ESPN has released their rookie rankings heading into the 2021 season from a fantasy perspective, and unanimously named Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris the top newcomer.
ESPN’s Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell and Field Yates all named Harris as the rookie they are most excited to draft this coming season.
For Berry, the optimism with Harris stems from what everyone predict will be a heavy workload for the first round selection.
“Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Berry wrote. “Yes, there are legit offensive line issues in Pittsburgh. But I’m betting on Harris’ talent and high volume to counterbalance the issues with the line. He is a true three-down superstar and the Steelers have so many weapons in the passing game that defenses will be forced to play back often, opening up running lanes for a talented running back who will likely flirt with 20-plus touches a game.”
Bell agrees, but is placing more value on Harris’ versatility as both a capable rusher and potent pass catcher.
“Harris’ versatility is a desirable quality for running backs in PPR (points-per-reception) formats,” Bell wrote. “A back who can be a high-volume back and catches the ball with ease is a fantasy gold mine.
As the ESPN fantasy department’s injury expert, Bell does have concerns about Harris’ long-term health, especially with the uncertainty along Pittsburgh’s offensive line.
“The biggest question is can Harris stay healthy? Concerns about his ankle heading into the draft were largely overstated, but playing in the NFL will pose new challenges to any running back’s durability. It’s fair to question just how productive he will be behind an offensive line that was problematic last season.”
Looking at Pittsburgh’s needs and recent history, Yates is also confident Harris will excel as a fantasy superstar.
“Harris is the easy answer for a few reasons, starting with the fact that he’s an exceptional talent,” Yates wrote. “He landed with a Pittsburgh team that needed a go-to runner and the Steelers have already made it clear that they don’t plan to hold back with Harris this season. Rookie running backs have a strong track record of instant success in fantasy than wide receivers, so give me Harris.”
Selected with the No. 24 pick in the first round, Harris is coming off a tremendous senior season in Tuscaloosa. He rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns, while also snagging 43 receptions for 425 yards and four more scores.
He earned unanimous All-American honors and was awarded the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. He won a national championship as well with the Tide in January.