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PFF Ranks Najee Harris 22nd-Best RB in NFL, Behind Jaylen Warren

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Steelers RB Najee Harris Jaylen Warren

It’s that point of the offseason when national media outlets rank players at each position. Thomas Valentine of Pro Football Focus recently ranked the top 32 running backs ahead of the 2024 season, and he had Jaylen Warren ahead of Najee Harris.

Valentine tabbed Warren as the 19th-best running back in the NFL, while Harris came in at No. 22. That’s not really a bold take, as many believe Warren is a better running back than Harris, especially pundits at PFF.

Valentine said Warren provides “more dynamism compared to Harris‘ bruiser style of play.”  Warren earned a 78.6 PFF grade in 2023, rushing 149 times for 784 yards and four touchdowns at a clip of 5.3 yards per carry — fourth in the NFL.

In addition, Warren forced 0.35 missed tackles per attempt, the highest rate in the NFL, and his 56 total missed tackles forced ranked seventh.

Steelers RB Jaylen Warren

Steelers running back Jaylen Warren against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Najee Harris had a 78.1 PFF grade (career-best mark), which ranked 15th among running backs. Harris became the first player in Steelers history to run for 1,000 or more yards in each of the first three seasons of his career. In 2023, Harris had the best season of his career in terms of yards per carry as he rushed 255 times for 1,035 yards — a 4.1 yards per carry average — and he scored eight touchdowns.

Valentine believes that Harris’ efficiency has risen with his workload dropped. Harris averaged more yards after contact per attempt, more missed tackles forced per attempt and more explosive runs per game than ever before in 2023.

This will be by far Harris’ best offensive line that he’s ran behind since joining the Steelers. Likewise for Warren. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has dynamic run schemes that should benefit both running backs. Smith is known to run a lot of wide zone, but I imagine he’ll still have the gap schemes that Harris excelled at under Matt Canada.

Mike Tomlin said the Steelers’ decision to not place the fifth-year option on Harris was more about the business side of things and the positional value of the running back position than being unhappy with Harris as a player.

“It could reflect a lot of things, but there’s probably some depth to those waters,” Tomlin said at Day 1 of OTAs. “Sometimes, it’s position-related, and things of that nature. There’s a business component of this and of all decisions that we make. There’s layers to it. I’m not going to try to characterize it in simplicity. That would probably be inappropriate.”