Najee Harris: 6-2, 230lbs (SENIOR)
Former 5 star recruit out of Antioch, California who was ranked as the number one overall prospect by multiple recruiting websites. Harris was named the All-Metro Player of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle in both 2015 and 2016 prior to committing to Alabama over several other powerhouse schools. Contributed as a sophomore despite being in a loaded backfield with future NFL running backs, Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris. Stepped into the starting role as a Junior and was named to the 2nd team All-SEC team after compiling over 1500 yards and 20 touchdowns. Harris surprised many by returning to Alabama for his Senior campaign despite his draft stock as a top 50 player. As a senior, he combined for over 1800 yards and 30 touchdowns while helping the Crimson Tide to a National Championship. The running back totaled 79 yards on the ground and added 79 more through the air while scoring 3 times in the title game. Najee Harris exits Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide’s all time leader in both rushing yards (3843) and rushing touchdowns (46).
2020 Stats: 251 carries, 1466 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. Added 43 receptions, 425 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns.
Patience: Harris is an incredibly patient runner who can operate in pretty much any run blocking scheme. On power/gap designs, Harris will press the line of scrimmage and patiently wait for a hole to open up before exploding on to the scene. Will manipulate linebackers with his eyes and movements to create holes for himself if nothing is there initially. Never looks like he’s in a hurry behind the line of scrimmage but once he sees what he likes, there is more than enough explosion to get into the 2nd and even 3rd levels. Displayed some violent cuts that left defenders lost.
Receiving Ability: I knew that Harris was a solid receiver before going back through his tape but it didn’t take long to find out that I underestimated his receiving ability. There were several ‘wow’ moments where he would do things that you just don’t see from that position, especially for a guy at his size. Extremely reliable as a check and release player out of the backfield, has a great feel for where defenders are on the field and maximizes yards after the catch. Can tell that he’s worked on his hands, natural hands catcher who rarely lets the football get into his body. Has a couple ridiculous high point reps where he will won 50/50 balls that you would not expect a running back to come down with. Alabama used him out wide as a receiver. Wheel routes are not only an option with him but a strength. Will give NFL linebackers fits on angle/option routes.
Tough yards- Just by looking at his physical profile, you expect him to be a difficult guy to bring down. Simple put, he runs hard. Harris routinely falls forward on almost every run, hardly ever stood straight up or knocked backwards. Didn’t see him take any kill shots in the hole or in the open field. Good contact balance who will bounce off defenders at the 2nd and 3rd levels. Arm tackles are a waste of time, runs right through them. Couple really impressive reps where he looked dead in the water as soon as he took the carry but created yards for himself. He’s a closer, closes drives and football games. Has a nose for the end zone, capped off a lot of drives with red zone touchdowns. One of those guys who has a feel for scoring and will contort his body in different ways near the goal line to get the job done.
There is the lack of top end speed on tape, not a home run hitter. Did provide some splash but think he’s more of a “death by paper cuts” type of back where he’s going to beat you with 10-15 yard plays at the next level. Very limited exposure to pass protection, something like 40 reps as a blocker in the backfield. He’s more of a “catcher” than a blocker, he will let defenders initiate contact, could stand to be more physical there given his frame. While he had arguably more success on designed runs off tackle, he has a tendency to bounce gap plays to the boundary that will result in negative plays against better athletes. Played behind a stacked offensive line that created a lot of holes for him.
Harris is a fantastic, multi-talented running back prospect that projects as a 3 down back at the next level. Harris runs tall and glides through defenses. As a runner, I like him a little more in an outside zone running scheme than in a power scheme but he’s talented enough to do either. Harris’ value as a pass catcher cannot be understated and he’s someone that you can focus your entire offense around. While he lacks experience, his frame indicates that he could develop into a good pass protector. Continually got better and better in college and few can match his level of production. Would not worry too much about his 40 time (if he runs one/runs poorly). Whoever drafts Najee Harris is getting a lead back that should be productive throughout the entirety of his rookie contract.
Grade: Early Day 2
Games Watched: South Carolina (2019), Louisiana State University (2019), Georgia, Missouri, Ohio State
References: rolltide.com, collegefootballreference.com