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Najee Harris ‘peaking and getting better at the right time’ for Alabama

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No other SEC running back over the last two decades has scored like Najee Harris has these past few weeks.

During Alabama’s win over Western Carolina on Saturday, Harris — once again — scored as both a runner and as a pass-catcher.

In doing so, the junior — who has continued to rack up touchdowns this past month — became the first SEC player in at least 20 years to register both a rushing and receiving touchdown in three straight games.

As an NFL scout put it during a conversation with AL.com last week, Harris is “peaking and getting better at the right time.”

It’s good news for Alabama, which will likely lean heavily on the former five-star recruit when it faces Auburn this weekend.

“He’s always been a great player ever since he came in as a freshman,” safety Jared Mayden said. “The way he runs, I call him like a bucking bronco. There’s no way some of the times he’s still up. There’s no way some of the times he falls forward. Somebody should have made the tackle. But over the last couple months, you’ve just seen him — I would say — getting more opportunities, more times to touch the ball because he’s not doing nothing we haven’t seen at practice. Matter of fact, he does outstanding things at practice. So now that he’s getting the ball, I think he’s just making the most of his opportunities.”

After some frustration earlier in the season about his lack of rushing touchdowns at the time, Harris has been running for touchdowns on a frequent basis these past five games while also continuing to accumulate touchdowns as a pass-catcher.

Through six games, Harris had just one rushing touchdown. He has nine times that many in the five games since then.

The California native has run for nine touchdowns during these past five games, has three additional receiving touchdowns during this stretch and hasn’t had a game without multiple total touchdowns since Oct. 12.

Harris is tied for third nationally among Power Five conference players with 17 total touchdowns, ranking behind only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard. In addition, Harris is just 58 yards away from 1,000 for the season and has posted an average of 140 scrimmage yards in the Tide’s last five games against SEC teams.

Harris has become a true multi-dimensional weapon for Alabama, continuing to accumulate both yards and touchdowns as both a runner and as a receiver.

“Najee’s a great running back,” center Landon Dickerson said. “He’s gonna hit the hole hard. He can run fast. He really just makes us look good.”

 

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Alabama junior RB Najee Harris rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in Saturday's 48-45 loss to Auburn.

Harris (6'2/230) has come on very strong down the stretch, with Saturday's effort his fourth 100-yard showing in his last seven games. He also showed off his nimbleness versus the Tigers (in addition to the ever-present power), leaping for major air yards on his six-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. With this performance, Harris crept over 1,000 yards rushing for the campaign. He finishes the regular season having rushed for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games this season. With the Iron Bowl in the books, Alabama now awaits its bowl fate. That bowl, whatever it might be, will not be drawn from the Playoff pool.

Nov 30, 2019, 7:54 PM ET

 

 

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Per Pro Football Focus, Alabama junior RB Najee Harris converts an FBS-best 43% of his carries into a first down or touchdown.

To the surprise of nobody, Alabama has carried on just fine since losing their previous running back to the NFL as a first-round pick. Harris (6'2/230) has stepped into the starting role phenomenally, moving the sticks or putting up points on two out of every five runs this season. While Harris' 5.94 yards per attempt is nothing special, it's clear that he is still ripping off productive plays at a high enough rate to balance his good-not-great yards per attempt mark.

SOURCE: PFF College on Twitter

Oct 31, 2019, 10:46 AM ET

 

 

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The Athletic's Dane Brugler does not believe Alabama junior RB Najee Harris's "style is a great fit in today's NFL."

Harris (6'2/227) is a powerful runner with very limited receiving production. He's arguably one-dimensional and will be heading to a league where versatility is key. Unless Harris grows as a pass-catcher or shows more lateral ability, this analysis will continue to be a knock against him. The good news for Harris is that he's a potentially good straight-line, power back with plus size and little wear and tear. However, in this deep draft class, Harris could be more of a Day 3 option than Day 1 or Day 2.

