Najee Harris: From The Bay To Bama

A five-star recruit coming out of high school in Antioch, California, Najee Harris headed to Tuscaloosa to win a national championship and become the next great Alabama running back. While he won a national championship as a freshman, he waited until his junior year to really explode as he rushed for over 1200 yards. Many believed he would declare for the 2020 draft, but he came back to school in hopes of winning his second title. However, as we all know, we don’t know what the hell is going to happen this season.We do know that Harris’s chances of being a high draft pick are pretty good. At this point, he is my top running back in this class and a true three-down player who can play in any scheme.

Positives

Tough to tackle

At 6-2, 230 pounds, Harris is a big man in the backfield and sometimes looks like a man amongst boys. He has no issue running over players, but will also display the athleticism to hurdle over them as well. You’ll quickly become a favorite of the coaching staff if you’re able to break tackles, which is why Harris has seen a good amount of carries every season. He’s one of those guys who’s never truly down until he’s on the ground and will drag multiple defenders with him. I don’t want to be cliché by comparing him to fellow Bay Area native Marshawn Lynch, but they both run with so much force that there are definitely some similarities in the way they run. Don’t think you’ll be able to attempt arm tackles against Harris without him running right past you.

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Threat as a pass catcher

Typical power backs like Harris don’t have such soft hands which makes him that much more dangerous. His 27 catches in 2019 may not seem like a high total, but he isn’t given too many opportunities and is part of a running back by committee at Alabama. When he was thrown the ball however, he displayed nice hands and great route running. It wasn’t always dump-off passes he was catching either. He ran out routes and wheel routes to perfection. It’s interesting to see a guy of his stature be such an excellent pass catcher because oftentimes big college running backs are much further behind in development as a pass-catcher than the smaller and more nimble running backs. He’s a true three-down player.

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Vision

While he might not be the most explosive athlete, Harris makes up for that with excellent vision. He knows how to properly read his blockers in front of him and diagnoses when to bounce outside or cut it up field. He never seems to be in a rush when the ball is in his hands, which he plays to his advantage. The SEC is known as the strongest football conference and, in particular, the strongest defensive conference in the country. So the skills he’s developed, like his vision, are key to his success at the next level.

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Negatives

Runs high

When you’re a tall running back, the chances of you running high are almost a certainty. Even productive running backs, like former Alabama stud Derrick Henry, have trouble with pad level but it doesn’t affect their overall game. What running high does is leave you susceptible to more punishment in the middle of your body as well as allowing defenders more room to hit you. Like I said, this isn’t a death sentence on his career, but it’s not ideal.

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Pass blocking

For a player of his size and strength, Harris should be an excellent pass blocker. However, Harris has struggled on several occasions and put his quarterback in harm’s way. To me, it looks like a problem with being flat-footed and not attacking the blitzer. Rather he lets the defender get too close where they can bull rush him or make one move to get around. To be honest, not many college running backs are good at this, so there is hope for improvement. This is a skill that’s worked on over and over again at the professional level as the league is relying more than ever on the passing game.

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Lack of long speed

While Harris might run through you or even over you, he’s not going to outrun your defensive backs or even linebackers. He has good enough agility and probably has a good enough 10-yard split, but he doesn’t have that breakaway speed. Many of the all-time greats didn’t have that explosiveness and had incredible careers. When you have other skills like Harris does, you’ll be fine in the long term and can get away without being a home run threat every time you touch the ball.

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Conclusion

Of any running back I’ve looked at until this point, none have the pure power Harris possesses but that isn’t what makes him so special. It’s the fact that he can run so angry, yet be such a developed runner and pass catcher that makes him as pro-ready as they come. Personally, I don’t think he has much more to improve upon at the college level but can’t blame someone for wanting to get that second ring. I think barring any unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be at worst a second-round pick and figures to be a scheme-versatile player.

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Dylan Moses: The Prodigal Son

The 2016 Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year had high expectations coming into Tuscaloosa. His high school highlight reel has amassed millions of views and he was offered a scholarship by LSU and Alabama in the eighth grade. That’s quite the legacy to live up too. However, as a sophomore in 2018, he was named a Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker) finalist and seemed primed to break out as an All-American in 2019. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL just days before the season. In an unexpected twist, Moses announced he was returning for his senior season and becomes the leader on what should be a very good Alabama defense. He was likely to be a late first-rounder in 2020 but hopes to push his stock into the top half of the 2021 first round while also trying to lead the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.

Positives

Tackling Machine

It’s such a simple part of the game, but all good defenses are ones that don’t miss tackles. Moses is a very physical player when meeting a running back in the hole and rarely gives up any ground. Even though he isn’t the biggest linebacker, he will stick his nose in there and not give an inch. He is also known to the lay the wood and come up with a huge hit. Those kinds of plays and that attitude can totally change the landscape and momentum of a game. He makes it known that when you try to go up against him one on one, you will lose and you will wake up with a few extra aches and pains in the morning.

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Athleticism

When he reads the play correctly, he can explode like an elite linebacker. He almost moves like a running back at times. He’s very quick and can also cut on a dime. Now there is some concern about him keeping his speed after his knee injury, but by all reports, he has recovered exceptionally well. In a league where mobile quarterbacks are succeeding more than ever, a linebacker like Moses is a perfect chess piece to counteract that. Use him as a “spy” on defense and he’ll be able to run down almost any player. He would be best utilized as a weak side 4-3 linebacker where he won’t be tangled up with big blockers in front of him and instead have the necessary space to roam and move fluidly.

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Versatile Player

In the Crimson Tide hybrid 3-4 defense, Moses lines up everywhere. He starts at middle linebacker, but plays a lot on the weak side, where he projects best at the pro level. He’ll even line up on the edge and will rush the quarterback from time to time. He is very comfortable and successful blitzing from any spot. There are also moments where he is lined up over a slot receiver (usually a tight end) and will do a good enough job of holding down that position. He might not be elite in pass coverage at this point, but has the tools needed to get to that level.

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Negatives

Slow to disengage from blocks

Moses might play strong when going against ball carriers but looks overmatched at moments against linemen or tight ends. He can get rag-dolled from time to time and be totally taken out of the play. He needs to do a better job of maintaining a lower pad level and using his quickness to break free of blockers. This is the main reason why I think he will be best suited on the weak side as he will not have to deal with blockers as often if he lined up in the middle. Hopefully, he used this rehab process to try and gain some more functional strength so that he will be able to play more physical against bigger opponents.

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Putting it all together

For as athletically gifted as Moses is, he has some moments where I’m thinking “what in the hell is he doing?”. Whether it’s a misread or he’s just pushed around, he’s more athlete than football player right now. Of course, when we last saw him play it was during the 2018-2019 season where he was a sophomore, so it’s possible that he has gotten stronger and increased his football IQ. This isn’t a huge issue in my eyes, but some teams won’t like him if he doesn’t show signs of progression.

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Conclusion

Moses is going to be a starter in the NFL. I have little doubt about that, but will he reach his potential of being an elite linebacker? I’m optimistic but would love to see him put it all together before getting to the league. He should be a first-rounder based on traits alone (assuming he is back to full health), but how high will be dependent on correcting his flaws.

Check other break downs here:

Trevor Lawrence

Justin Fields

Ja’Marr Chase

Trey Lance

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.