Najee Harris enters the 2022 season as one of the most valuable assets in dynasty leagues. Coming off a mid-RB1 finish, Harris profiles as a young, ascending running back that dynasty managers can build around. How should dynasty fantasy football managers value Harris going forward?
Najee Harris’ dynasty profile for 2022
Despite never playing an NFL down prior to the 2021 season, Harris was immediately viewed as a first-round pick in redraft leagues. He averaged 17.7 PPR fantasy points per game, good for a mid-RB1 finish and justifying his lofty price.
While Harris was effective from a fantasy standpoint, he certainly wasn’t efficient. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and was outside the top 20 in evaded tackles per touch and the top 30 in yards created per touch.
Now entering his sophomore NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and fantasy managers alike are hoping Harris takes a step forward. It will certainly help if the Steelers can improve their offensive line and offense as a whole.
Harris’ rookie performance is nothing to scoff at, though. The fact that there is still so much room for improvement bodes well for his dynasty outlook. With all that said, how highly should dynasty managers value Harris?
Fantasy projection for Harris
As a rookie, Harris’ 307 carries trailed only Jonathan Taylor’s 322. Harris did top Taylor in total touches, though. As a rookie, Harris led all running backs with 381 touches.
One of the most encouraging parts of Harris’ game is his passing-game work. His 14.5% target share was the sixth-highest amongst running backs. The reason that lofty target share feels sustainable even in a post-Ben Roethlisberger world is Harris’ 24.9 routes run per game, which led all running backs. Simply put, the man was a volume monster.
Entering his second NFL season, the only significant offensive change is, of course, the biggest one. Mitch Trubisky replaces Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. I’m just going to outright say it. Trubisky is an upgrade over the version of Big Ben we saw in 2021.
How might he pair with Trubisky?
Harris is unlikely to see as many dump-offs and checkdowns with a more mobile and effective downfield throwing Trubisky, but he should make up for it in scoring opportunities. Harris scored just 10 touchdowns as a rookie. In a better offense, Harris can easily be a 15+ touchdown guy.
Also, Harris’ receiving work may not suffer as much as some people think. Trubisky actually targeted the RB position over 25% of the time with the Bears. Trubisky’s best season as a runner came in 2018. He only averaged 4.8 rushes per game. While that’s still over double Roethlisberger’s career average of 2 rushes per game, he’s not running nearly 10 times a game like Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts.
All of this is to say Trubisky is likely a net positive for Harris. The Steelers’ offense is consolidated around Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and Harris. The overwhelming majority of production will come from those four players. Harris is capable of not only repeating but building upon his RB1 rookie season. Volume is king, and nothing but injury can get between Harris and another 350 touches.
What is Harris’ future beyond 2022?
Harris was old for a rookie. He’s only in his second NFL season, and he’s already 24 years old. For comparison purposes, Taylor is entering his third NFL season and is a full year younger than Harris. Given Harris’ age and the way the Steelers use him, he profiles as the type of back that may break down sooner than we’d like. However, that’s not going to be anytime soon.
Harris has at least another 4-5 years of incredible volume and RB1 production. Dynasty managers have time to wait for the Steelers to find their quarterback of the future. Maybe it ends up being Trubisky — but probably not. Even if it takes 2-3 years, Harris should still be a productive fantasy RB at that point. He’s also going to produce along the way. Fantasy managers should have no long-term concerns with Harris.
What can fantasy managers expect from Harris?
For as long as he can stay healthy, Harris should remain amongst the league leaders in touches. It’s nearly impossible for a running back to completely fail with tremendous volume. Consider Harris a high-floor low RB1 for now, but one with room to grow if the Steelers get better on the offensive line or as an offense as a whole.
Harris is established enough to be a key player on a dynasty team’s championship push for the next few years and young enough to be the type of running back a rebuilding team looks to acquire and build around. He’s a complete back that scores fantasy points on the ground and through the air and is someone dynasty managers should be thrilled to roster for the next several years.