SOURCE: Dane Brugler on Twitter

Jul 16, 2019, 4:47 PM ET

 

 

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I love Brugler but I disagree on Harris's receiving ability. Bama doesn't throw to its RBs consistently but when they threw to Harris he looked pretty comfortable as a receiver to me. I can't speak to his route running but in terms of hands and adjusting to the ball he looks fairly fluid. He was also efficient this year when they threw to him (e.g. 3-51 against MS State; 3-44 against LSU; 4-48 against TN; 5-87 against South Carolina). 

To me the tougher part of evaluating Harris is that he doesn't have a prototypical build or running style compared to a lot of contemporary NFL backs (tall and upright, long legs and torso).

Edited by DAG
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Alabama junior RB Najee Harris rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in Wednesday's 35-16 win over Michigan in the VRBO Citrus Bowl.

Harris (6'2/230) scored on a nine-yard run in the second quarter and a two-yard run with just under 30 seconds remaining in the contest. The junior averaged 5.7 YPC on the afternoon while posting a long run of 25 yards. This was Harris' sixth 100-yard showing for the campaign and seventh consecutive game with a rushing touchdown. On the whole, he finishes the 2019 season having rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games. Should he declare for the draft, Harris makes for an intriguing potential mid-round option, especially with what he was showing us down the stretch.

Jan 1, 2020, 5:30 PM ET

 

 

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45 minutes ago, JohnnyU said:

I believe people are underrating Harris (me included).  He could very well be just as good as the big 4.

He could be a fine consolation prize at #7 in dynasty leagues.

5-star prospect, who can do it all. Strong runner, catches everything. Took over games this year. Go re-watch the LSU game. He was the main reason they stayed in it. Hard to put a comp on him, but he can be a volume guy in NFL, much like Henry and Jacobs. I do thinks he has much more talent than Damian Harris.

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On 12/25/2019 at 7:05 PM, kittenmittens said:

Yeah, I have heard a lot of other scouts and analysts comparing him to Steven Jackson precisely because he has a similar build and athletecism, yet does not have to come off the field for 3rd downs. 

I like this comp, rangy and strong like SJax, but thats rarefied air.

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1 hour ago, JackReacher said:

5-star prospect, who can do it all. Strong runner, catches everything. Took over games this year. Go re-watch the LSU game. He was the main reason they stayed in it. Hard to put a comp on him, but he can be a volume guy in NFL, much like Henry and Jacobs. I do thinks he has much more talent than Damian Harris.

I like the Henry comp. Big, strong, fast but limited laterally.

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1 minute ago, cloppbeast said:

I like the Henry comp. Big, strong, fast but limited laterally.

Harris is much better laterally than Henry is, at least to me.  Plus he cuts quickly off those moves for a guy his size.  Henry takes a second to push off, but his feet are so good he makes it work well.  

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The win by Tenn over NE via Derrick Henry may wake up some GMs to the fact that its not a bad thing to have a big back that is hard to tackle and run him 25-30 times a game. It was clearly evident that TENN was really good with Henry in there and not much at all with Lewis in there.

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15 minutes ago, lod001 said:

The win by Tenn over NE via Derrick Henry may wake up some GMs to the fact that its not a bad thing to have a big back that is hard to tackle and run him 25-30 times a game. It was clearly evident that TENN was really good with Henry in there and not much at all with Lewis in there.

Not a bad thing at all but still it only lead to 14 points, 2 more minutes of time of possession, 1 more first down, 2 less plays and 35 less yards of offense. If Brady and the Pats offense had been even slightly better, the pound the ball to Henry strategy would have been a losing one.

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Chris Breece of CBS 42 reports that Alabama junior RB Najee Harris informed the coaching staff that he will return for his senior season.

Big potential coup here for the Tide, who already got a few over the past few weeks when WR DeVonta Smith and LT Alex Leatherwood announced their returns to campus. Harris (6'2/230) rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 TD over 13 games as a junior. He likely would have been a mid-rounder had he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Bama will rely on the running game far more in 2020 with QB Tua Tagovailoa off to the NFL and the possibility of a true freshman (Bryce Young) starting behind center, which had to figure into Harris' decision.

