2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Najee Harrisby Alex Barbour April 17, 2021 1 comment
While the Heisman trophy seemed to be a battle consisting of Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith, a crucial name just a few spots behind was Najee Harris. The star running back led the ground attack of the most powerful offense college may have ever seen. His impact surely went unappreciated at points, but it was felt nonetheless. No one questions Harris’s talent. He can catch and run as well as any other prospect, according to the experts. The problem truly lies in schematic factors. What factors are those? Read on, find out, and let’s see if the analysts are right.
Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Reports.
Name: Najee Harris
Position: Running Back
Weight: 230 lbs
Thanks to a solid offensive line, Harris did not always have to find his own running lanes. When he did, they were usually solid reads, hence the above-average score. Harris’s two problems are bouncing outside when he should not and not processing after the catch well. He seems to overestimate his speed on bounce-outs. That essentially nullifies any gain that there was to be had on the interior.
This can be easily fixed with better athletic training or better coaching. After the catch, Harris seemed somewhat confused. When the blocking is not perfectly set up for him, he seems to have trouble processing. This is more of a nitpick, but it is something to be concerned about. A lot of his production after the catch came from his moves and balance rather than vision.
Ball Security (9.25/10)
Harris has two fumbles on 718 touches. Those two fumbles happened this year, however. Hopefully, Harris reverts rather than continues this trend. Given the workload given to him, the Alabama product should be trusted at all times with the ball in his hands.
Possibly the only running back in recent draft memory that had this level of balance was John Kelly years ago. Harris is unbelievable when it comes to contact balance. He stays upright, adjusts to contact well, and looks in control no matter which position his body is in. It almost seems unreal how Harris can have such a low center of gravity at that height and size. This is by far his best trait (and most noticeable). Hopefully, he continues this into the NFL where the hits become harder and the defense becomes smarter.
Ability to Break Tackles (8.5/10)
As stated before, no one has balance like Harris does. His moves back that up. Juking is more than a skill for him: it is an art. Harris can combine elusive moves and power moves into a consistent chain that is nearly impossible to defeat. His one downside is that he cannot seem to change his speed during the play. This allows defenders to get an accurate angle on him from the start, which can be dangerous when tackling improves.
Straight-line Speed (5.25/10)
Downhill speed is perfectly fine for Harris, but any other direction of running his speed is subpar. Horizontal mobility (running in a straight line sideways) is clearly a negative: defenders always catch up to him, and even offensive linemen seem to be able to keep up. Overall, the role Harris will play should be fine in regards to his speed, but in other schemes, he will definitely suffer.
This is Harris’s redeemable trait for his true speed. He looks comfortable moving in any direction which is excellent when adjusting to the play. The acceleration is solid (unfortunately, the top speed is hindered). In short, Harris has a great burst with excellent fluidity.
Harris is a solid route runner with excellent short-range separation. Unfortunately, his horizontal speed limits any effectiveness past five yards unless he has the ball in his hands. He will rarely have to do such a thing, but for only having 80 receptions on his career, Harris looks quite comfortable when the ball is in the air.
Pro Football Focus gave Harris sub-55 grades in both run and pass blocking, and his playing backed it up. Yes, he tries very hard and is willing to layout for a block. Harris never really dealt with much as a blocker, however. Alabama had an excellent offensive line, and unfortunately, the running back was the weakest link by far (he allowed five pressures on 42 pass-blocking reps). It did not seem like Harris was much of a help at all when he assisted the linemen. Time shall tell whether he can actually block in one-on-one scenarios consistently.
Harris can catch and run with NFL proficiency; however, he should be restricted from outside zone schemes as well as running back committees. The NFL is trending to committees, so that will limit the teams and the position that Harris can go during the draft. His lack of horizontal speed also limits his versatility. With so many touches, future durability may also be a concern. This may limit the number of teams he goes to, as they may be looking for a ten-year starter, not a five-year starter.
Competitive Toughness (4.5/5)
Harris is a Saban product. Enough said.
Harris rarely missed game action due to injury, but he did miss fall camp of his Sophomore year due to a foot injury. He also did not test at his pro day due to an injury that should be cleared up by draft day. As stated earlier, durability is a concern, given the number of touches he has had.
Harris certainly has earned the respect he is given. His durability will be his undoing (both to his career and draft grade). Only teams that can win a Super Bowl now should dare take him. Unfortunately, few of those teams actually allow for a running back to have 25 carries per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers seem like the obvious fit, but many people question whether this “win now” mode is just a way of trying to remain relevant when the writing is on the wall.
Few run schemes without a committee now, and Harris will only thrive when he pounds a defense down for four quarters, so his options are too limited to earn a grade close to what his talent suggests. If the Steelers and Buffalo Bills pass on him in the first, there is a good chance that he may be there in the second for them. The best-fits are just too slim.
Final Grade (74.75/100): Early Second Round
Player Comp: Le’Veon Bell