Najee Harris was a valuable fantasy football asset as a rookie, finishing inside the top 10 running backs and inside the top 20 overall. However, his value was largely based on volume, with efficiency standing out as a major red flag heading into Year 2. Let’s examine Harris’ ADP in 2022 fantasy drafts and determine whether he has a chance to return value at that cost.
Najee Harris ADP | Is he worth his current price in fantasy drafts?
Harris’ current ADP is very much even in terms of the different scoring systems, but there are some intriguing site-to-site variations. On average, for each of the three formats, Harris is the eighth player selected overall. He’s the RB5 in non-PPR and PPR but slips to the RB6 in half-PPR. Harris’ ADP across the various sites spreads from the sixth pick — as the RB4 on RTSports — through to the 10th selection, as the RB7 on NFL.com.
In a 1QB league, Harris is rarely available at the back end of the first round, let alone early in the second. In Superflex, where the value of QBs is pushed up into the first two rounds, Harris will often fall into the second round and does sometimes slip into Round 3.
Najee Harris’ projected fantasy value in 2022
Harris led the league in total touches with 381 last year. He finished second in rushing attempts with 307, but his 1,200 rushing yards came at just 3.9 yards per attempt. Among players to have more than 150 rushing attempts, Harris’ efficiency was the ninth lowest. Only three players with 200+ rushing attempts produced lower numbers.
Harris also finished fourth in the league in yards from scrimmage. However, his 4.4 yards per touch was also among the lowest in the league. Only five players with 200+ touches had a lower efficiency, and Antonio Gibson was the only one who finished with less on 300+ touches.
Those efficiency numbers are a concern because having led the league in touches, it’s realistic to expect Harris’ usage to regress a little this season. He handled close to 75% of the Steelers’ rushing attempts and had a 14.4% target share. He finished with 381 touches on 401 opportunities.
It’s realistic to think Harris could see a similar number of rushing attempts, but another 90 targets would be optimistic in an offense that should throw the ball less. Harris also handled 70.7% of the Steelers’ red-zone rushing work but only managed six touchdowns on 29 attempts.
There are dual concerns and an intriguing balance here. Harris might see a smaller share of the red-zone rushing work with a more mobile QB in Mitch Trubisky alongside him. However, the Steelers threw on 87 of their red-zone plays last year. That could shift back to the running game more this year. So while Harris could have a smaller share of the pie, it could be a bigger pie when it comes to total red-zone rushing attempts.
Can changes on the offensive line help?
The Steelers’ offensive line will look similar at the tackle positions, with Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor bookending them. Kevin Dotson is set to start at left guard, having played the first 10 games last year, and played well when he was on the field. Meanwhile, at center and right guard are Mason Cole and James Daniels, respectively.
Daniels has to fill the role played by Trai Turner, who was one of the best run blockers on the line — if not the best — last year. Daniels has improved as a run blocker during his career, so he should at least provide close to a similar level we saw from Turner in that role.
Cole started five games for the Vikings last year and generally did well in his run-blocking assignments overall. He should be an improvement on the play the Steelers got from Kendrick Green and J.C. Hassenauer last year.
Overall, this offensive line should be improved from last year. The middle trio of Dotson, Cole, and Daniels should provide a solid base. Moore will be playing in his second year, so we should see an improvement in his play at left tackle. Similarly, Okorafor saw a big improvement in 2021 compared to his first full year as a starter in 2020. Hopefully, that improvement only continues, especially with three veterans on the inside, to give stability to the line.
This line is unlikely to be a top-five or 10 unit in the league, but it should nonetheless be improved from last year. In 2021, the Steelers’ line ranked 28th in adjusted line yards, according to Football Outsiders. It would be hard to get much worse.
The improvements up the middle should certainly help, but the key may very well be if the two tackles can improve their play. Any improvement should help Harris’ efficiency, which would compensate for a potential drop in touches from his league-leading number last year.
Should you draft Harris in 2022?
True bell-cow backs are hard to find in the modern NFL, so when you find one — especially a young one — it’s a valuable commodity for fantasy managers. Harris is the clear leader of the backfield and should dominate both in rushing attempts and targets amongst the players on their RB depth chart.
It is not ideal to project a player to lead the entire league in terms of opportunities, but Harris should at least be close to the top 10. While he might not have a 75% share of the rushing attempts, as long as he’s healthy, Harris should see 60% or higher. Additionally, with uncertainty over the QB position, the balance between run and pass will hopefully be closer this year.
If we project Harris to be closer to 300 total touches, his efficiency has to improve to ensure there isn’t a significant drop in his fantasy value. Receiving-wise, there’s not a lot of improvement to expect, but averaging under four yards per rush attempt will be less than ideal. The offensive line improvements should help, but maybe not enough to make Harris a candidate to be the RB1 this year if his touches drop.
This may seem like a doom-and-gloom projection, but it’s not trying to be. Harris is still well worth his ADP in the middle of the first round. A slight drop in targets hurts him a little in the PPR formats, but he’s still a top-six player overall in PFN’s consensus RB fantasy rankings for non-PPR. In half and full-PPR, Harris is still a top-seven RB option in both formats and a first-round selection.
The only warning is to pump the brakes if you are viewing him as a 400-opportunity player with a great chance to be overall RB1. It’s tough to see the Steelers just riding him into the ground again, especially after his preseason Lisfranc injury. There is also a very good chance that if Pittsburgh falls out of playoff contention, we see Harris shut down later in the season.
Until then, Harris is locked in as an RB1, and his current ADP is a solid value, especially in non-PPR. For PPR, there are options in the middle of Round 1 that provide a higher ceiling, but Harris is still a first-round selection nonetheless.
Therefore, if you want Harris on your team, you either select him when you’re on the clock in the middle of the first, or you accept that someone else will have him on their roster.