Rookie Watch: Najee Harris

Steve Hamann
Najee Harris via SportingNews
Najee Harris via SportingNews

Back in April, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Alabama running back Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick. The selection marks the first time the Steelers drafted a running back with their first-round pick since 2008, when the team selected Rashard Mendenhall. Many experts agreed that the Steelers made the right pick and just found their next bell-cow back. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert recently referred to Harris as a “three-down back” and said that the Steelers plan to heavily incorporate him in the Steelers’ offense. Let’s dive into Harris’s outlook for this season.

RB1?

In his time at Bama, Harris posted two consecutive seasons of thousand yards rushing and found pay-dirt thirty-nine times in his Junior and Senior seasons. Harris was a crucial part of Alabama’s 2020 championship team and looks to bring that same level of success to his NFL club. Najee’s size, speed, and versatility are the physical characteristics that have many fans excited. Measuring at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Harris’ frame can withstand the beating he’ll surely endure, running between the tackles and staring down opposing team’s linebackers. In his senior year, Harris improved his receiving skills as well. His 4.4 speed makes him a matchup nightmare for linebackers forced to cover him on routes out of the backfield. Najee Harris should have no problem sliding into the RB1 slot and performing at a high level based on his physical traits.

 

Najee Harris
al.com

Expectations

The bookmakers in Vegas set the over-under for Harris’ total rushing yards at 1000.5 yards. Last year, Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson were the only rookies to top the thousand-yard mark. What did both of them have? Opportunity. Harris will be no different. I fully expect Harris to rack up 230+ carries this year. Big Ben is aging, and the Steelers would love to take some of the offense off of his shoulders. The most significant question mark surrounding the Steelers is their new-look offensive line.

For many years, the Steelers had one of the most potent offensive lines in the entire league. Five of the starters from Week 1 of 2020 are no longer on the team. Retirements and free agency decimated the Steelers’ line. Regardless of their O-Line, Harris’ ability and football IQ will propel him to push past the deficiencies of his line. I am smashing the over on 1000.5 yards and think the rookie running back can rush for around 1100 yards this fall.

Final Thoughts

After a terrible collapse in 2020, the Steelers want to right the ship and return to super bowl contender status. Harris is the most significant addition on the offensive side of the ball. That means his usage rate in the offense will be off the charts. Having already played at the biggest stages, Harris will transition seamlessly to the NFL game. So hammer the over, draft him on all your fantasy leagues; Najee Harris will be a gamechanger on Sundays this fall.

 

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