As the running back position has become devalued across the NFL, one of the knocks against some backs is the amount of usage they’ve gotten at previous stops.
The more carries a running back has had, the more likely he is to eventually suffer an injury, at least in theory, and that line of thinking has caused most running backs to leave school early when possible.
Alabama running back Najee Harris is an exception to that rule, returning to the Crimson Tide even after a season in 2019 that would have certainly gotten him drafted. Harris’ final lap with Alabama resulted in a national title, and also him sitting in his school’s record books for most career rushing yards and touchdowns.
Harris finished school with 638 carrier carries, less than fellow top-rated back Travis Etienne (686), but more than Javonte Williams (366) and Kenny Gainwell (235) combined.
Of course, when it came to his evaluation for the 2021 NFL Draft, that could have been seen as much as a negative as a positive. That extra year and all those extra carries may have resulted in some teams attaching a lesser likelihood of future physical health to Harris’ grade.
But not the Steelers. In fact, Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said there’s a positive way to look at Harris’ evaluated workload over his years at Alabama.
“He has (had a lot of carries), and I think that’s to his credit,” Colbert said. “Sometimes you look at that and say, well, the wear and tear, he’s already got this many carries, but I always look at it the other way. He was a durable player, again, in an NFL-type running offense in what is one of the toughest leagues in college football. I view it as a positive because he was very durable for Alabama.”