Najee Harris 2021 NFL Draft Profile: Why Jets fit for Alabama running back

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·4 min read
Najee Harris treated image
Najee Harris treated image

The 2021 NFL Draft is drawing closer every day. With the Jets currently holding the 23rd and 34th picks, we’ll be giving an in-depth look at some of the prospects who could be potential targets with those selections.

By The Numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight
: 232 pounds
2020 stats
: Rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns, caught 43 passes
Accolades & Awards: Unanimous all-American and first-team all-SEC in 2020

Prospect Overview

NFL.com - “Plus-sized runner who elevated his game and draft stock with a well-rounded performance in 2020. Harris showed improved short-area creativity and elusiveness to go with his trademark physicality. Creates additional yardage with both wiggle and power, but he lacks desired top gear to change games in a flash. He handled a heavier lift in 2020, with almost 300 total touches in 13 games. Harris’ value as a third-down option out of the backfield and as a personal protector should not be underestimated after his performance in his senior year. His running style could shorten his career, but he’s a tough, three-down runner who can immediately upgrade a running game.”

The Draft Network – “Harris is a versatile threat that was a rare case of a backfield rusher who played all four seasons in Tuscaloosa. A tall and upright runner, Harris is a blend of power, determination, and versatility as both a between-the-tackles runner and perimeter rushing threat. A comfortable pass-catcher out of the backfield, he’s made strides in his pass-catching ability every season. A running back that can have passing concepts designed around his abilities, he can routinely put second-level defenders in a bind with schemed patterns to attack coverage.”

How He Fits

Harris is a big back, who returned for his senior year and led Alabama to a national title as he racked up almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage and led the nation in touchdowns to shut down talk that he was a one-year wonder. Harris averaged six yards per carry and 10 yards per catch in his college career and proved himself capable of carrying the load as a workhorse back, while also developing into a productive pass catching threat.

The idea of drafting a running back in the first round is viewed by many as a crazy notion in draft analyst circles. None of the seven leading rushers in 2020 were drafted in the first round and the early success of first rounders like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffery has been tempered by injuries. If you believe your run blocking is good enough, then you can probably find a productive back later on in the draft and address other needs with your top picks.

While he brings a lot to the table and coming back for his senior year enhanced his value by demonstrating more of what Harris could do to contribute in the passing game and establishing himself as an every down back, there are some concerns over his speed, particularly after he opted not to run at his pro day. While unverified reports suggest he ran a 4.45 in the past, some analysts fear his film doesn’t display a second gear or true breakaway speed, which is considered important for the Jets’ system.

Ultimately, whether the Jets show interest in Harris at this stage of the draft will depend upon Joe Douglas and how he views the positional value of running backs. While a top running back has been described as something the team “desperately” needs by some media members, Douglas may feel that a committee-based approach and counting on a lower-cost option to step up might be the best way of maximizing value at this position. However, Harris offers a complete package, which could tempt Douglas into shoring up this spot for the next four or five years.

NFL Comp

NFL.com – Matt Forte
Pro Football Network – Derrick Henry

Random Fact

Harris scored 30 touchdowns last year, in just 13 games. The entire Jets team combined for just 26 touchdowns all season.

Social Moment

Harris continues to put in work on his footwork, explosiveness and vision.