Updated: Apr 29, 2021
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The 2021 NFL Draft is just two days away, which also means that mock draft season is almost over, which I'm sure many of you are happy about. Nevertheless, Peter King came out with his mock draft on Monday and he has the Steelers selecting Alabama running back Najee Harris at 24th overall. Harris has been linked to the Steelers in a bunch of mock drafts and is the favorite to land in Pittsburgh. Most teams believe Harris will be the Steelers pick at 24th overall if he's available, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Below is King's explanation of why he sees the Steelers selecting Harris in the first round.
"It’s been 13 years since the Steelers took a back in the first round (Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois, 23rd pick, 2008), and I think they’d consider the speedy Travis Etienne here also. They could go Teven Jenkins or Sam Cosmi here because of major tackle need, but alarm bells must be clanging in the head of draft czar Kevin Colbert after the miserable time Pittsburgh had in the run game last year. In seven of their last 11 games, the Steelers managed less than 55 rushing yards, and their season fell off a cliff.
"The all-time leading Alabama rusher and touchdown-scorer, Harris isn’t the home-rush threat of Etienne, but he doesn’t shy from contact, runs between the tackles fluidly, and is the kind of bellcow back the Steelers have been seeking since Le’Veon Bell left. I’m not a big fan of running backs in the first round, and if the Steelers go tackle here, that’s fine. But spending big on a big need would be smart, which is why I like Harris here."
While many in the analytics community are down on the idea of drafting a running back in the first round due to the short shelf life of the position, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said they won't dismiss selecting a running back in the first round.
"I don't think you can ever underestimate the value of a quality player at any position, and running back is no different," Colbert said at a pre-draft press conference yesterday. "I understand that the game has changed, it's a more horizontal game than it is a vertical game. People don't play traditional football ... with two-back sets and power games. It has changed. But if you have a dynamic player at any position, that player should make a difference, and running back is no different.
"If you look at the Hall of Fame runners, most of those guys were taken in high rounds. I don't ever place that value, high or low, on a given position. I base it on who the player is and what that player can do to help us."
King also noted that the Steelers among other teams have spent a lot of Zoom time with Farley in the draft process. King has Farley going to the Raiders at 17th overall in his mock draft.
"Farley, despite not playing a football game for 508 days and despite coming off disk surgery that will affect him through July, has been a very popular man this offseason with many teams," King wrote. "That happens because Farley’s 6-2, has been strong in man coverage, loves football, and apparently will be okay for the long term once his current back malady heals. Arizona (16), Washington (19), Chicago (20) and Pittsburgh (24) have spent lots of Zoom time with Farley this spring."