Pro Football Focus will be applauded by some and scrutinized by others for their methodology when it comes to evaluating NFL teams and specific players. However, when it comes to fantasy football, their in-depth analysis of the data and metrics that they use to create their rankings is a great tool to utilize when ranking great players at their respective positions against one another.
Earlier this offseason, I wrote a post detailing PFF’s fantasy football breakdown on the Pittsburgh Steelers and their outlook for the 2022 season. Recently, another fantasy football analyst for PFF, Nathan Jahnke, posted his rankings of the top players in both the AFC and NFC when it comes to his projections for the fantasy football season. To no surprise, Steelers RB Najee Harris cracked his top ten players in the AFC. However, Jahnke thought enough of Harris to place him as his #3 overall player in the AFC.
While Harris has been considered a near first-round lock in standard 12-man league fantasy football drafts this offseason, the variance on him in the industry has been well-documented. On one hand, you have a workhorse back that figures to again flirt with nearly 400 touches in his second season after he accumulated 1,667 yards from scrimmage and ten TDs as a rookie, leading to a full-PPR RB4 finish. On the flip side, you have analysts low on Harris due to a lack of efficiency on the ground as a runner as well as the fact that a below-average offense with either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett at the helm could limit his impact as a pass catcher and his overall upside outside of succeeding on sheer volume alone.
Still, Jahnke ranked Harris over the likes of Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon at the RB position and Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and Ja’Marr Chase at the WR position, who are all prolific fantasy assets in their own right. Jahnke ranks Harris as his #6 overall player for 2022 in his PPR rankings pointing to the combination of youth, guaranteed volume, and a clean bill of health compared to his competition as the reasons why Harris comes in so high on his list.
Having just completed my own fantasy football projections on Harris, I can understand Jahnke’s ranking and support it based on strategy of how fantasy football is played.
The saying goes, “You can’t win your league in the first round of your draft, but you can definitely lose it.” Another saying often made in fantasy football is “volume is king”, especially at the running back position. That is where Harris makes a lot of sense to be one of the top players selected in fantasy leagues this season. First, he is a proven workhorse that has withstood an entire season as a rookie, playing 84% of the offensive snaps and shouldering one of the biggest workloads in the league. Compared to guys like Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey, Harris can be argued as a safer pick than those running backs that have missed substantial time the last several years.
Seeing as Harris will likely rank in the top five again in carries and post 50+ receptions again in the passing game, he can be considered one of the more “sure bets” this season in the first round, if there ever were any in fantasy football. Obviously anything can happen in terms of injury, but if the goal is to mitigate risk and take players with guaranteed touches coming their way, Najee Harris is a sensible option to target early in your fantasy drafts this summer.