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 – 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.
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 – 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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.