Najee Harris – RB – Alabama
Pros: There is three down back upside to Najee Harris. An explosive, athletic running back that shrugs off defenders with ease. He never goes down on first contact, and shows patience when finding a hole, and was especially impressive against LSU and Auburn, two defenses loaded with NFL talent. Harris has a nasty stiff arm, and a powerful frame that helps him in the open field. He also had consistent production as a receiver with over 300 yards and seven touchdowns last season. His value in the passing game increased when his willingness as a pass blocker was made present.
Cons: Harris is equipped with toughness and great athleticism, but not blazing speed. He’s not going to be seen outrunning defensive backs, or a home run threat by any means. He’s also not going to make you miss with agility, and has moments of running upright so his acceleration can be stopped with a quick grab of his legs. He also doesn’t bounce it to the outside enough, sometimes settling for a two-to-three yard gain in a small hole, when he can bet on his athleticism and get an eight-or-nine yard gain.
Pro Comp: Steven Jackson
Games watched: (Auburn 2019, Arkansas 2019, LSU 2019)
Strengths: Harris runs with a tenacity and viciousness that instills fear into every defenders eyes. The Alabama RB does most of his work AFTER first contact and is tremendous at churning his legs and pushing the pile. Defenses have to load the box in order to stop Harris because his running style ensures that he consistently gains 4+ yards. Not only is he effective in between the tackles as a bruiser but he routinely bounces runs to the outside to get into open space. He displays the ability to bounce off of tackles and advance into the second level. Even though he’s 6’2 and 230 pounds, he possesses elite athleticism that is evident from his ability in open space. Once Harris is in open space, he’s a terror to tackle because of his ability to either bounce off, jump over, or run right through you. He has the potential to be a three down back because of his value he adds to the pass game. Alabama consistency counted on him to be effective in both screens and outlet passes. He contributed 300+ receiving yards in 2019, and is able to be utilized on third downs because of his ability in open space.
Weaknesses: Being 6’2, he tends to run too upright which leaves him exposed to big hits. He lacks pure elusiveness and quickness in tight spaces. This is an issue when being asked to beat a defender behind the line of scrimmage which he then resorts back to his brute strength and power. He lacks fluidity in the agility department which showed up whenever he attempted to “side step” or “spin” away from a defender. Harris lacks big play speed which is evident when faster defensive backs are able to catch him in pursuit.
Overview: While Harris lacks “big play” speed and pure elusiveness, he is the best all around running back in the 2021 NFL Draft Class. Based off of Harris’s tenacious running style alone, an NFL offense will utilize him to be an extremely productive pro. His ability to win in between and outside the tackles makes him a valuable runner because he’ll fit into a majority of offensive schemes. Harris’s film showed a productive running back that was the tone setter for the Alabama offense that consistently got the offense rolling. Harris’s effectiveness in the pass game makes him a fringe first round pick because he will never be seen as a liability whereas a guy like Derrick Henry can’t be on the field on third downs.