After a record-setting four-year career at the University of Alabama, former Crimson Tide star Najee Harris became the fourth running back drafted in the first round of the NFL draft under Nick Saban, joining the likes of Mark Ingram II, Trent Richardson and Josh Jacobs, on Thursday night.
The Antioch, Calif. product was chosen 24th overall in the 2021 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which feels like a perfect match already.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on the tail end of his legendary career and needs a safety net in the backfield that can touch the ball 20-plus times a game. He is primed to make an instant impact from day one.
Harris is the Crimson Tide's sixth first-round selection, which ties Miami in 2004 for most all-time in a single season.
Draft Profile:Najee Harris
Hometown: Antioch, Calif
• Alabama's rushing king, as 3,843 career yards tops the Alabama all-time list.
• His 4,624 all-purpose yards are second all-time at Alabama.
• The Crimson Tide's all-time leader for total touchdowns in a career with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving). Also Alabama's career leader for rushing scores with 46, surpassing the previous record of 42 by Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry.
• Averaged 6.0 yards per carry to rank third in Crimson Tide history (minimum 400 carries).
• Doak Walker Award winner, presented annually to the nation's top running back.
• Unanimous first-team All-American (AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, The Sporting News, Walter Camp).
• Named First-team All-SEC by both the AP and the league coaches.
• Named to the SEC Community Service Team.
• Was finalist for the Jason Witten Man of the Year award.
• As a senior, led the nation in total touchdowns (30) and rushing touchdowns (26) in addition to scoring (180). Finished second for single-season rushing scores by an Alabama back with 26 as a senior.
• Led the SEC and finished third in Division I for rushing yards at 1,466, plus had 43 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns during shortened 2020 season. The 1,891 all-purpose yards were the sixth most for an single season in Alabama history.
• 2020 SEC Championship Game MVP.
What they said ...
Zierlein, NFL.com: Plus-sized runner who elevated his game and draft stock with a well-rounded performance in 2020. Harris showed improved short-area creativity and elusiveness to go with his trademark physicality. Creates additional yardage with both wiggle and power, but he lacks desired top gear to change games in a flash. He handled a heavier lift in 2020, with almost 300 total touches in 13 games. Harris’ value as a third-down option out of the backfield and as a personal protector should not be underestimated after his performance in his senior year. His running style could shorten his career, but he’s a tough, three-down runner who can immediately upgrade a running game.
SI analyst Jim Mora Jr.: "He's unique. He's unique in terms of his character. He's unique in terms of his toughness, his speed, his ability to find the end zone. He's going to add value not only between the lines and the way he plays the game but he's going to add value to the organization. He’s a kid that’s going to be out in the community doing great things. He's going to be tremendous in the locker room, which is very important in terms of providing leadership. This kid is special. There's something about him that's different and you've seen it and I've seen it and every fan has seen it."
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: "He has balance and can bang inside but can also get involved in the pass game. This kid kind of gives you a little bit of everything. He's 220 pounds but he has big time burst and he's got really good vision, and to me while you're starting to see him pop up more, he's my 32nd player as I mentioned he's going to continue to go up because everything I keep digging on and finding out from the school and finding out from guys that have been around him and coached him and played with him is the kid's wiring is off the charts. In a year where we don't maybe have as much information, when you get a kid who's got great tape, who's got high, weight, speed and now the character and the work ethic is off the charts, you bet on those kids."