With the NFL season kicking off on Thursday night with the Chiefs and Lions, football fans are scrambling around to throw their fantasy football leagues together or re-up their leagues from last season. Anytime you are about to head into a fantasy draft, it's important to do a bit of research.
Football fans oftentimes love to draft players from their favorite team as an added incentive for something to root for during the games. Pittsburgh Steelers fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about the direction of their young offense in 2023, but one player I want to focus on is running back, Najee Harris.
Harris was once an incredibly high draft pick in fantasy football drafts. When the Steelers selected the former Alabama star with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, we knew he was going to have a massive work-horse role right away (James Conner left for the Cardinals in free agency).
Two years later, we take another look at Harris in terms of his fantasy football value. Now it's safe to say that he shouldn't be drafted anywhere near as high as he used to go.
Where should you draft Najee Harris in fantasy football?
After leading the league in touches as a rookie in 2021, Harris' fantasy value was through the roof. But a lot has changed since then. Harris played all 17 games in 2022 but his numbers went down across the board -- earning fewer rushing attempts, rushing yards, targets, receptions, and total touches.
The only thing that remained the same was his touchdown input, as Najee scored 7 rushing touchdowns and 3 receiving touchdowns in his second season last year (the same exact numbers he had as a rookie).
Sadly, there's reason to believe that his fantasy value will slide even further entering his third season with the Steelers. Though Pittsburgh spent money and draft capital to improve their offensive line, it stands to reason that Jaylen Warren will take a much bigger bite of the apple in 2023. Warren was a former undrafted rookie who carved out a role as the team's third-down back last year. Warren was one of the biggest surprises on the roster last year and is expected to have an increased role in Year 2.
This doesn't mean that Najee will be completely irrelevant for fantasy purposes, but I would err on the side of caution. Right now, Harris' ADP (average draft position) is roughly pick 31, according to MyFantasyLeague.com. Though he should still get plenty of carries, he may be a bit more hit-or-miss due to his decreased usage in the passing game.
In 12-team leagues, Harris could still serve as a quality RB1. His ADP is probably a good measure of where he should be going right now. He should be drafted in the same range as players like Joe Mixon and Rhamondre Stevenson. The round number is different depending on how many teams are in the league, but Harris should be drafted in the 30-35 range.
If you do elect to take a shot on Najee this year, you may want to draft Jaylen Warren late as a handcuff if you have a spot on your bench to spare. In 10-12 team leagues, Warren won't be a viable flex option, but he would have tremendous value if Harris were to go down for a significant length of time.
It's possible that, by the second half of the season, we are seeing a much more even split between these two running backs. Najee Harris should be the better back for fantasy football this year, but I would caution against taking him higher than his ADP this year.