Najee Harris. Been looking forward to this one. This young man is becoming more and more likely to be the first running back taken in this years draft, and I’d be extremely surprised if that wasn’t on day one. He’s going to be an instant impact type player for a running game hungry team. Let’s dig into his story.
Najee Harris – RB – Alabama
Najee Harris was one of the most hyped high school talents we’ve ever seen at the position. He was labelled the number one prospect in the entire country by Rivals. As a result, everybody wanted him. Najee is from California, and had all the local schools trying to sign him up. USC were right there in the mix, along with schools such as Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame. However, as is often the case, Najee chose Nick Saban’s Alabama, and made his way cross country to go and play for the college powerhouse.
He drew comparisons as a high schooler to Adrian Peterson, which is a pretty good position to be in before you’ve even touched a college football field!
His story is not one of a guy who grew up in a comfortable home and breezed his way into the best football program in the country. Far from it. Najee recalls being homeless for periods of time, and his mum has mentioned when asked what Najee’s ‘home town’ was, that he simply ‘grew up on the west coast’. His family moved a lot. He’s the youngest of five siblings. They lived on the streets, in the car, at a family members house, with a friend, all over. Najee doesn’t remember staying in one place for more than a year.
Najee Harris talks about the struggles he faced when he was younger. Anger issues as a young kid, smashing up the class room. His mum getting called on countless occasions to help calm him down. She admits that he definitely had some anger problems while he was young. But you’d never know it now. Najee seems like the calmest guy, always smiling, a real character. Seems like a pleasure to be around and I think his attitude and demeanour will work in his favour when it gets to sitting down with NFL teams around the draft.
After moving around a tonne with his family, all over the west coast, Najee Harris would finally settle, in Tuscaloosa. The Alabama Crimson Tide.
Harris landed at Alabama fourth on the depth chart as a freshman. it’s understood when you get to Alabama that the roster is going to be so talented, you have to earn your reps. It’s difficult to get on the field as a freshman, no matter how good you are. These recruits understand that. They’re signing up to an elite program that produces elite NFL talent, and has an amazing conversion rate of the talent they bring in making it to the league. Case and point, this article.
As you can tell from the above, Najee took over the lead role as a junior in the 2019 season. Josh Jacobs & Damien Harris were headed to the NFL, and Najee’s patience was about to pay off. He took the majority of the carries in both seasons, and began to show what he was capable of.
Najee has talked about the fact that he almost transferred to a different school after his freshman year, so he could get more action in games. But looking back at it now, that decision to stay might have been the best decision he’s made. It’s hard as a young eager running back to see three guys ahead of you getting the reps. With college football, you really have to believe in the coaching staff, and yourself. Believe that your time will come. For Najee, it absolutely did.
I love his patience. He waits for his gaps, and then accelerates into them. He has that ability to see the game in front of him and run behind his offensive line. He strikes me as a very smart football guy. He gets it. Understands the assignments, where the gaps are going to be.
In terms of skill set, he has it all. Speed, acceleration, patience, power, hurdles, spin moves, stiff arms. You name it. He’s put it all on tape. The hurdle against Notre Dame is a highlight for the ages, and one that really propelled Najee Harris’ name into the mouths of NFL teams. That kind of athletic ability in a young guy standing 6 foot 2, 230 pounds. He cleared that hurdle and just kept on running.
Look at the play above against Auburn around the 3:15 mark. He gets into his gap, and then BANG changes direction when he sees a gap open up to his right, hits it IMMEDIATELY, and he’s gone. That’s elite. Yes Najee Harris will benefit from a very strong roster of offensive linemen at Alabama, but his vision, cuts, and then acceleration shouldn’t be overlooked. Very talented.
He’ll also spin on a dime and leave you grappling the air where you thought he’d be. I know that well as a Florida fan. Plus, you’ll need more than one tackler on most occasions to bring him down. If you try and grab hold of him low, he’ll step out of your grasp, and he can carry you for yards downfield if you try to tackle him high too. Always falling forward, Najee Harris will find yardage when he needs to find yardage.
To me, he’s an every down back. Highlighted by his more than capable pass catching capabilities. You can send him on a route down the middle of the field and he’ll produce for you, make the catch, and keep going. The more I study his tape, and I’ve already looked at Travis Etienne, the more I think Najee most definitely deserves to be the first running back taken come April.
Running backs across the board have great abilities of course. But I can’t help but feel like Najee Harris has ALL of them. He’ll bundle down the middle on an inside run and fall forwards. He’ll also beat you to the outside and burn you down the sideline. Then he’ll jump clean over your HEAD if he needs to. In the modern NFL, Najee Harris is what you’re looking for. Every down back, every down ability. An asset to an NFL team. A very real asset.
He’s put the work in, he stuck it out at Alabama, he deserves this shot, and I’d imagine he’s going to land somewhere that wants to utilise him as THE running back. Might even be a playoff team if he’s taken late on day one.
His college career has been well decorated. Two time National Champion with the Tide. A unanimous All American in 2020. First team All SEC in 2020, after being second team in 2019. Plus a few votes for the Heisman this season too, after a very strong year.
Where does he fit best? Everywhere. There’s not an NFL team that wouldn’t benefit from adding Najee Harris to their roster. I mean, look at what you get from Christian McCaffrey in Carolina. Elite production in both the run and the passing game. I’m not saying Najee Harris will be McCaffrey good out of the gate. Does he have the ability to be that good? Absolutely. Every bit as good.
Najee Harris will be the first running back called this year. I believe that now. As much as I appreciate Travis Etienne, and he is a very real talent too. Najee Harris is the best available this year.
He would be the perfect replacement for Aaron Jones, who likely leaves Green Bay as a free agent during the off season. However, he won’t be there by the time the Packers are on the clock late in the first round. I can see Najee Harris going closer to the 15 – 25 mark. Teams don’t typically trade up for a running back in the first round, so I can see him landing with one of the below:
Arizona at 16 would make sense. They technically don’t have a number one running back right now, as they’re unlikely to resign Kenyan Drake. Adding Najee Harris to their offence would be game changing, and give them a serious asset to support Kyler Murray. Teams would have a lot to deal with trying to contain Kyler Murray and Najee Harris coming out of the backfield. Plus you can build passing sets around him, and attack teams that way too.
Miami at 18 also makes sense, and personally I’d love to see it. Neither option here are too early either. Make no mistake about it, draft picks are about value, and the value you’re going to get from Najee Harris is worth every bit of these picks. Bringing him to Miami reunites him with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and gives you the running game you desperately need.
The Jets at 23 also makes sense. This pick belongs to Seattle but of course was traded to New York in the Jamal Adams deal, so the Jets find themselves picking a second time here in the first round. So you get Najee Harris and begin to rebuild the identity of your offence, which currently doesn’t exist for the Jets.
Wherever he lands, Najee is a stud. Pro Bowl career incoming. Book it.