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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: RB Najee Harris

  • The Draft Network
  • December 21, 2020
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PROSPECT SUMMARY

The youngest of five children, Najee Harris grew up in a household ran strictly by his mother, Tianna Hicks. Just prior to his high school years, the family moved from Richmond to Antioch, California. With a father that battled many negative addictions, Harris, his mother, and other siblings formed a very strong bond. Surrounded in a neighborhood filled with gang violence, frequent shootings, and drugs, Harris mentions that he could have easily been sucked into the trap of falling victim to his environment, but he refused to become another statistic. Weathering the storm, Harris became one of the best high school recruits to ever come out of the state. Rated as the top overall recruit in the country, Harris capped off his legendary career at Antioch High School with 7,948 rushing yards and 95 touchdowns—monstrous numbers that helped him finish with the fourth-best mark in state history. Holding more than 50 FBS offers, the star running back elected to play at Alabama. 

Harris is a versatile threat that was a rare case of a backfield rusher who played all four seasons in Tuscaloosa. A tall and upright runner, Harris is a blend of power, determination, and versatility as both a between-the-tackles runner and perimeter rushing threat. A comfortable pass-catcher out of the backfield, he’s made strides in his pass-catching ability every season. A running back that can have passing concepts designed around his abilities, he can routinely put second-level defenders in a bind with schemed patterns to attack coverage. A runner that always seems to fall forward when taking on contact, he’s a highly determined and physical rusher who forces defenders to tackle him to the ground through the echo of the whistle. Harris isn’t a running back who contains multiple gears, as he’s a flat-footed runner that paces his way through defenses. Another key attribute on his resume is his ability to finish drives with touchdowns. Few match Harris’ will and "want to" with getting into the endzone, as he led the country in scores in that area last season.

Ideal Role: Featured top option running back.

Scheme Fit: Multiple scheme fit in both man/gap/power and zone-based blocking scheme.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Jordan Reid

Games watched: LSU (2020), Auburn (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Miss. St. (2020), Missouri (2020), Georgia (2020), Florida (2020)

Best Game Studied: Ole Miss (2020), Georgia (2020), Florida (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Texas A&M (2020)

Vision: Even though he’s involved in a dominant rushing attack, Harris’ vision hasn’t been hamstrung by the dominant play of the group in front of him. The biggest improvement that Harris showed in 2019 vs. 2020 is how he looks for grass in front of him instead of being a battering ram and seeking contact. Showing a much better feel for the position, he not only began to show flow and instincts within concepts, but as the game slowed down, he had a feel for cutbacks and executing opportunities to exploit vacated areas that required him to cut back against the grain. 

Footwork: Harris has active feet that he can perform many different tasks with. His feet remain hot and ready when following behind pullers, as he can bounce back and forth with them in place while remaining patient and waiting for those bodies to land on intended targets. When noticing that those blockers in front of him have landed, he can immediately accelerate and take advantage of the room afforded to him. Upon contact, Harris' feet remain churning as he’s excellent with grinding out hidden yardage that results in even more positive yardage after defenders initiate first contact with his body. Harris has shown he’s comfortable with running from the dot (seven yards deep with a FB in front of him), offset shotgun, and out of the pistol. 

Contact Balance: The former Crimson Tide back is a tenacious and high-energy runner that, even if undisciplined, will do whatever it takes to break free of tackles. Possessing strong body armor, he squirms and forces defenders to bring him down. Having superior strength as a runner, he also exploits a strong stiff arm, spin move, and he frequently leaves his feet with hurdle moves even in moments where he’s not supposed to. His strong nature and stoutness as a ball carrier are also reasons why he’s so successful inside of the red zone.  

Durability: During his time as a starter, Harris has shown that he’s capable of being the focal point of an offense as both a pass-catcher and runner. With the potential to be a 25-plus touch per game type of running back, he has the body and potential to be that type of versatile threat at the next level. Despite his heavy workload, he’s yet to suffer a significant injury of any kind throughout his four-year career. Because of the way that he’s wired, Harris doesn’t show any type of drop off after reaching a certain number of touches throughout the duration of games, as he’s had five games (Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Florida) during his senior season where he’s recorded at least 25 touches. 

Explosiveness: Harris only has two gears on his stick shift as he isn’t a running back that will scamper past defenders and finish chunk plays in the end zone. Capable of reeling off gains of 15-20 yards at a time, he has a second gear that he can kick into, but it doesn’t allow him to clear would-be tacklers that already have the angle on him in order to make tackles. Harris can explode through creases in between the tackles that then enables his strength and power to take over. 

Versatility: The senior rusher has the ability to be a pounder in between the tackles, but he’s equally effective on stretch runs to the perimeter. Harris can play in the slot as a receiving threat with a limited route package underneath, but he’s displayed his ability to run a variety of routes out of the backfield. Wheels (2019 LSU) and option (2020) routes are two of the many contained in his route tree that he can utilize against linebackers and safeties while facing them in man-to-man coverage. His continued growth as a pass-catcher opened up another dimension to his game along with giving full effort on every run. 

Elusiveness: Despite being a tall runner, Harris displays flashes of having moves in his repertoire to execute. Using a spin move in the open field and when surrounded by a crowd is one that he's used as a go-to tactic. Harris isn’t a rusher that will be able to stop on a dime and alter his directions naturally. There are moments where he can get stuck at a standstill because of his uprightness. Hip stiffness is apparent when forced to suddenly make reactionary moves, but his strength helps disguise it to an extent. When in the open field, Harris has a habit of running into the back of his blockers as he can struggle with pivoting and turning after gaining a head of steam. 

Ball Security: In his two seasons as a starter, Harris has recorded three fumbles (one lost). Ball security and taking care of the football hasn’t been an issue. Fighting for yards is a staple of his game, but he pays extra attention to the details of doing so while keeping the ball high and tight away from defenders. When entering condensed spaces, it’s a natural habit for him to cover the ball with both arms when straining for more yardage.

Passing Down Skills: Harris has plenty of value on passing downs. He has the ability to be a threat with routes in the underneath and intermediate areas. Alabama has schemed plays strictly designed for him to attack the middle of the field with five-yard in or out routes and wheel routes against man coverage. With strong hands and consistently being able to catch the ball comfortably, he isn’t a running back that simply fits in as a last resort option in the progression of quarterbacks.

Discipline: Harris is an on-course runner that is patient with his approach. He’s a rusher that has a well-developed understanding of the pros and cons of runs combined with the central purpose behind each. In Alabama’s scheme, he’s gained exposure to power, counter, zone, and other types of concepts that involve pullers or a one-way flow of blockers. His steps prior to touching the ball match the concept that’s intended to be executed, but he’s hardly ever impatient or giving up on runs by cutting back across the grain. He does have a tendency to bounce runs prematurely, which is where his lack of speed to win the edge and turn the corner is evident. 

Prospect Comparison: Matt Forte (2008 NFL Draft, Chicago Bears)

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: 84.25 / 100

Kyle Crabbs: 84.50/100

Joe Marino: 83.00/100

Jordan Reid: 85.50/100

Drae Harris: 84.00/100

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