In this series, we’ll dig into the numbers and examine offseason moves to assess whether some of fantasy football’s top names and most intriguing players are worth their current ADP.
Quick hits on Najee Harris heading into 2023:
- Zero games missed due to injury through first two years
- Should handle a full workload if given one
- Expected to be fully healed from Lisfranc injury from last year
- Size/strength makes a helpful target in goal-line/red zone scenarios
- Lack of explosiveness/efficiency
- Weak offensive line
- Volume/TD reliant for fantasy production
- Emergence of Jaylen Warren as a true RB2
Najee Harris earned himself a first-round ADP in fantasy drafts last year after an impressive rookie campaign in 2021, posting 1200 rushing yards, 467 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns, landing him the RB4 spot in PPR formats.
Unfortunately for 2022 fantasy owners, it would appear that his 2021 rookie campaign was as good as it was going to get, as he went on to post 1038 rushing yards and 229 receiving yards in 2022, bringing him down to RB12 in PPR formats. This regression ultimately left fantasy managers slightly underwhelmed, as they paid an RB1 premium for Najee that season.
Najee was a significant beneficiary of having virtually no competition in the Steelers’ backfield over the last two years, finishing in the top 5 in carries across this span. While it is uplifting to see this type of usage for a fantasy RB, Najee lacked the explosiveness to make it completely worthwhile, averaging 3.8 yards per carry in his career.
While that below-average efficiency can be partly attributed to heavy usage and a struggling offensive line, it became clear that the key to Najee’s production was by way of volume and touchdowns.
As we look into 2023, it would appear that the Steelers are trending in the right direction, with improvements from their hopeful franchise QB Kenny Pickett, as well as key additions to the offensive line, such as Isaac Seumalo.
The key factor in how this Steelers backfield pans out in 2023 is the emergence of Jaylen Warren. The 5’8” second-year RB came onto the scene for Pittsburgh last year, carrying the ball 77 times for 379 yards and adding 214 receiving yards on only 28 receptions. Warren’s quickness and pass-catching ability pair extremely well with Najee’s skillset, making the tandem a proper one-two punch we haven’t seen Pittsburgh have in years past.
This isn’t all bad news for Najee’s outlook, however. Having a player like Warren can help keep some of the tread off of the tires for Najee and have him playing in a role he’s more comfortable in, which may lead to improved efficiency.
That is a more half-glass-full perspective, though, and owners should still be cautious drafting him with the expectations of previous years’ usage.
How to play Najee Harris in 2023 fantasy football:
There is little doubt that Najee can be an asset to any fantasy squad, but the trickiest part up to this point has been finding him at the right pick to maximize his value.
His current ADP sits at RB13, which is precisely where he finished last year. My personal opinion is that his potential downtick of usage will drive him a little further down this mark, and he’s someone I’d look to grab a little later in drafts should he fall past his ADP.
That being said, consistency and availability at the RB position are a fantasy manager’s dream, and if you’re looking for some stability in an otherwise high-upside and well-rounded squad, he could be who you’re looking for.
Verdict: High floor, low ceiling