On Saturday night, Alabama running back Najee Harris had 31 carries for 178 yards and five catches for 67 yards with an SEC title game record five total touchdowns (two rushing, three receiving) against Florida. He also set the SEC career record for touchdowns by a running back with 54.
Harris will fulfill a full four years at Alabama. Alongside Clemson’s Travis Etienne (a fellow senior), he’s in the conversation to be the first running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Harris has the build (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and skill set to be an every-down back at the next level. He has only been the Crimson Tide’s clear lead back the last two seasons too. So he doesn’t have a ton of wear and tear on his body, as NFL teams form a full evaluation.
Looking to April’s draft, here are three teams who should rebuild their backfield around Harris.
Where would Najee Harris fit best?
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons seem headed for a full rebuild anyway, with a new GM and head coach coming in. There is the challenge of some key veterans who’ll be hard to move right away (Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, etc.). But that is not a problem at the running back position.
Todd Gurley was only signed to a one-year deal last offseason, thankfully as he has continued to show decline this season. Brian Hill, Ito Smith, etc. are not inspiring internal solutions looking to next year.
The Falcons will probably go another way with a possible top-10 pick in the draft. But early in the second round, should he be available, Harris would be a no-brainer.
2. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have pieced together a running back rotation this season, as offseason acquisitions (Jordan Howard, Matt Breida) fell short and surprising contributors surfaced (Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed). It’s all yielded the NFL’s 27th-ranked rushing attack heading into Week 15.
Apart from their need for a talent boost at running back, Miami is broadly an easy fit for Harris. Former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa in place under center for the Dolphins, so perhaps Harris has a big advocate in the building right off the bat.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been a pass-heavy offense this year, to the detriment of the running game (31st in the league going into Week 15). Ben Roethlisberger simply doesn’t thrown downfield between the numbers anymore.
Looking to next year, the Steelers have a question mark at running back. The perpetually banged-up James Conner will be a free agent, and he’s hardly certain to be back. Benny Snell looks like an average/backup-caliber back. Anthony McFarland is an unknown quantity looking to his second season, after not being used much this year.
So it’s no accident that Pittsburgh has become a top landing spot for Harris in early mock drafts. Taking him late-first round would be the idea, since he surely won’t last to the Steelers’ current projected choice very late in the second round.