The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects Najee Harris
Najee Harris has had a phenomenal year so far racking up over 1000 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns along with 27 receptions for 210 yards for an Alabama team that has been dominant this year. Harris could've gone into the NFL Draft last year but he decided to come back for his senior year and I think it has helped his draft status slightly as I think he is a top 2 back in this class where he wouldn't have been ranked that high last year. Harris and Etienne are my top 2 backs in this year's draft class and they both bring a very different set of skills to the table. I will discuss Harris in terms of his vision/ability to create, his burst, his finish/yards after contact, his ability in the passing game/pass protection, and his ball security.
Vision/Create- Harris has very good vision and has a very good feel for where the hole is going to be as well as being able to make those cuts to get to the backside holes. He shows good patience to allow his blocks to create for him before bursting through the hole as well as being aggressive and attacking the line of scrimmage when he needs to. His jump cuts allow him to break runs outside when he needs to but I think he tends to look to bounce outside a little too often, although he has started to improve on that so far in the 2020 season. His decision making has improved significantly this season as he is a very decisive runner compared to previous years. He isn't going to be able to create something out of nothing but he has shown that with his power, balance, and solid speed he can create and break tackles both in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage.
Burst- His burst is solid. When he decides on a hole he explodes through it, but it takes him some time to get to full speed since his acceleration is not great. He is a very powerful runner who can come off as almost reckless in regards to his body. He is a very upright runner which can hurt his ability to get through some tackles since his target is so big. At 6'2 he is already a big enough target to hit and adding in the fact that he runs upright doesn't help. He doesn't have the elite top-end speed to break away from defenders but he can still make big plays through the use of his vision, power, and ability to break tackles with such a big frame.
Finish/YAC- This is the best part of Harris' game. Although he is an upright runner his size, power and strength allow him to simply run through contact. He is a violent runner who looks for contact and brings a lot of power behind his pads. If he can learn to run a little lower he will be even better in his ability to gain yards after contact and finish through defenders. He is the type of runner to never give up on a play until the whistle blows, fighting for every inch he can gain. It can sometimes look sloppy and messy that way that he tries to break tackles and gain extra yards but it often works and gets the job done.
Passing game/blocking- His improvement in the passing game has been fantastic. In 2019 he made some catches that wide receivers struggle with when running wheel routes and having to go up, adjust, and make back-shoulder catches. He brings the ball in with strong hands, away from his body and the defender to complete the catch. After the catch, he is also very dangerous as seen by his play against South Carolina where he hurdled a defender, tip-toed the sideline, and took it to the endzone for a touchdown. In pass protection, he is very good. He is always keeping his eyes up looking for his assignment and meeting rushers in the hole. He meets rushers in the hole and takes them head-on, not afraid of contact and attacking them instead of waiting for defenders to attack him. I think this is one of the most overlooked traits in running backs and he is at the top of the class when it comes to pass protection.
Ball Security- He rarely fumbles the ball. Having only fumbled twice in his career at Alabama, losing a fumble on an average of once every 284 touches. This is also another overlooked trait as someone like Jonathan Taylor last year was a fantastic back coming into the NFL and has looked great but has some serious fumbling issue. Najee Harris