Najee Harris is a rare draft prospect. He is a running back who garnered first-round draft capital. Harris exploded into the NFL, seeing volume that most running backs no longer see. Over the last two seasons, Harris isn’t mentioned in the elite young running backs grouping. Let’s dive into Najee Harris to see if he belongs in that grouping or is a product of just volume.
Recent Fantasy History
Najee Harris came into the league perfectly, landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harris looked like a fantasy star finishing as RB4 in his rookie season. He benefited from old man Big Ben at quarterback, which helped Harris produce close to 100 targets. He would finish 2021 first in targets and receptions, using that to fuel his fantasy season for us. Harris benefited from an elite workhorse role as he saw over 300 carries and ranked first in opportunity shares among running backs. As a fantasy owner, we loved that, but there were some cracks within his game.
Harris saw a significant workload, but his efficiency was terrible. He was ranked 53rd in yards per carry, finishing under four yards per carry. He also was ranked 41st in yards per touch combined with his receiving game. Due to Harris’s talent, things could have been worst for him in efficiency. Harris did finish second in evaded tackles and yards created, which is interesting. Harris could consistently make a defender miss on the first attempt, but he would not make the most of that opportunity. Fantasy owners were concerned with the efficiency, but the volume helps Harris do well enough for us in fantasy football.
Something is afoot
In 2022, the thing we feared the most in Harris and his efficiency came true for fantasy. The one thing that isn’t talked about enough is that he suffered a pre-season Lisfranc injury. As anyone knows, that type of injury needs time to heal, and being a player that uses his foot often, the injury can not heal quickly. This resembles Deebo Samuel during the 2020 season, where he missed time.
Harris saw a decline in fantasy production as he would not lead running backs in targets. He would finish with 40 fewer targets than his rookie season. He would finish with 70 fewer combined touches, resulting in 450 fewer all-purpose yards on the season. It was evident due to the arrival of Jaylen Warren, who was a solid pass-catching back. His involvement resulted in Harris running fewer routes and being involved less in passing situations. Harris would continue to see a heavy workload, but the efficiency would still be terrible overall as he finished 59th in yards per carry and 52nd in yards per touch. The lone bright spot is that he continues to be great at evaded tackles and yards created.
Ready for a bounce back
That looks like the Najee Harris I’m accustomed to. Force multiple missed tackles!— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) October 24, 2022
While it seems like Harris is only a product of volume, and if he didn’t have that, then he’ll be considered a fantasy bust. There are factors like the offensive line and quarterback situation, but we’ll discuss that later. Following the second half of 2022, after the Steelers bye week, Harris came to life and was a fantastic, efficient running back for fantasy. Harris said the foot injury was no longer a problem by mid-season, and it seemed to improve his game. If we break down Harris’s two halves of 2022, you’ll see a major difference in produce.
|Ru Att||Yds||TDs||FL||Rec||Tg||Rec Yds||Rec TDs||2Pt||FP||FP||.5 PPR||1PPR|
|First 8 Games||230||767||2||2||51||60||238||4||0||0||135||160||186|
|Last 9 Games||310||1271||11||2||32||47||221||2||0||0||225||241||257|
Once Harris’ foot problem disappeared, he was a more efficient running back for fantasy football. There is hope for Harris to figure it out and be an elite productive running back.
What’s New for 2023
What changes in 2023 for Harris can impact his dynasty value and the 2023 season? The Steelers offense will have more experience and talent heading into 2023. With the talent around him, Kenny Pickett should get more attention from defenses allowing Harris to take advantage of more open lanes to run. Most of Harris’s efficiency came with Pickett as his quarterback, which is a plus. The offensive line improvements were a priority for the Steelers this offseason. The Steelers drafted offesive lineman Broderick Jones and prominent tight end Darnell Washington. They signed guards Hate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo, essential parts of the 2022 Eagles run game. Hopefully, the Steelers have beefed up an offensive line enough so that the middle-of-the-pack group in 2022 can stand out in 2023.
There is plenty of positive traction for Harris to perform like an elite running back with the improvements to the offense. The one thing is Jaylen Warren that could hurt Harris. We already know you can forget Harris having 90-plus targets again in his career, but 50 could still be in danger for him. As an undrafted rookie, Jaylen Warren forced Mike Tomlin to use him slightly more to stop Harris from being a workhorse. If Harris were to struggle, that could open the door for Warrne to carve off a more prominent role. I still expect Harris to see a 65 to 35 split in touches early in the season. Warren is solid, but Tomlin is an old-school head coach, and changing their ways is hard.
Dynasty Trade Values
- George Kittle & 2024 2nd for Najee Harris & 2024 4th
- 2024 1st & 2nd for Najee Harris
- Jameson Williams for Najee Harris
- Kenny Pickett for Najee Harris
Here are some recent dynasty trades surrounding Harris following the NFL draft. In the first trade, I think he has fair enough value on both sides. Kittle has an injury history with a crowded offense. Harris could be good for a contending team who needs an RB1 to grab. The 2024 first and second or Kenny Pickett are solid trades to grab Najee Harris. As a rebuilding team, picking up a 2024 first and second back is also substantial value. The Williams trade is fascinating. Jameson Williams is risky as a contender as he barely played in the NFL and is suspended for six games. Harris should come in immediately and produce solid fantasy numbers for a team. As a rebuilding team, getting Jameson Williams is a good trade because he is young, and you don’t need him as much in 2023. I’m still looking to buy low on Harris, and I hope the current manager is looking to sell off quickly.
What should we expect from Harris moving forward in the dynasty? Harris is already 25 years old, so he is in his prime right now, but this will only be his third season. It’s hard to tell if the Steelers would pick up his fifth-year option since they won’t need to until after this season. Since 2017 only 2 of 7 running backs in the first round have picked up their fifth-year opt-in. As a contending team, I’m looking to buy low on his value right now, as Harris should be in for an RB1 season again. As a rebuilding team, I’m looking to wait until the season and then sell high on Harris since he will be on the wrong side of fantasy value by the time you’re ready to compete. Harris is still a top-12 running back in the dynasty due to his opportunity and the hopeful rise of the Steeler’s offense.
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