Devy Spotlight: Najee Harris
Najee stands 6-2, 230 lbs. and was the number one ranked running back, and number two ranked player in the country by 247 Sports coming out of high school in 2017, receiving comparisons to Adrian Peterson even before he had a high school diploma. The standard that was expected coming out of high school is why lots of people are somewhat down on him now. The other reason is he will be eligible for the 2020 draft, which is touted to be one of the deepest running backs classes we have seen in some time, and he is getting lost in the wash.
Najee was tested in high school with a 40-yard dash time of 4.66 seconds and a 20-yard shuttle of 4.16 seconds. This 40 time may look slow because we are so used to seeing 4.3s and 4.4s from running backs as of late, but the time for a 17-year-old with his size isn't bad at all (and is faster than Derrick Henry's 4.72 second 40-yard dash). His shuttle time, however, is very good, bigger back or not, with both the quickness and burst showing up on tape.
By now, we all know about Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris. Najee had to share time with the current Raiders first rounder and the Patriots third round draft pick the past two seasons, along with 4 star backs Brian Robinson Jr and Jerome Ford. This year Alabama adds another 5 star running back in Trey Sanders, who will likely miss the season with an early camp foot injury. Najee appears to currently handle the reins on the lead role, even with all the talent they have in their backfield. Even if he doesn’t have a stranglehold on work, one of the benefits of the Bama backs entering the draft the past few seasons is their lack of wear and tear with their limited touches while still being productive.
In 2018, Damien Harris, the team leader in rush attempts, only saw 150 carries, followed by Jacobs at 120 and Najee at 117. I’d be very surprised to see Najee receive more than 200 carries during the 2019 season, which isn't a bad thing at all.
Najee is obviously a bigger back, but he also possesses a level of explosion and athleticism you rarely find in a frame like his. His patience is also noticeable on film. He could easily just pound the hole as soon as he got the ball, but he knows when to let his line work and let the play develop. Sometimes patience can be misconstrued for indecisiveness, but Najee has plenty of plays where he shows he knows when to not mess around and hit the play as designed.
On this play, he is feeling backside pressure as soon as he receives the handoff. He sees the hole, plants his foot and heads north. He makes the safety miss with a quick juke and turns a 3 yard loss into a 16 yard gain.
What's not to love here? The hurdle is nice, but the quick shake followed by the stiff arm is what makes me love this guy more and more as I watch him. Having such agility with his power and strength makes for a special skill set not many backs have.
Najee is currently the 7th ranked running back in Dynasty Happy Hours Devy rankings, and the 10th ranked running back in DLF’s rankings. According to devy ADP from Devy Watch, Najee is being taken 26th overall in August ADP, and 20th overall excluding players not eligible for the 2020 draft. Getting this man at the back end of the 2nd or early 3rd feels like stealing.
Everyone wants the coveted 1st round 2020 picks right now, but I’m here to tell you acquiring 2020 2nds is significantly easier, and could quite possibly land you a 5 star running back from one of the best NFL producing schools in the recent past who will have plenty of tread left on his tires. That’s a win in my book.