Engaging Najee Harris says he enjoyed engaging with Dolphins

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
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Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) talks into a mike after the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Najee Harris was charming, revealing and delightful in a recent podcast conversation with Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Harris, a running back from Alabama who the Dolphins will surely consider with the 18th pick in the next NFL Draft, was speaking of his admiration for Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson and Saquon Barkley.

Harris was playfully pushing back on criticisms from the scouting reports of Schefter's ESPN colleagues, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Harris said that in no way is he the subject of Crimson Tide "wear-and-tear."

And Harris was talking about some enjoyable Zoom conversations he's had with teams leading up to the draft. Harris mentioned the Steelers, the Bills and... the Dolphins.

Yes, the Dolphins need a starting running back.

Yes, Harris once lived with Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Yes, Miami's failure to land an elite running back in 2020 hurt.

"Harris is a big, smooth running back who posted outstanding production," Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network says. "He's a very skilled runner with excellent value in the passing game. I see similarities to former Chicago Bears star Matt Forte."

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Harris, 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, will probably be the first running back selected, ahead of Clemson's Travis Etienne and North Carolina's Javonte Williams.

Lance Zierlein of compares Harris to former Ram Steven Jackson.

Zierlein said Harris has ideal size, runs decisively, rarely fumbles and makes defenders miss. Zierlein said Harris can pass protect and catch.

"Violent finisher," Zierlein said.

ESPN's McShay projects Harris to the Steelers with the 24th pick.

"Harris is a powerful back who is nearly impossible to stop between the tackles," McShay said.

ESPN's Kiper projects Harris to the Bills with the 30th pick.

"He runs hard," Kiper said. "Harris is an every-down back."

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) celebrates a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Harris was a 5-star recruit to Alabama after starring at Antioch High School, in the East Bay of California. He reportedly also considered UCLA, USC, Michigan and Cal.

Harris has overcome adversity.

When he was in high school, Harris revealed he had once lived in a car, a hotel and a homeless shelter and dealt with abuse from his father.

"I guess you could say football’s my savior,” Harris told Bleacher Report in 2017.

Still, Harris brings a boisterous, cheerful, unpredictable nature to the room. Harris was named after jazz saxophonist Jerome Najee Rasheed.

Off the field, Harris offers a social conscience. He helped organize a social justice march in Tuscaloosa in August and delivered a speech afterward, saying, "This is not a problem that will eventually dissipate without action."

On the field, Harris offers passion and aggression.

According to Pro Football Focus, Harris was third in the NCAA in yards after contact and second in missed tackles forced last season.

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) jumps over Florida Gators defensive back Kaiir Elam (5) during the fourth quarter in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

At Alabama, Harris has memorably hurdled defenders. Scouts say he's a smooth and fluid glider. One concern is Harris, due to injury, did not run a 40-yard dash at Alabama's Pro Day. He certainly appears fast enough. But exactly how fast is he?

One thing Harris certainly appears to be is driven.

After a flight was canceled, Harris literally drove nine hours from Dallas to Tuscaloosa to support his teammates at Alabama's Pro Day. 

And Harris certainly has the endorsement of his college coach, Nick Saban.

"Najee is, I think, an exceptional player," Saban says. "He’s got great size. He’s a really good receiver. He’s instinctive as a runner. He’s tough. He’s hard to tackle. And he kind of gets better as the game goes on.

"So he’s got some really, really positive attributes. He’s always been a really, really good team guy here. So I love the guy, and I think he’ll be a really, really good player at the next level.”

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