Jones-Drew: ‘Perfect’ NFL Running Back Would Have Najee Harris’ Durability

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has yet to miss a meaningful game due to injury through his first two seasons in the league, and because of that, Maurice Jones-Drew listed Harris’ durability as a trait that “The Perfect NFL Running Back” would have. In a yearly exercise for, Jones-Drew takes traits from different players and constructs the perfect NFL running back, which is essentially the running back made up of the best traits from backs around the league. Harris’ ability to stay on the field earned him praise from Jones-Drew.

“I bent the rules in this category last season when I selected Frank Gore, who didn’t play a single snap in 2021, for this spot. This year, I’m going with Harris, who hasn’t missed a game in his two years in the NFL. Availability is the most important asset to a player’s team, especially when that team is in light rebuilding mode,” Jones-Drew wrote.

Obviously, while Harris didn’t miss time with his injury, he was hampered by a Lisfranc injury in his foot that he suffered early in training camp and that sidelined him for most of the preseason. So it’s not as if Harris has avoided any sort of injury, but he’s been able to play through them in the games that matter.

He also suffered an abdominal injury that forced him to miss the entire second half of the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Indianapolis Colts, and he also had an elbow/arm injury he suffered late in the 2021 season that caused him to miss snaps in Pittsburgh’s regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

But as far as running backs go, guys who are hit in some form or fashion on pretty much every play, Harris has been fairly durable. Not missing any games is important, especially with the limited depth behind Harris in 2021, although rookie Jaylen Warren fixed that issue a bit in 2022. Regardless, it’s impressive that Harris has been able to battle through whatever pain he might have and be able to suit up for Pittsburgh when they need him.

A former Steelers running back also made an appearance on the list, as current Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner’s pass-blocking landed him a spot on Jones-Drew’s list. While Conner has done well in Arizona since leaving Pittsburgh as a free agent, the Steelers are set at running back for a while with both Harris and Warren, and I think if they had to do it again, they’d probably still let Conner walk.

Other running backs who made the list were Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler for his hands, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley for his vision, San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffery for his elusiveness and agility, Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs for his contact balance, Kenneth Walker III of the Seattle Seahawks for his speed and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry for his size. That would certainly make one heck of a running back, and for the Steelers’ sake, hopefully, Harris can continue to avoid missing games and also hopefully avoid injuries as a whole going forward.

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