Conventional wisdom says drafting a running back in Round 1, doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s NFL. The position endures a lot of wear and tear, plus many capable backs can be found in later rounds.

In fact when you take a look at the eight 1,000 yard rushers in 2020, just one of them was drafted in the first round. Four came in the second round, one from the third and fifth rounds, and the Jaguars’ James Robinson wasn’t even drafted at all.

Titans RB Derrick Henry – 2nd round
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook – 2nd round
Colts RB Johnathan Taylor – 2nd round
Packers RB Aaron Jones – 5th round
Jaguars RB James Robinson – Undrafted
Bears RB David Montgomery – 3rd round
Browns RB Nick Chubb – 2nd round
Raiders Josh Jacobs – first round

Based on the above names, why would a team take a running back in the first round?

And why should the Buccaneers?

Simple – a player like Alabama’s Najee Harris would make the team virtually unbeatable.

Yes, I said it – unbeatable.

Alabama RB Najee Harris

Alabama RB Najee Harris – Photo by: USA Today

Does that mean Tampa Bay runs the table next season and dethrones the 1972 Dolphins as the only undefeated NFL team that wins a Super Bowl? Probably not.

But could they equal the 2020 16-3 Kansas City Chiefs team? The 18-1 2007 New England Patriots? Or the 18-1, 1985 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears?

Without question we could see the Buccaneers in 2021 end up ranking as one of the all-time greatest teams in NFL history. They are going to be that good.

And by adding Harris, a team with very few weaknesses now becomes the best team in the NFL without equal. Favorites to repeat and honestly an unfair matchup for nearly every team they will face this upcoming season.

No one is forgetting about running back Ronald Jones II, and the organization is still high on Ke’Shawn Vaughn. And perhaps Leonard Fournette comes back on a new deal.

But Harris is special.

How special?

What about 3,843 yards on 638 attempts averaging 6.0 yards per carry?

How about 80 receptions for 780 yards?

And how about 57 touchdowns, including a monster 30 score season as a senior in 2020?

Rookie running backs sometimes struggle their first year in the NFL. We saw that from Jones three years ago and Vaughn in 2020. Harris won’t have that problem. You won’t find a more NFL-type environment in the college ranks than you will in Tuscaloosa. From the coaching, to the facilities to the overall professionalism, the University of Alabama is a college version of the New England Patriots.

Harris immediately becomes the best running back in Tampa Bay the minute his name is called from the podium on draft night if that were to happen next month.

While Harris isn’t destined for the NFL Hall of Fame just yet, he is the perfect fit for this Bruce Arians/Bryon Leftwich offense. He runs with power between the tackles, has terrific feet for a 6-2, 230-pound back and is deceptively quick when bouncing runs to the perimeter.

Oh, and he is solid in pass protection and can catch the ball very well.

But my favorite trait of Harris’ is his ability to get the first down. If its third-and-3, Harris will get you four yards. If it’s third-and-9, Harris will catch the ball and get you 10 yards. He has a nose for the sticks, runs with relentless effort and willed himself to first down after first down while playing for the Crimson Tide.

But this isn’t just me saying these things.

“Outstanding three-down running back with a complete game. Athletic, instinctive, and plays hard on every down. Possesses outstanding vision, instincts, and overall awareness. Runs with outstanding balance as well as body control. Powerful and has defenders bouncing off him as he picks up yardage off initial contact. Runs through tackles, carries defenders for yards at a clip, and does not go down without a fight.”Tony Pauline Profootballnetwork.com

“Harris is a blend of power, determination, and versatility as both a between-the-tackles runner and perimeter rushing threat. A comfortable pass-catcher out of the backfield, he’s made strides in his pass-catching ability every season. A running back that can have passing concepts designed around his abilities, he can routinely put second-level defenders in a bind with schemed patterns to attack coverage. A runner that always seems to fall forward when taking on contact, he’s a highly determined and physical rusher who forces defenders to tackle him to the ground through the echo of the whistle.” – The Draft Network

These are just two examples. You can read rating and reviews after rating and review and you’ll see the same thing over and over.

Alabama RB Najee Harris

Alabama RB Najee Harris – Photo by: USA Today

Winning a Super Bowl and returning 95 percent of your team including the entire defense is a luxury we’ve never seen before in Tampa Bay. For the first time ever the Buccaneers don’t need their first few picks to immediately step in and be impact starters.

I’m still not a big advocate for drafting a running back in the first round. You can make due with backs later in the draft or even on occasion as an undrafted free agent.

