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Najee Harris – Rookie Watch

If there’s one thing that gets people excited when it comes to Fantasy football, its a rookie running back with guaranteed volume. So when Najee Harris was selected with the 24th pick to be the Pittsburgh Steelers lead back it was inevitable he would become a hot topic in fantasy conversations.

Many fell in love with his spectacular college tape and the lack of competition for carries. Others were wary of a suspect looking Steelers offensive line. And some were still too freshly wounded from using a first round pick on last years rookie darling Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

So when week 1 came, Najee Harris owners will have been dreaming of a fast start filled with explosive plays and touchdowns. The reality however was a little more of what we should have been expecting.

(credit: USA Today Sports)

Week 1 saw Harris get off to a slow start with 49 total yards. The worries about the offensive line were well founded as Harris repeatedly struggled to break past the line of scrimmage. The volume was undoubtedly there though as Harris played every offensive snap, had 16 rushing attempts and 3 targets.

One week later Najee Harris had another ineffective game rushing with just 38 yards from 10 carries, but he did show life in the passing game with 5 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. The highlight was a 25 yard catch and run for a touchdown, shaking off tackles and diving in for the score.

Despite the lackluster rushing stats, there is plenty to be optimistic about for Harris owners. Volume is key in fantasy and Harris will continue to see plenty of it in both the rushing and receiving game for the Steelers. Harris possesses one of the safest floors in fantasy and like all rookies he will get more comfortable on the football field as the season goes on. He has already shown flashes and plenty of ability to break tackles. The one factor that will likely hold Harris back this year will be the offensive line. Harris has been constantly met at the line of scrimmage by defenders. Evidenced by 36 of his 38 rushing yards in week 2 coming after contact.

For more week 3 fantasy insights, read our Start Em Sit Em article HERE

So what can we expect in week 3 against the Bengals. Will Najee Harris be the fantasy beast many are hoping for. Or will we see another lackluster rushing performance sprinkled with occasional flashes of brilliance.

We’ve touched on Harris so I’ll focus primarily on the opposition. The Bengals defence massively struggled to stop the run last season, finishing as the 4th worst team in points per game to running backs. This season however they appear to have turned a corner. Despite an admittedly small sample size they have kept both Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery quiet in the first two weeks. Both running backs had 20 rushing attempts for 61 yards. That’s an impressive achievement against two of the leagues best.

Bengals interior lineman DJ Reader (credit: Bengals.com)

Cincinnati invested heavily in their defensive line in the off season. With free agency signings Hendrickson and Ogunjobi adding much needed pass rush they also have DJ Reader back who spent most of the 2020 season out with a quad injury. With a PFF run defence grade of 77.1 this season, Reader is key to helping the Bengals clog up lanes and will be hoping to stuff Harris all game.

Overall I see the pattern continuing for Najee Harris this week, with little success running the ball. But his volume, combined with his usage in the passing game will again be enough to keep him in the RB2 category.

Fantasy owners and Steelers fans alike may well have to keep waiting at least one more week for that monster game that announces Harris to the world as the superstar that he surely is.

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