Najee Harris Showing What He’s Capable Of

Photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a frequent reader of The Draft Network, you’re likely already pretty informed about the potential 2020 NFL Draft class. If you’re not, let me introduce you to the class.

Some positions are shaping up to be strong, including wide receiver and cornerback. When I say strong, I’m talking about both top-end talent and depth among prospects. One other position with a similar outlook is running back.

The debate for the best running back in the class has already heated up with the college football season now in full swing, but so has the race for the middle of the class. There are seemingly draftable running back prospects putting up big games each week.

One of the candidates that should end up near the top of the running back class, if he were to declare, is Alabama’s true junior Najee Harris.

Harris was the #1 running back recruit in the country coming out of Antioch High School in California. While he played sparingly in a loaded backfield as a true freshman, Alabama leaned on him heavily during their comeback in the national championship game.

Still, as a sophomore he would split reps with Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris. It wasn’t until 2019 that Najee was expected to be the top dog.

At 6’2 and 230 pounds, Harris has excellent size for the running back position. He’s not quite as big as former Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry, but he’s close. 

Seemingly capable of carrying the load, Alabama will still work other running backs in to keep their feature back fresh. Additionally, coach Nick Saban isn’t afraid to pull his starters when games get out of hand in their favor. Through two games this season, this was the case with Harris. He had only touched the ball 25 times heading into yesterday.

While Harris had flashed ability as a pass catcher during his freshman season, it wasn’t utilized at all last season. On Saturday against South Carolina, Alabama leaned on Harris a bit more than their first two games, including getting him involved in the pass game. 

In the first half, Alabama targeted Harris on a fourth down, the result was a candidate for play of the year.

On a single rep, Harris showed the traits that will make him a coveted entity during the 2020 NFL Draft. There is the soft hands, the strength to throw away a defense with a stiff arm, the athleticism to hurdle another defender and the size and balance to fight through another tackle.

While it was just a single rep, Harris would display these traits more times throughout the game. A classic “gets stronger as the game goes on” running back, his size can be difficult to handle for the opposition at any time, but especially when he’s fresh late in games.

On top of that, Harris had his best overall day as a pass-catcher to this point in his college career, finishing with 5 receptions for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Don’t be fooled by early season usage, Najee Harris has clearly displayed that he’s capable of more than how Alabama is currently deploying him.

Keep that in mind when discussing the best running backs in the 2020 class.