But if there is one position that could use a boost on this team, it is at running back. An offense that was seventh overall (384.1 ypg) in the NFL in 2020 and third in scoring (30.8 ppg) can get better. Quarterback Tom Brady will be better. Tight end Rob Gronkowski will be better. The offensive line will be better.

Add Harris and there is no telling how great this Bucs team can be in 2021. Historically good, honestly.

Someone tell the 1972 Miami Dolphins the Buccaneers – and Harris – are coming for you.
____________________________________________________________________

Cannon Blast

Table of Contents

• If you are a college football fan you couldn’t help but see Alabama on television over the last several years. But just in case you have been living under a rock, below is a highlight video to show you exactly what Harris can bring to the Buccaneers.

 

• We all know Bucs head coach Bruce Arians as the “hip” Dad or grandad that just happens to be a heck of a football coach. Down to earth and just one of the guys you’d love to have a beer with (or Crown Royal, as coach prefers), Arians is hard not to like.

While those things are true, my favorite part of Arians is his Arians Family Foundation that raises money and awareness for children in need.

“The Arians Family Foundation motto is “A Voice For Children” by supporting and developing programs which strives to prevent and ameliorate the abuse and neglect of children. The Arians Family Foundation supports CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in making sure that children who are involved in the court system, as a result of abuse or neglect by their families, receive the love and help they need.”

As the father of a son that we adopted through the foster system in Florida, this cause is one that is near and dear to my heart. Did you know when you adopt a child from foster care their medical, dental and college is paid for? Did you know it cost zero out of pocket to adopt from foster care?

Next month the foundation will be hosting a two-day event at Innisbrook Golf Course to raise money for the charity that the entire Arians family is heavily involved in. Consider supporting this great event and cause by clicking here. 

And if you want more information on adoption through foster care, hit me up directly at mark@pewterreport.com

Last Laugh

And I’m seven years older than Brady. So statistically I am closer to the average age of the player’s GRANDPARENTS than to the age of the average NFL player.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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Spitfire
2 months ago

Dude, for one, you can see his vision and how he just sees where openings are gonna be and has the patience. That struggles in the NFL a little bit because it’s so much faster but he can be special. But that little quick out pass is something we didn’t have last year and would make our Offense unstoppable on all levels. The games Defenses shut down Evans and Godwin was because we had nothing to threaten with short. If we had an attack on all levels we would be unstoppable. I would have no problem grabbing him at 32,… Read more »

bucballer
2 months ago

I doubt he would still be there at 32. But, I have no problem taking him at 32 should he still be there. It would really add another dimension to this potent Buc offense. Nothing beats youth, speed, and size. Seems to be a patient runner as well. Would be almost unfair to other teams!

Jay
Jay
2 months ago

The big question is who is the second best RB in the draft because he is not going to be there at 32.

Buc76
2 months ago

Trade back from 32 and get 2 second rounders. So the same at 64 and get 2 third rounders. That’s 4 players who could make the team and build depth. If we go another 20 games there will undoubtedly be injuries. Forget najee Harris. Running backs are not worth 1st round picks as a matter of general principle

TCB2W!
Reply to  Buc76
2 months ago

32 would not get 2 2nd rounders.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  TCB2W!
2 months ago

Thats absolutely not true. Ive seen the Patriots trade the 32nd pick and net the next years first rounder, along with that years 2nd rounder from the Broncos. It all depends on how the board falls and what team likes who. In regards to Harris as the 32nd pic, I generally agree with you Buc76, but Harris is a very special prospect. I like him much better than the guy Big Sombrero was drooling over last year, Jonathan Taylor. I agree with Cook that he would change the offense, but more than Javonte Williams or Michael Carter for cheaper picks?… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by NaplesFan2.0
GrayBalls
Reply to  Buc76
2 months ago

That is some serious joystick GM stuff right there

German Buc
Reply to  Buc76
2 months ago

It takes two to tango, so who should trade up and for whom?
For reference: BAL traded up in 2018 to #32 to grab Lamar Jackson. They sent their 52nd, 125th picks, and a 2019 second-round selection to PHI in exchange for the 32nd and 132nd selections that year. 
Would you take that deal?

surferdudes
2 months ago

I’d take him in a heartbeat at #32. If he’s not there, and Etienne is, I’d take him also. I think either back would make this offence scary good.

