Damien Harris is a running back that simply cannot seem to get the love he deserves. In both the draft and dynasty communities, countless other names are mentioned before him. Rodney Anderson, Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery, heck, even his backup Josh Jacobs. With Anderson still on the mend from a torn ACL, Harris may present the best combination of upside and floor in the draft. The conversation needs to change.
- School: Alabama
- Height: 5’11
- Weight: 215 lbs
- D.O.B: 02/11/1997 (age 21)
Damien Harris is a 5’11, 215 lbs., running back that played for Nick Saban and the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide. A decisive jump-cut runner with prototypical size, Damien Harris is not getting enough love. Harris operated as the lead runner in a backfield that consisted of two potential first-round picks in Josh Jacobs (2019) and Najee Harris (2020). While the two running backs behind him may grade out as higher potential draft picks, there is a reason Damien was the lead back. Harris did not only lead the group on the ground but also led them through the air, securing 22 receptions to Josh Jacobs’ 20. Damien is one of the most divisive running backs in the 2019 class partially due to the fact that, despite being the starter, he was widely considered to be only the third most talented running back on his own team. Harris had a strong season but failed in his bid to become the first Alabama back ever to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. He ran for 876 yards after seeing 1,000 and 1,037 in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Damien Harris is a strong, powerful runner that displays good burst. Some have cited concerns about his long speed. With 27 runs of over ten yards on 150 carries Harris showed plenty of explosion. His four runs of over 30 yards places him higher than two of the highest rated backs in this draft class in Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery. His number also tops heralded 2020 prospects Cam Akers, Najee Harris and D’Andre Swift.
— Ankh Heru Hannibal Ra (@HeruRaSports) February 10, 2019
One of the major talking points when it comes to Damien Harris detractors is concern regarding his long speed. Plays like the one above show that Harris has the burst, vision and long speed to be a difference maker at the NFL level.
Harris displayed solid elusiveness for his running style and exhibited the coveted tackle breaking ability that separates average backs from good ones. With 3.19 yards after contact per attempt, Harris showed off good contact balance throughout the year.
This play highlights a few facets of Damien Harris’ game. It shows off his decisiveness and explosiveness through the hole. What it also accentuates is his vision and his ability to force several missed tackles on his way to a long gain. In a league where tackle-breaking ability is quickly becoming a coveted asset, Harris checks the box.
This goal-line play shows Harris’ power, pad level, and contact balance. He is able to lower his shoulder and power through multiple would-be tacklers. Harris has the goal line chops to see double-digit touchdowns yearly. Harris runs hard and has a good base to take on contact both in the open field and at the goal line. This is one of the areas of Harris’ game where he shines the most.
One of the perceived knocks on Damien Harris is his receiving ability or lack thereof. While he may not have the upside as a receiver that Josh Jacobs possesses, he did manage to haul in more receptions than Jacobs during this past season.
While Damien Harris may not have the same upside as some of the other backs in this class as a receiver, he still shows good hands and can rip off chunk plays like he did here against Ole Miss pic.twitter.com/M1PkVfpl84
— Ankh Heru Hannibal Ra (@HeruRaSports) February 10, 2019
This play shows some of Harris’ ability out of the backfield as he is able to take a simple horizontal pass for a long gain. Harris has also shown off some short game ability. While he will never be truly elite in this category he has the goods to get it done when called upon. Solidifying Harris’ potential to be an everydown back is his blocking prowess. He is sturdy and knows how to square up in pass protection. While Harris may never haul in 70 passes in a season, given the right opportunity, 50 in within his ability.
In one recent mock draft, I stumbled upon Damien Harris was mocked to the New York Jets on day two. This was quite interesting because Harris is a lot like Isaiah Crowell. Both are underrated power backs who have good enough hands. I questioned the fit of mocking Harris there with Crowell already in town, but it gave me a solid idea of which player I felt made a good pro comparison. Both backs had offers from Alabama, with Crowell opting to play in state at Georgia. Since Crowell left the SEC and FBS all together after his freshman season we will compare their SEC performances. Both players started out as SEC backs and failed to top 200 carries in their careers.
Isaiah Crowell: 185-850-5 4.6 ypc
Damien Harris: 135-1,000-11 7.4 ypc
Crowell did look much better at Alabama State but comparing FCS performance to FBS performance is always a difficult undertaking. While Crowell is a player Harris looks similar to as a runner, it is former Crimson Tide Mark Ingram who he compares favorably to as a receiver. Ingram had two 50 reception seasons when functioning as a true workhorse for the Saints but has found himself playing with superior receiving threats for the better part of his career. While there is no certainty that Harris follows a similar path, a strong likelihood does exist. Both are good enough as receivers to play every down roles.
As mentioned before Harris does not stand out in any one area of his game. Much like Crowell and Ingram, Harris is a power back with better hands than given credit for. Ingram spent the lion-share of his career playing with receiving specialists. We now see Crowell following a similar path with the Jets as he did with the Browns beforehand. Harris is quite possibly the most complete, healthy back available in the draft.
While Damien Harris is not likely a name atop many fantasy big boards at the running back position, he very well may be when it comes to actual NFL teams. Harris does not stand out in any one area but offers a game well rounded enough to be considered a complete package. He is NFL ready and may be higher on the boards of teams who expect to be competitive in 2019. He should hear his name called on day two and is a fit for almost any team. If he runs a 4.40 40 as his recruiting profile suggests, he will likely be drafted to compete for a starting job. With that said, Harris may find himself in a committee due to his perceived lack of upside as a receiver.
Harris projects as an RB2 with weekly RB1 upside in the right scenario but if he lands on a team with an entrenched starter he will be nothing more than a weekly flex option. The role Harris is drafted to fill may be heavily influenced by his combine performance so be sure to pay special attention to him. This is especially important for those of us who may have rookie drafts before the actual NFL Draft. As of this moment in the pre-draft process, Harris should come off the board in the first round.