It’s unlikely that Najee Harris lands with the Green Bay Packers but he’s one the most talented prospects in this class, regardless of position.
Najee Harris – Alabama, 6’ 2” 230 lbs
Najee Harris has put together as impressive of a two-year run as any running back in recent memory. His 50 TDs over 2019 and 2020 are 11 more than the next closest back – both Travis Etienne and Jaret Patterson totaled 39 apiece.
Harris is the RB1 for a good portion of the scouting community, though he’s my RB2 behind only Etienne. He’s a versatile talent and a unicorn with an open field.
Harris is an elite performer in space. He has awesome footwork, contact balance, and movement skills. He packs all of that on the biggest frame of any running back in this class. It’s difficult to get a solid hit on him, which helps make Harris an elite tackle breaker.
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) April 14, 2021
He’s forced 163 missed tackles on 530 touches over the last two years, via PFF. He can do it in every way imaginable and even some ways we can’t imagine.
I’m starting to think Najee Harris is a giant machine operated by a small elf pulling the levers. pic.twitter.com/17KXnK0lv1
— Michael Sicoli (@Michael__Sicoli) April 17, 2021
Harris has special length and soft hands for a running back. Over 2019 and 2020, he’s dropped just 2 passes on 86 targets, though his focus drop against Notre Dame was a rare occurrence. He catches the ball away from his body better than any other back in this class.
As a runner, we see really good patience and overall vision from Harris. He can see and hit most holes provided by the offensive line and can follow blockers to the second level of the defense.
Running behind an elite offensive line, we don’t see many reps where Harris has to create from behind the line of scrimmage. There are a few cutbacks and bounce-outs but we rarely see him push through the defensive line to reach the second level.
Harris has some really ugly reps in pass protection. He can often see the blitz coming and has the feet to get to the spot but his execution is lacking. His technique needs a complete overhaul. Harris doesn’t use his size as well as other big backs do.
While Harris has elite short-area movement skills, his long speed is still in question. Because of a lingering ankle injury, he wasn’t able to provide any answers during the pre-draft process. There are far too many reps of Harris getting chased down from behind and that’s likely to continue in the NFL.
After four years with the Crimson Tide, Harris has put together a lengthy highlight reel. There are dozens of reps showing him running free in space and dominating would-be tacklers. What we don’t see much of, however, is Harris creating that space for himself. He can thank ‘Bama’s offensive line for that.
Another thing he can “thank” Alabama for is limiting his contributions in the passing game. Harris looks like he can handle an expanded role as a receiver but has only 8 targets beyond 10 air yards over the last two years, and over 50% of his catches were behind the line of scrimmage.
That could all change at the next level, where Harris will show his ability to settle into holes in the zone and win against man coverage. Those are things that Le’Veon Bell was able to do in the NFL, though he was rarely provided the opportunity to do that in college.
That is my favorite comp for any running back in this draft class. Harris shows the same vision, hands, and tackle-breaking ability in space that we saw from Bell. They share a similar frame and both have questionable long speed.
The fact that Harris is being projected to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a good portion of the scouting community helps to drive this comp home. That’s a likely landing spot for Harris and there’s a chance that he’s the first running back selected in this class.
I don’t have a first round grade on him, or any back for that matter, but there’s still a good chance that Harris is already off the board before the Green Bay Packers are on the clock. Even if he were available, the Packers are already set at RB1 and RB2.
Harris may never land in Green Bay but he would be a great fit. I can envision an alternate reality where Harris is catching passes from Aaron Rodgers and we know that Matt LaFleur would have a perfect plan for him.
But that’s just a dream. You won’t find Harris in green and gold, atleast not this year. Wherever he lands, though, Najee Harris is a safe bet to be a solid contributor.