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Is Najee Harris the Next Star RB Out of Alabama? A 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile

Death, taxes, and Alabama producing running backs that the NFL and fantasy owners should be aware of are three of the only things in this universe we can 100% rely on. Najee Harris is one such player heading into 2020. Harris has played only three seasons for the Crimson Tide and may yet return for the fourth year of his eligibility. But if he decides the time is now for him to enter the NFL, it is important that we know just what we are getting. With that in mind, let’s meet him.

BACKGROUND

Coming out of Antioch California, Harris was seen as something special. He racked up 7,948 rushing yards and 94 touchdowns, along with a further 438 yards on 25 receptions (and another five scores) in high school. Harris was the top-ranked RB recruit in the nation in 2017, and the second-ranked player in the entire class. Jaelan Phillips is the only player who was ranked higher. Harris received offers from 18 schools and visited with Michigan and UCLA in addition to Alabama. But it was to Alabama that he went.

COLLEGE PRODUCTION

There are few college teams where a freshman RB will have a harder time making an impact than Alabama. Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris were ahead of Najee on the RB depth chart in 2017. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was also a huge part of the rushing attack. Harris remained behind the other Harris and Josh Jacobs in his second year but was actually much more explosive than both of them. Damien’s 876 rushing yards came at 5.8 yards-per-carry clip, while Jacobs averaged 5.3 on his way to 640 yards. Finally, when all of these players had left for the NFL and Harris had the backfield to himself, he was able to put up serious numbers.

Harris was largely ignored in the passing game in his first two seasons. But in 2019 he flashed his receiving skills.

Harris had five 100-yard games in 2019, including two with 146 yards. The second came against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Harris finished No.6 in the SEC this season in rushing yards, rushing attempts and yards from scrimmage. No other player scored more touchdowns than Harris, who amassed 18 in total.

DRAFT PROSPECTS

Harris does not appear to be a player that the Draft Community is too excited about.  Certainly not at the time of writing. He is the RB10 over at the Draft Network where they have him ranked as their 98th best player in this class. Harris is only a junior in 2020 however.  As such his ranking may be based on the fact that he potentially has another year left in college.

If we take a look at Harris through the lens of Anthony Amico’s RB model, things are not much prettier at the moment for Harris.

Harris Draft Scout (DS) rank for 2021 is currently RB5, which puts him on the less favorable left side of the regression tree.1 Harris also falls well short of the 28 rush attempt per game mark. But he just barely makes the cut in career receiving yards per reception, landing him in node 9. Other players in this node have historically produced at least one 200-point season in their first three NFL years about 21% of the time.2

At present, calling Harris a slam dunk NFL player (and thus someone fantasy owners should be aware of) would appear to be what Darth Vader would call an “optimistic appraisal of the situation.” Harris has only one year of workhorse production on his resume, after all. But he has shown an ability to be efficient on limited volume, as well as displaying early signs of being someone who can contribute as a receiver. Harris is a player for whom landing spot, always so crucial for an RB, could be the key to determining whether his name will be called early in rookie dynasty drafts in 2020.

Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Najee Harris.

  1. DS rank is used as a proxy for draft position.  (back)
  2. Though it’s worth noting that if had even one less career receiving yard, he’d fall into node 8, representing a historical success rate of less than 3%.  (back)

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