 

 

Obviously it's his decision but I don't get why a RB would subject himself to one more year of wear and tear and also add a full year of age towards getting his second NFL contract.

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8 hours ago, Dr. Octopus said:

 

Obviously it's his decision but I don't get why a RB would subject himself to one more year of wear and tear and also add a full year of age towards getting his second NFL contract.

Its possible(likely?) that he was informed he wasn't likely to be a high enough pick for his liking, and felt he could improve upon that standing with another season.

Personally, Harris doesn't impress me much,  but maybe he'll have a huge senior season. I felt he was the 3rd most talented RB on the 2018 team. I don't see the Jackson or Henry comps at all. He has nowhere near the big play ability Henry has, or the receiving ability Jackson had. Chris Ivory would probably be a more fair comparison for me. 

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3 minutes ago, lod001 said:

Real bad idea. As a RB, you need to get to the NFL, bust your ### and get that 1st contract over before you hit 25.

Yeah, very risky move on his part. I get that this year has a lot of strong RBs but even next year it's hard to imagine Harris surging into the first round. 

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I don't get it at all. Even if he did sneak into the end of the 1st round next year that would mean he'd be 28 by the time he's eligible for his 2nd contract, which basically means he has no chance of ever getting a big payday. 

If he comes out this year he will be eligible for that all important 2nd deal at 26.

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6 hours ago, FreeBaGeL said:

I don't get it at all. Even if he did sneak into the end of the 1st round next year that would mean he'd be 28 by the time he's eligible for his 2nd contract, which basically means he has no chance of ever getting a big payday. 

If he comes out this year he will be eligible for that all important 2nd deal at 26.

I don’t think he can enhance his stock much for next season with all the RB depth at Bama - I know that was your point as well. And agree, there’s not any argument that it isn’t a  really terrible financial decision. Hopefully he has his reason and is at peace with it.

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247 Sports is reporting that Alabama junior RB Najee Harris will return to school for his senior year.

Harris (6'2/230) is not expected to make an announcement on social media unlike his teammates, but the decision is apparently common knowledge around the program. Harris is a former five-star recruit out of Antioch CA who rushed for 1,224 yards with a 5.86 YPC and accounted for 20 total touchdowns this season. He also excelled in the receiving game, catching 27 passes for 304 yards in the air. Harris is only 1,214 yards behind Alabama all-time rushing leader Derrick Henry and will make a serious run at that mark if he stays healthy next year.

SOURCE: 247 Sports

Jan 15, 2020, 1:56 PM ET

 

 

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Alabama senior RB Najee Harris was the only running back to place among ESPN's Todd McShay's top-32 prospects for 2021.

Harris (6'2/230) lands as McShay's No. 27 draft-eligible prospect, with the analyst referring to him as "next in line" for Alabama's conveyor belt of running backs who have found NFL success. He notes that the senior's receiving ability "popped" on tape. A little more context on that receiving note, courtesy of Pro Football Focus -- Harris hauled in 27-of-28 catchable targets last season (good for 304 yards and seven touchdowns). As a rusher, Harris blasted his way through SEC defenders to the tune of 1,224 yards in the fall. We suspect he could be in for a truly monster season in 2020. That Harris returned to school when he easily could have jumped for the draft over the winter speaks to his competitive fire following Alabama's Playoff snub. And with Tua Tagovailoa on his way to the Dolphins, Harris has a chance to work as a true focal point in the Crimson Tide offense upcoming (that'll go for double if unexperienced five-star frosh QB Bryce Young ends up seeing starts). Taking running backs in the first round is no longer in vogue, but with a big year, he'll likely flirt with that line. And on the college side of things, don't be surprised if Najee ends up in the Heisman fray at year's close.

