Despite the fact that the prevailing argument in the NFL is that running backs are devalued, the Pittsburgh Steelers used their first-round pick on Thursday to draft former Alabama star running back Najee Harris.
There are really three facets to this pick to hand out a grade for the Steelers. Is Harris a first-round talent, does he fill a need and finally is he the best player on the board.
Harris’ talent is undeniable. There aren’t many running backs in the NFL who can boast the type of size-speed combination Harris has. But make no mistake he’s not just a power back. Harris has great vision, very good acceleration and doesn’t have to be relegated to just a tackle-to-tackle back. Harris is also a very talented receiver and can run routes out of the backfield and split out wide. So talent is not an issue.
Next up is need. Going into the draft, a case could be made the Steelers had the worst running back depth chart in the AFC and maybe the entire NFL. This contributed to the team being last in rushing in 2020. So yes, drafting Harris filled a significant need.
Finally, we look at the best player available debate. This one is hard. There are players who were still on the board at other positions who are absolutely capable of having as good if not better careers including offensive tackle Teven Jenkins and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. It will take a while before we know for sure if there would have been a better option but it’s hard to make that case immediately after the draft.
Overall, the Harris pick was predictable, a little boring and very much a Steelers pick. In all likelihood, Harris will be a great player for the Steelers for some time and could end up a great one. Overall the pick of Harris grades out at a B+.