DT25
2 months ago

Honestly, it depends what the board looks like. I’m not taking Najee over some bigger names along the DL if they fall into our laps. Not even considering it. Talent wise, sure Najee becomes the best RB on the roster…but he still has to learn the system and protections. RBs in Arians system historically take longer than most to do that. No amount of prep from Alabama can help learn a completely new, notoriously complex system and execute it at a high level from week 1. That makes any RB we take in this draft a part timer as a… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by DT25
aredsoxfan1
2 months ago

This seems to be the popular take from every Bucs writer this year, “we don’t need anything so we should take a RB”. We can all see how well that worked out for the Chiefs last year. Would they have been more competitive in the superbowl if they had drafted a decent tackle like Ezra Cleveland instead of a luxury RB that looked perfect for their stacked offense? Barring a tremendous amount of luck, I can guarantee there will be points in the season where we don’t feel like we are stacked at every position. RB are just too easy… Read more »

plopes808
2 months ago

I can’t see taking a RB if any of the top edge rushers are still on the board. If they’re all gone though, I could go along with this pick. I’d rather see a trade down to stock up on picks though. Depth is a very underrated thing to have and we were lucky to have enough of it last season.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  plopes808
2 months ago

That’s a relatively reasonable pro-Harris take. I would amend your post to say that we weren’t necessarily lucky to have “enough” depth so much as we were lucky that the areas in which we DIDN’T have enough depth didn’t see injuries crop up to expose us. if Donovan, Shaq, or JPP had gone down with a season ending injury, we may have seen a different result last season. Either of Josh Wells or Anthony Nelson being counted on to play at a high level in the playoffs would have been a hope in vain, I think. Heck, our ONLY major… Read more »

PissedOffBuc1988
2 months ago

BPA. That’s the only draft strategy one should ever have. Whoever is highest on our board at 32 is who we need to take. Offensive line, definsive line, running back, idc. I’m still not giving up on voughn. He looked good at times. Sure he fumbled but the guy was injured and coming into a covid ridden season. I’m just not ready to give up on him so adding to the ol or dl is where my focus is at if I’m going for”need”. The RB position will sort itself out. Imo up front needs to be the priority as… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by PissedOffBuc1988
toofamiliar17
2 months ago

Harris is great, no question. I don’t think the value for him at 32 is terrible, which is a huge statement from me, as I’m almost religiously opposed to taking any RB in the first round, even with the last pick of it. Harris is special. Okay, so, that said – adding Harris does not make this team unbeatable, or close to it. That’s a silly assertion, for reasons I think are pretty obvious without needing to be explained in great detail. Even if Harris is the best RB in the league as a rookie (which is, obviously unlikely), we’re… Read more »

jrwilson85
2 months ago

I’ve been doing the NFL Network mock draft simulator and Najee Harris has moved into the 10 to 18 range. I have gotten him a few times, but very few. I get Travis Etiene more often than Harris these days. I will go Edge, OT, or IDL unless Mack Jones, Najee Harris, Travis Etiene or Kyle Pitts is available. I usually get Gregory Rousseau, Jaelen Phillips or sometimes Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jalen Mayfield, Sam Cosmi. Tevin Jenkins is going higher than 32 most of the time. Warren Sapp moved me off Barmore. I like Davlyon Nixon and Jay Tufele. Caleb Farley… Read more »

jrwilson85
Reply to  jrwilson85
2 months ago

I think Tom Brady could develop Mack Jones into a great NFL QB.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  jrwilson85
2 months ago

Just like he did Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett, Jacoby Brissett, Jarrett Stidham, and Kevin O’Connell? Those are the QBs the Pats have taken in the top half of the draft in the last decade plus. I’m not knocking Brady, or saying that Jones is them. Just saying that talent and skill are not contagious. If Mac Jones is going to be a great QB, it’s going to be on him as well as outside factors like his coaching staff and, to a much lesser degree, the quality of the team around him. Proximity to great players may marginally help a… Read more »

BucLife
2 months ago

I think the entire narrative 1st vs. 2nd round is flawed as we need to take the total draft number into perspective. A top 10 1st round pick is quite different from pick 32 after all. And when looking at these RBs Mark mentioned here this is where they were drafted: Derrick Henry: Pick 45 Dalvin Cook: Pick 41 John Taylor: 41 Nick Chubb: 35 Josh Jacobs: 24 David Montgomery: 73 As a conclusion, all the second rounders Mark referred to were drafted in the first half of the second round and only a few picks after our 32nd pick.… Read more »

econway3
2 months ago

There is a big catch 22 in what you’re saying here. If he is as good as you’re saying, he is not available at 32. If he is available at 32, he is not as good as you’re saying. In today’s NFL, the running back position has become extremely devalued. I, personally, would rather have an edge or DL defender for depth with our pick.