SOURCE: ESPN Plus

May 27, 2020, 12:22 PM ET

 

 

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On 1/11/2020 at 12:39 PM, Interseptopus said:

At least we can put to bed the fallacy that he belonged in the same conversation as Swift, Dobbins, ETN, Taylor

ETN doesn't belong in the same conversation as the others either

As for Harris, his saving grace is how well he catches passes for his size

But make no mistake: he is not Henry is will likely run a 4.6+ at the combine without the elusiveness needed to make up for it

 

Fantastic college player but I am not liking the chances at getting a top RB in 2021 and trying to stock up this year if I have a chance at the top 4+Akers

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9 hours ago, KChusker said:

ETN doesn't belong in the same conversation as the others either

As for Harris, his saving grace is how well he catches passes for his size

But make no mistake: he is not Henry is will likely run a 4.6+ at the combine without the elusiveness needed to make up for it

 

Fantastic college player but I am not liking the chances at getting a top RB in 2021 and trying to stock up this year if I have a chance at the top 4+Akers

ETN was highly regarded as a top RB class compared to 2020 rookies.  But that’s not the point.

Najee is a better prospect than Henry was rather easily to me.  He’d be in that mix of the top RBs for 2020 too.  Not super special but still very solid or above average prospect.  

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12 hours ago, rockaction said:

This is gonna be crazy when these guys don't get a year of tape for the scouts. I feel badly for them. 

Well, there still has to be 32 first round players, 32 second round players....and so forth.

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2 minutes ago, Dr. Octopus said:

Well, there still has to be 32 first round players, 32 second round players....and so forth.

Yes, there does. I'd bet the draft capital we often speak of gets a little negated by the lack of a season though. And you were right upthread about Harris. Not sure why he didn't come out in the draft given the uncertainty of everything and considering he'll be twenty-three, which is getting ancient in league terms and therefore FF terms. I read a fascinating and great article about fantasy football finishes and running backs being under 25 when it happens. Over the past six-seven years, the majority of top twelve finishers and a large percentage (about eighty-five percent) of top twenty-four finishers are between the ages of 21-25, with 26 and 27 bringing up a surprisingly low percentile rear.

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5 hours ago, Zyphros said:

ETN was highly regarded as a top RB class compared to 2020 rookies.  But that’s not the point.

Najee is a better prospect than Henry was rather easily to me.  He’d be in that mix of the top RBs for 2020 too.  Not super special but still very solid or above average prospect.  

And yet...both chose to return to college rather than compete against the 2020 RBs

Najee is a better pass catcher than Henry which is significant, but he has got nothing on him as a runner: slower, less powerful, worse contact balance

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7 hours ago, KChusker said:

And yet...both chose to return to college rather than compete against the 2020 RBs

Najee is a better pass catcher than Henry which is significant, but he has got nothing on him as a runner: slower, less powerful, worse contact balance

Najee is a bit weird because he's a big bruiser guy but his game is not about power.  He has some power but not a whole lot, and there's a lot of finesse in his game that I feel make him the better prospect, but sometimes it gets him in trouble because his body is so big that he can't do those things.  That plus he's a way better pass catcher like you said.  He'd be considered a top RB for 2020 as well.  I think it's a big red flag that he and ETN chose to return to school though.  Maybe it has something to do with Alabama and Saban?  Just speculating and thinking out loud.  

 

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14 minutes ago, Zyphros said:

Najee is a bit weird because he's a big bruiser guy but his game is not about power.  He has some power but not a whole lot, and there's a lot of finesse in his game that I feel make him the better prospect, but sometimes it gets him in trouble because his body is so big that he can't do those things.  That plus he's a way better pass catcher like you said.  He'd be considered a top RB for 2020 as well.  I think it's a big red flag that he and ETN chose to return to school though.  Maybe it has something to do with Alabama and Saban?  Just speculating and thinking out loud.  

Weird to me too. Both have already won national championships and RB shelf lives are so short. Najee in particular will be 23 by the time of the draft. Not a Chuba fan either personally. If I had to rank them I’d say Etienne, Najee then Chuba but there are guys like Max Borghi, Journey Brown and Kylin Hill that I could argue over all except Etienne

CFB not being played also would eliminate the chance of a Jacobs/CEH type riser

The WR class looks similar or only slightly worse than 2020 and QB/TE look great

 

The decision though: could have been Saban or just not getting the draft grade he expected. I know Etienne got a 2nd round grade though so no clue on his reason for returning beyond just strength of class or maybe personal reasons like enjoying college life.

