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Najee Harris' Fantasy Outlook After Steelers Select RB in 2021 NFL Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Alabama running back Najee Harris scores a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected running back Najee Harris with the 24th pick at the 2021 NFL draft on Thursday, leaving fantasy players to wonder just how much of an impact the rookie will have this season. 

Before we look ahead, let's look back.

Harris, 23, rushed for 3,843 yards and 46 touchdowns in his four seasons at Alabama, averaging an impressive six yards per carry. He added 80 receptions for 781 yards and 11 touchdowns. He eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in each of his last two seasons, posting 1,466 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns as a senior. 

James Palmer @JamesPalmerTV

According to PFF, Alabama RB Najee Harris forced 93 missed tackles on offensive touches in 2020, most by any FBS player.

In late March, the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Harris as the No. 21 overall player in the 2021 draft class, calling him "a big, smooth running back" who "isn't a home run hitter, but he's a very skilled runner with excellent value in the passing game."

He compared him to former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, adding:

"He is very patient to let holes develop before sliding through the line of scrimmage on inside runs. He has tremendous contact balance, routinely absorbing a hit and finishing runs. He doesn't have the juice to really stretch to the boundary on outside runs, preferring to quickly get his shoulders squared and turn upfield. He is sneaky elusive in space, though, and can drop his shoulder to run through tacklers."

Additionally, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus called Harris the "best goal-line back" and the running back with the "best hands" and "best catch radius" in the class of 2021. 

Suffice to say, Harris is going to play a major role for the Steelers in the 2021 season. You don't draft a running back in the first round—at a time when the position has been devalued around the league—without expecting to give him a major role right away. 

Yes, Benny Snell is also in Pittsburgh. But Harris looks like he'll have the chance to win the starting gig immediately. At the very least, he'll see a lot of touches in a potential timeshare. He's a player with legitimate RB2 upside who should settle in the flex range for fantasy players next season. 

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