Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Damien Harris, RB from Alabama. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
After a couple of remarkable running back classes in the past two years, the 2019 class might be a letdown for those hoping to find an elite running back. However, that does not mean there are not quality backs from this class who can have successful NFL careers. Damien Harris is one who fits this profile. While his combine performance was a little underwhelming, his entire body of work and player profile suggest he can find success in the NFL.
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Statistics from sports-reference.com.
While none of the statistics above really stand out, they do not point to any weaknesses either. Much like Harris’s athletic profile, his yards, receptions, and touchdowns accumulated at Alabama are very balanced.
He saw limited playing time as a freshman, playing behind Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. After those two left for the NFL, Harris took over lead back duties in 2016. He proceeded to lead the Crimson Tide in both rushing yards and receptions (tied with Joshua Jacobs). Bo Scarbrough accumulated most of the rushing touchdowns, leaving Harris with only two.
The 2017 season was a similar story, with Harris once again leading the team in rushing yards and catching a decent amount of passes. He also increased his rushing touchdowns up to 11, even with Scarbrough still on the team. Some thought Harris might head to the NFL after his junior season but he decided to return to Alabama for one more year because of the love he has for his teammates and coaches there.
In his senior season, his rushing efficiency dropped a little but he caught nearly as many passes as he did the previous two seasons combined. Having star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa under center for an entire year elevated the passing attack and might have contributed to the increased receptions. Harris, Jacobs, and underclassman Najee Harris formed a three-headed monster who wrecked opposing defenses nearly every game. Alabama steam-rolled almost every opponent they faced, allowing Damien Harris to rest for a lot of second-halves.
Like the opening line of the video says, Harris demonstrates exceptional vision on many of his runs. He does a great job of making one cut and quickly turning upfield (1:09 mark in video above).
He does not often run away from defenders, but he does have good enough speed to generate big plays. This lines up with the acceptable but not spectacular 40-yard dash time (4.57) he ran at the combine.
While nothing jumps off the screen, he demonstrates good power, balance, cutting ability, and receiving ability. All of these positive traits make him a very well-rounded running back. If you are interested in watching some additional videos of Damien Harris, check out his NFL Draft Prospect Video page.
According to Mock Draftable, Harris’s athletic traits compare to some running backs who are not athletic freaks but have still had productive stretches in the NFL. Jonathan Williams, Kenneth Dixon, and Kareem Hunt are the most recent names on the list. Coincidentally, all three have either been suspended and/or had run-ins with the law. However, all three have looked good when on the field.
Most of Harris’s measurables check-in at the 55th-percentile or lower, but there are a few that are significantly higher. His hand size, vertical jump, and broad jump were all at least in the 74th percentile. He looked comfortable catching the ball at the combine and his respectable vertical and broad jump measurements suggest there might be some hidden explosiveness to his game. His 40-yard dash time was nothing to write home about but it still fell within an acceptable tier.
Harris’s entire athletic profile suggests he is a very average athlete. This could push him down NFL and dynasty rookie draft boards come April and May. According to DLF’s March 2019 Rookie ADP, Harris currently sits as the tenth rookie with an ADP of 11.40. If you look at February startup ADP, he sits at 118th with an ADP of 122.83. This is around running backs Austin Ekeler, Nyheim Hines, Matt Breida, and TJ Yeldon.
While he is not someone I am looking to target in the early first round of rookie drafts, the opportunity could very well be there to select him in the late first or early second round at a value. Cost is everything in the dynasty market and Harris is one of the players I will likely look to extract value from in rookie drafts.
By now, most of us know the cream of the crop in this 2019 class is the wide receivers and tight ends. That might be hard for some owners to come to terms with while the craze for running backs has swept across the dynasty landscape this past year.
Do not let the success of the past two running back classes cause you to push this class of runners up your draft board. Instead, be ready to select them if and when they fall. While Damien Harris does not have any specific traits that stand out, his entire portfolio (including production, athletic measurables, and film) suggest he is a very safe prospect who can succeed if given the right opportunity. This is the exact profile I like to target at the end of the first or beginning of the second round of rookie drafts, especially in a perceived down year.