Even if it is just something minor it still makes them worse prospects than they would have been this year just due to age and (if CFB is played) then workload concerns

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Pro Football Network's Matthew Valdovinos writes that Alabama senior RB Najee Harris possesses "the size to eat and break through weak tackle attempts."

Valdovinos also notes that in his film study of Harris, the back has shown "flashes of brilliance" when it comes to his vision and ability to spot lanes and openings. While the big question with the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is going to be his top-end speed in testing, he plays with a creative dynamism that's incredibly fun to watch and an elite physicality to boot. He's also as dependable a receiver as there is at his position. We're keen as catfish on Harris 'round these parts and a Heisman campaign would very much be in play for him should the season end up being played. In terms of his potential draft slot, Round 1 is dicey simply because of how positional values are viewed. Round 2, very much in play.

SOURCE: Pro Football Network

Jul 10, 2020, 2:05 PM ET

 


 

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Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranks Alabama senior RB Najee Harris fifth among running backs eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Harris was a somewhat surprising return to school, and the 6-foot-2, 230-pound tailback is not just a Heisman Trophy contender, he's a candidate to be one of the first running backs selected in April. Brugler notes that his strength is his ability to run with "determined physicality," and if you've watched Harris run, you understand why. The concern comes in his decision-making, as Brugler notes that he needs to work on his anticipation and location. "Harris doesn’t quite have the same home run potential as Derrick Henry, but he is much more determined and versatile than Bo Scarbrough," writes Brugler. "Harris enters his senior season with a solid third-round draft grade."

Jul 12, 2020, 9:33 AM ET

 

 

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Najee Harris scored three touchdowns and ran for 98 yards on 17 carries to help Alabama to a 38-19 win over Missouri on Saturday. 

Harris gets the 2020 season started with a bang, and gave the Crimson Tide a 7-0 lead with a one-yard plunge in the middle of the first quarter. The senior tailback dove in from a yard out a quarter later, and made it a trifecta with a nine-yard scamper in the third. Harris (6'2/230) also added two catches for eight yards in a game where he would have put up significantly more yards if the game was in doubt. He and Alabama will take on Texas A&M next Saturday, and he'll likely find the end zone again in that contest. 

Sep 26, 2020, 10:19 PM ET

 

 

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Najee Harris ran for 43 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns as Alabama routed Texas A&M by a 52-24 score on Saturday. 

Harris didn't really have much to do on Saturday in a blowout win, but was still able to pick up a couple of rushing scores. This comes after rushing for three touchdowns, and our analytics department tells us that this gives him five scores on the young year. Harris (6'2/230) also added two catches for 26 yards in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates. He'll likely see more touches next Saturday against Ole Miss. 

Oct 3, 2020, 6:59 PM ET

 

 

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Alabama senior RB Najee Harris carried the ball 31 times for 152 yards with a touchdown in a 41-24 win on Saturday over Georgia. 

Well, it wasn't 23-206-5 like Harris had against Mississippi, but, Georgia is not Mississippi. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound tailback was still able to find plenty of room even against one of the best fronts in college football, and his two-yard touchdown in the third quarter extended Alabama's lead to 34-24 with just under a minute left in that period. Harris is now up to nine touchdowns this year, and remains a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He shouldn't have any trouble running on Tennessee next Saturday. 

Oct 17, 2020, 11:41 PM ET

 

 

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Alabama senior RB Najee Harris ran for 125 yards on 15 carries with four catches for 30 yards in a 31-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl Game on Friday. 

Harris didn't score, but it was still a very productive game for the star tailback. Most of the damage was done on a 53-yard run that set up an early score and featured an impressive hurdle over a Notre Dame defender, but he had several more quality efforts and also showed off his underrated ability as a receiver. Harris (6'2/230) will see the ball often in the title game on January 11 regardless of opponent. 

Jan 1, 2021, 7:32 PM ET

 

 

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