The Alabama passing game garnered a lot of attention for its final national championship run with Nick Saban, thanks to Heisman winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith and quarterback Mac Jones. But the Crimson Tide also featured their latest elite running back, Najee Harris.
Harris (6-2, 230 pounds) propelled his way to 1,466 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games. He also added 43 catches for 425 extra yards and four more touchdowns. He was integral in creating the balance and setting up some deep game-action shots favorable to Smith and the quick stretcher Jaylen Waddle.
Smith, Waddle and Jones are all set to make the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. There’s also a chance Harris will leave the table on the night of April 29.
Harris is a sturdy, solid runner with tree trunks for his legs. But it also proved to be nimble and quick to flash a second gear in the open field. Harris can pass through or bypass defenders. He worked to become a reliable asset in the passing game with his hands, roads and blocks.
Bama’s recent backers Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Damien Harris (Patriots) had their moments as NFL runners early in their careers, but Najee Harris might have a better mix of their two skill sets. Here are Najee Harris’ best professional landing spots:
Najee Harris’ best NFL draft adjustments
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31st overall)
The Buccaneers have re-signed just about every key member of their Super Bowl 55 winning team except running back Leonard Fournette. They have a void for a runner complementary to Ronald Jones who can also be a big factor in catching passes from Tom Brady. The Bucs are well positioned for a first-round “luxury pick” rather than some not desperate need like a defensive tackle.
It could go back to which back they like most for Brady – Clemson’s Travis Etienne, a little more dynamic receiving threat, or Harris, a full back with underrated receiving skills in the Fournette mold.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (# 24)
The Steelers have not re-signed James Conner and have no plans to give Benny Snell Jr. a huge role. They have to think about the offensive tackle early to find immediate starting potential with Zach Banner, but with their passing game continuing to have limits with Ben Roethlisberger, they could use a durable and powerful option to improve their running game.
Harris would be a perfect fit to hammer in between tackles and also give Big Ben a reliable outlet on third downs. He also has the right last name to thrive in the Pittsburgh backfield.
3. New York Jets (# 23 or # 34)
The Jets will likely think of the No.2 overall quarterback if they leave Sam Darnold, but their second first round and first second round would be good places to think about Harris if he’s available.
Their best current running back options are Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine and Josh Adams. They’ve been working to improve their receiving body and their offensive line, with a change in QB coming. A fullback like Harris would complete a necessary offensive review after Adam Gase for new coordinator Mike LaFleur.
4. Atlanta Falcons (# 35)
The Falcons will consider other offensive positions in 4th place overall (tackle, quarterback) and will have many defensive needs to fill throughout the draft. But after a shaky year with Todd Gurley, and Brian Hill no longer re-signed, they take a look at a back depth-of-field chart led by Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison.
New offensive coach Arthur Smith has come from the Titans, where another powerful former Alabama full-back (Derrick Henry) was introduced to help set up a more explosive passing game on the field. The Falcons already have a Bama 1-2 punch to the wide receiver with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Harris would fill a big hole and be a major asset with immediate impact for Smith.
5. Arizona Cardinals (# 17 or # 49)
The Cardinals love Chase Edmonds but lost another Alabama alumnus Kenyan Drake in free agency to the Jacobs Raiders. As a prolific and busy team around quick quarterback Kyler Murray, they could benefit from re-energizing with him in the backfield.
Getting Harris to start the second half of the first round would be a slight shock, but not crazy, as the Cardinals could already be well placed elsewhere on their roster to be NFC contenders. It all depends on whether there is a point player, a cornerback or an offensive lineman who would be more worthy of choice, talent and plan. If not in the first, Steve Keim should be prepared to slide a bit to target Harris in the second round.
6. Miami Dolphins (# 18 or # 36)
The Dolphins won’t take Harris in 3rd place overall, but they should be on the radar to find him with Tua Tagovailoa in the middle of the first round or early in the second round. It’s not a “go-to” position at first due to Myles Gaskin’s effectiveness with volume last season and the addition of strong former Rams backup Malcolm Brown. But Harris would be a great fit if the Dolphins, with their extra picks, wanted to use one that way.
7. Buffalo Bills (No 30)
The Bills are a sleeper for Harris after having little traditional running game with youngsters Devin Singletary and Zach Moss to round out Josh Allen last season. However, they have other more pressing needs in terms of cornerback and edge rusher. If they had Harris, their explosive attack would add a few needed extra dimensions.