NFL Films Greg Cosell Labels RB Najee Harris As ‘Pedestrian’

When one glances around the NFL landscape, there are a wide variety of runners, some explosive like Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley, and then there are some more plodding types, like Pittsburgh’s very own Najee Harris. At 244 pounds, he was never viewed as the type of back to rip off the 60- or 70- yard runs in Pittsburgh’s offense. No, he was viewed as more of a Swiss Army Knife/power back with sure, soft hands and a penchant for not coughing up the ball. But is he just “pedestrian” as NFL Films producer Greg Cosell labeled him recently via Buffalo Bills official YouTube channel?

“I may be in the minority, and this is all film study, but I went back this summer and I watched seven games of Najee Harris and I gotta tell you, I think Najee Harris is kind of a pedestrian NFL back,” Cosell said. “He’s big, he’s powerful, but he doesn’t have any juice. I had a great conversation with Fred Taylor at the combine about five years ago, and he gave me a phrase that I use now when I evaluate backs and that’s the ability to re-accelerate in confined space and Najee Harris can’t do that.”

Cosell then went on to list a stat that at least thus far in Harris’ short Steelers career appears to be true, and that’s that second gear that a lot of backs have to pull away from defenders. We saw it last season in Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game, as Harris ran for a career-high 188 yards, including a dagger 37-yard TD run late in the fourth to essentially ice the game. Cosell went back to Harris’ game tape at Alabama, and looked at the 500+ carries that he had there, and revealed that only six went for gains of 25 or more yards.

The blocking in front of Harris does play a factor in this as well. The offensive line currently in front of him does Harris no favors, and although the unit appears to be improving on a week-to-week basis, the run blocking still has a ways to go.

“Of course a lot of people say, ‘Well, gee, if he played behind a good o-line,'” Cosell said. “Well, I think the point is if most backs played behind a really good o-line, they’d probably gain yards. I think Najee Harris is a powerful, physical, competitive grinder. There’s no real explosive, big play element to his running style. I’m not sure he’s a true foundation back that you can lean on.”

The Steelers went against the grain last offseason when they took the Harris in the first round. At times this year, his backup Jaylen Warren has looked like he was shot out of a cannon out of the backfield. However, I don’t think he’s capable of being a true NFL workhorse, as his stature simply isn’t built to withhold the punishment. Harris, listed at 6-foot-2 and 244 pounds, certainly fits the bill. And with rookie Kenny Pickett now under center, the run game comes back into focus more than ever. We all know what Harris is capable of, as despite the blocking in front of him last season, he ran for 1,200 yards and a 3.9 YPC, mostly creating yards on his own.

What do you think of Cosell’s assessment of Harris? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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