Alabama’s passing game received a lot of attention for his last national championship run with Nick Saban, thanks to Heisman’s winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith and quarterback Mac Jones. But Crimson Tide also featured its latest elite running back, Najee Harris.
Harris (6-2, 230 pounds) fought his way to 1,466 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games. He also added 43 receptions for 425 additional yards and four more TDs. It was an integral part of creating balance and preparing game-action-friendly deep shots for Smith and speedy field stretcher Jaylen Waddle.
MORE ALABAMA DRAFT FITS: QB Mac Jones | WR DeVonta Smith
Smith, Waddle and Jones are expected to enter the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. There is also the possibility that Harris will walk off the board the night of April 29.
Harris is a sturdy and strong runner with tree trunks in place of legs. But it has also proven to be agile and quick to fire up a second gear in the open field. Harris can run through or around defenders. He has worked to become a trusted asset in the passing game with his hands, routes, and blocks.
Recent Bama endorsements Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Damien Harris (Patriots) have had their moments as NFL running backs early in their careers, but Najee Harris might be a better combination of their two skill sets. Here are the best professional landing spots for Najee Harris:
Najee Harris’ Best NFL Draft Adjustments
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 31 overall)
The Buccaneers have re-signed nearly every key member of their Super Bowl 55-winning team except running back Leonard Fournette. They have a void for a complementary running back to Ronald Jones, who can also be a major factor in catching passes from Tom Brady. The Bucs are well positioned for a first-round “luxury pick” in the face of a not desperate need as a defensive tackle.
It might depend on which backs Brady likes best: Clemson’s Travis Etienne, a slightly more dynamic receiving threat, or Harris, a full-back with underrated receiving skills in Fournette’s mold.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24)
The Steelers have not re-signed James Conner and do not plan to give Benny Snell Jr. a major role. They have to think of offensive tackle early to find an immediate potential starting starter with Zach Banner, but with their passing game still limited by Ben Roethlisberger, they could use a long-lasting and powerful option of all attempts to boost their running game.
Harris would be an ideal fit for hitting between tackles and would also give Big Ben a reliable third down start. He also has the correct last name to thrive in the Pittsburgh backfield.
3. New York Jets (No. 23 or No. 34)
The Jets are likely thinking of the quarterback at No. 2 overall if they go past Sam Darnold, but his second first round and first second round would be good places to think about Harris if he is available.
His current best running back options are Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine and Josh Adams. They have worked to improve their receiving body and offensive line, with a QB change to come. A running back like Harris would complete a necessary offensive review after Adam Gase for new coordinator Mike LaFleur.
4. Atlanta Falcons (No. 35)
The Falcons will consider other offensive positions at No. 4 overall (tackle, quarterback) and will have extensive defensive needs to tackle again throughout the draft. But after a shaky year with Todd Gurley, and Brian Hill also didn’t re-sign, they are looking at a backfield depth chart led by Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison.
The offensive-minded new coach, Arthur Smith, came from the Titans, where he introduced another longtime powerful running back from Alabama (Derrick Henry) to help establish a more explosive passing game on the field. The Falcons already have a ‘Bama 1-2 hit at wide receiver with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Harris would fill a big void and be a great asset of immediate impact for Smith.
5. Arizona Cardinals (No. 17 or No. 49)
The Cardinals like Chase Edmonds, but they lost another former Alabama running back, Kenyan Drake, in free agency to Jacobs’ Raiders. As a prolific team running around speedy QB Kyler Murray, they could benefit from reigniting with him in the backfield.
Taking Harris into the second half of the first round would be a mild surprise, but not crazy, as the Cardinals could be well positioned elsewhere on their roster to be NFC contenders. It all depends on whether there is a lead running back, cornerback, or offensive lineman who would be more worthy of the pick, in terms of talent and scheme. If he’s not in the first, Steve Keim should be ready to slide a bit to Harris in the second round.
6. Miami Dolphins (No. 18 or No. 36)
The Dolphins won’t lead Harris at No. 3 overall, but they should be on the radar to reunite him with Tua Tagovailoa either midway through the first round or early in the second round. This is not a “must” position from the start because of how effective Myles Gaskin was with volume last season, and the addition of former Rams backup Malcolm Brown. But Harris would be a good fit if the Dolphins, with their additional picks, wanted to wear one that way.
MORE: Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts Discuss Najee Harris
7. Buffalo Bills (No. 30)
The Bills are a sleeper for Harris after not having much of a traditional running game with youngsters Devin Singletary and Zach Moss to complement Josh Allen last season. However, they have other more pressing needs like cornerback and edge runner. If they get Harris, his offensive explosive would add a couple more necessary dimensions.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.