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Draft Hunt: Alabama RB Najee Harris

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Najee Harris has become a popular name in Raiders mock drafts, so let’s take a look at his NFL projection

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Najee Harris has been mocked to the Raiders time and time again by fans who want to see him and his former Alabama teammate, Josh Jacobs, reunited and wearing silver and black. So I decided that I should share my preliminary scouting report on him for a special Monday edition of our Draft Hunt series.

Last year, Sports Info Solutions published their first iteration of their Football Rookie Handbook, and this year, my fellow cohort Will Osgood and I will both have a few featured scouting reports in the book.

One of the preliminary reports that I submitted was on Harris, whom I asked to be assigned due to his Bay Area upbringing and exciting play style.

To order last year’s 2019 Football Rookie Handbook, follow this link. The 2020 edition will be available for pre-order soon and will be shipped prior to the NFL combine. It will feature a plethora of reports on players at every position, coupled with relevant charting stats that give you a detailed, objective viewpoint of each prospect.

To understand the grades on this report a little bit better, let’s look at Sports Info Solutions’ grading scale:

9 — Rare

8 — Excellent

7 — Very Good

6 — Good

5 — Sufficient

4 — Mediocre

3 — Marginal

2 — Poor

1 — Reject

The Football Rookie Handbook has a lengthy description of what each trait means, so check it out to get more info on how scouts grade NFL prospects.

Note that these grades don’t reflect how well the player performed in college, but how he projects to perform in the NFL. All critical and positional factor grades reflect the level that the scout, myself in this case, is projecting the player to reach by the first game of their second season in the NFL.

Overall

Najee Harris is a running back from University of Alabama who has been a member of a back-by-committee power-zone approach for the last three seasons. Harris was touted as a five-star prospect in high school, and was ranked as the No. 1 overall running back and No. 2 overall player in the class of 2017 by 247 sports. He is tall with broad shoulders and thick, long legs. He’s a tough runner, but tends to simply go through the motions when he knows the ball isn’t coming his way.

Run Game

Harris is a violent sledgehammer with an upright running style. He almost never goes down on first contact, bouncing off would-be tacklers or churning his legs for extra yards. He’s patient behind the line of scrimmage, showing trust in his blockers as he allows plays to develop and scans the defense to find a running lane. Once he hits the hole, however, Harris can get tunnel vision and tends to miss obvious cutback lanes. He seeks contact on the second level rather than running toward open space. Harris tries to call upon a large bag of tricks to add flash to an otherwise typical power running style, using an array of jump-cuts, spins, hurdles and stiff arms. His cuts and spins usually slow him down more than anything, however, while oncoming defenders are either stymied or straight up thrown to the ground by his powerful stiff arm. When he runs with decisiveness and gets away from finesse moves, he shows efficient and effective power running and can be a little reminiscent of Derrick Henry. Harris has the long speed to hit a home run, but his average quick-twitch acceleration limits his ability to break off big plays. He’s got long, powerful strides and polished footwork, but he’s heavy-footed and doesn’t have the juice to simply plant-and-go when he sees an open lane.

Pass Game

Harris is often disinterested in the passing game unless the ball is coming his way, yet he is still able to make a positive impact with athleticism alone. Alabama got him more involved as a receiver as this past season wore on, and he was able to routinely take advantage of slower linebackers on screens and flat routes. His routes are sharp when he knows he has a chance to be targeted, otherwise he’ll run them lazily. As a pass protector, Harris has the ability to be special when engaged. He stands far too high in his stance as a blocker, and for almost any running back that would be a death sentence as a blocker, but Harris is so big that he still manages to stonewall blitzing linebackers.

Last Word

At the next level, Harris projects as a downhill power back who thrives in a power-running scheme and cashes in on goal line and short yardage situations. Considering the limited tread on his tires and his consistent health at Alabama, he doesn’t have the wear and tear of a typical college power back. Harris is an emerging threat a receiver and his build and low center of gravity will allow him to become a high-level pass blocker with some seasoning. With his size and natural toughness, Harris could contribute on an array of special teams if he is properly engaged.