Richardson. He has just one run of 15+ yards since Week 6.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 24, 2021
To be fair, Holloway and the other Footballers have Harris ranked as RB9, so it’s not like they are predicting a terrible season for the second year back. When it comes to efficiency, the Fantasy Footballers have a strong argument. Najee Harris averaged 3.9 YPC last season behind an offensive line that struggled to open holes in the running game, often requiring Harris to create on his own. While a talented runner, Harris doesn’t possess that elite burst and open field speed that other backs like Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and Christian McCaffrey have at the position.
Never forget when Derrick Henry went 99 yards to the house🔥pic.twitter.com/3WJIUXrnOw
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) June 12, 2022
Harris finished above all these names last season in fantasy football, but all three missed time due to injuries. Should they all play the same number of games this season, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see all three of them match or surpass Najee’s overall fantasy production in 2022 due to their ability to rip off explosive plays.
In Najee’s defense, the Steelers have made notable improvements to the offensive line this offseason, adding both James Daniels and Mason Cole to the interior to hopefully beef up the run game. Harris also should do a better job at executing as a runner in his second season, having better awareness to take what is given to him and get up the hole quickly, thus leading to more explosive runs.
There is no denying that Najee must be a more efficient runner in 2022, both for the offensive success of the Pittsburgh Steelers on offense as well as to return value for where he is going in fantasy football drafts. His physical limitations as a runner cap that upside to be a dynamic threat on the ground for Pittsburgh, but there shouldn’t be a reason to expect him to improve his run success rate from 2021 with better play up front along the offensive line as well as a hopefully more open offensive attack.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 4, 2022
Do you think that Najee Harris will be a fantasy bust in 2022? What is your reasoning for or against that statement? Does the potential decrease in workload or inefficiencies as a runner concern you compared to other options out there at the RB position? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!