Najee Harris was a 5 star recruit coming out of high school. He finished his high school career with 7,948 rushing yards and averaged over 2,000 yards per season from his sophomore to senior season. His 7,948 rushing yards is the 4th most in California high school history. He won many awards and chose to attend Alabama over Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, and USC.
As a freshman in 2017, Najee Harris played in all 13 games but did not have many touches. He finished his first year with 60 carries for 370 yards and 3 touchdowns. He still wasn’t the lead back during his sophomore year, but he was extremely productive on his limited touches. Najee had 117 carries for 783 yards and 4 touchdowns. His most productive and important game in 2018 was in the NCAA Championship game, where he had 6 carries for 64 yards with 2 catches for 21 yards and helped Alabama win the title over Georgia.
Najee’s junior year was his first time as a college starter. He showed he could carry a full workload and had a tremendous season, finishing the year with 209 carries for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also showed he can be a reliable passing option and demonstrated strong technique as a pass blocker. Harris decided to stick around for his senior season and will enter the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the best running backs in the class.
At 6’2” and 230 pounds, Najee Harris looks more like a linebacker than a running back. He has long legs and a thick frame. Najee is a tough runner and rarely goes down after first contact. He doesn't break many long runs (40+ yards) and runs tall and upright, but can consistently pinball his way through a defense for some decent chunk plays. He tends to hurdle too much instead of juking or cutting which can slow him down during the play or risk injury. His feet never stop moving. Even when behind a pile of players he keeps his feet moving as he tries to push through a hole. He also shows some great decisiveness when he sees an opening to plant his foot and accelerate through. Najee’s elusiveness and agility may not be the greatest; he does have a lethal stiff arm. At first glance Najee will remind you of an old school power running back that can just wear down defenses.
Graphic and Film Breakdown
Najee’s most notable strengths are his vision, power, balance, and agility. When he hits a hole he can be a violent downhill runner, but he has the elusiveness and agility to make people miss. Harris is not afraid to lower his shoulder and truck someone over, and he has a lethal stiff-arm. He displays some great vision and patience behind the line prior to accelerating through a hole. Najee is a tough runner to bring down and he always falls forward.
Harris’s biggest weakness is that he runs tall, which makes it very easy for defenders to hit him low. He’s also not quick to accelerate, although he does have great speed for someone his size. Najee also tends to hurdle more than he needs to. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also a huge injury risk.
(Note: all scores/ratings are based on personal opinion.)
Speed: Najee gets an 86 overall speed grade. Once he reaches his top gear Harris is like a Mack truck: he may not be pulling away from defenders, but good luck bringing him down.
In this play we see a combination of Najee’s skill set. After getting the handoff he cuts back and accelerates to the outside. He keeps his balance after hurdling a defender and maintains his top speed as he bulldozes into the safety before being brought down. For his size he does display some above average speed.
Catching: Harris hasn’t been used frequently in the passing game, but when he was he was very effective. So far, Harris has 37 catches for 356 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has soft hands and is great at racking up yards after the catch. His 84 catching grade could be higher if he was used more.
Here, Najee is lined up in the backfield and runs a nice slant. He had several yards of separation on number 8 (player covering him). The route was clean and crisp and he used his hands to make the catch. He does most of his damage after the catch, throwing one defender to the ground and hurdling another. After the hurdle, Najee was able to keep his balance and coast into the endzone.
In this play Harris runs a wheel route where he is blanketed by the defender. Tua threw a pass that only Najee had a chance of catching. He does a great job tracking and high-pointing this ball. His ability to adjust to the throw and make the catch was very impressive. He displays some excellent body control after the catch, making sure he gets a foot down before falling in the endzone.
Elusiveness and Balance: Harris was given a 78 elusiveness grade and 89 balance grade. He can make people miss but he tends to lower his shoulder and look for contact. However, he is one of the better college running backs for keeping his balance after contact, and his bigger frame allows him to take hits and keep moving forward.
This rush to the left is one of the reasons why Harris got a 78 for an elusiveness score. He made minimal effort to avoid opponents and instead looked for contact. We’ve seen that he can make defenders miss, but he prefers to lower the shoulder and initiate contact. However, his balance after contact is second to none. In this video, he takes a big hit from a linebacker and maintains his balance and trucks forward for some additional yards before being dragged down.
Strength: Najee’s strength and size make him extremely difficult to bring down. He wears down defenses with his runs and looks to punish defenders who try to bring him down. His feet are constantly moving and he’s always falling forward or fighting for extra yards. He’s averaged 6.1 yards per carry during his time at Alabama.
This run shows why Harris got his 96 strength score. He makes the first cut inside and plows into a defender, then bounces off and cuts to the outside while accelerating to the first down line. Najee shows off his power and strength as he destroys the defender in his way, keeps his balance, and falls forward while being tackled.
Najee Harris has the ability to be a workhorse running back in the NFL. He should make a strong showing at the NFL combine and it wouldn't be surprising if he was drafted in rounds 1-3. His pass protection is already above average and he wasn't abused by Alabama, as he had limited touches until his junior season. A running back his size who can catch the ball is a rarity nowadays, which makes him a unique player. Depending on where he is drafted he will most likely be a top 6 pick in 2021 dynasty drafts based on his skill set alone. Since Harris lacks elite speed he won't be much of a big play threat but he will get a lot of chunk (10-15 yard) plays. It would be very depressing for fantasy owners if he gets drafted to a team with an established running back because Najee is much more than a change of pace back. It wouldn't be surprising if the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Houston Texans were the teams interested in drafting him. Najee’s game has some resemblance to Steven Jackson and he has future RB1 written all over him.