Damien Harris Fantasy
Running back Damien Harris is one of two Alabama running backs entering the 2019 NFL Draft. The other being Josh Jacobs. Harris played all four years in college and was the leading rusher from 2016-2018, after backing up future NFL star Derrick Henry in 2015. He rushed for back to back 1,000-yard seasons in his sophomore and junior years followed by 876 rushing yards his senior year. Fantasy owners should get excited about Harris because he was extremely productive at the college level rushing for 6.6 yards/carry (87th percentile), for arguably the best team in college football. In yet, his draft stock in fantasy rookie drafts at least early on has Harris as a value pick in the second round.
- Height: 5 ft 10 in
- Weight: 216 lbs
- Arms: 30 3/4″
- Age: 22
Over his three seasons at Alabama, Damien Harris showed explosiveness. He had 38 rushing attempts to go for 15 yards or more. He ranked in the top-22 out of the 2019 Draft Class in that category each season at Alabama via Pro Football Focus.
Harris at Alabama was praised for being an excellent student-athlete. Via The MontgomeryAdvisor.com Ben Oliu, a member of Alabama’s Department of English since 2009, called Harris “a model student-athlete” who “held some of his younger guys accountable” when others might have coasted by on their athletic abilities. He started a Twitter thread on Harris before the Iron Bowl highlighting especially in a where he [Harris] used ethos/pathos/logos & research to tell a hater that many of Alabama’s best RBs started out on special teams. Go figure.
NFL Combine Recap
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.49
- Bench Press: 16
- Vertical Jump: 37.0
- Broad Jump: 121
Strengths & Weaknesses
Like most Alabama running backs before him, Harris produced behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. His strengths include breaking tackles at the second level and running between the tackles (primarily through the A-Gaps). He has excellent vision on runs as a smart runner and is exceptionally durable. Harris has played in every single game since joining the Crimson Tide in 2015 (54 games).
In the video below, you can see that the Harris looks to be running towards the A-Gap, on the right side of the center. There’s a pretty big hole that opens up. However, as the video continues, you can see that the A-Gap closes quickly as the linebacker crashes down. Harris than performs a quick pivot step, and bounces back inside for a large gain through the B-Gap. And then he rushes for 20 plus yards after being contacted.
Another video clip shows some of the other skills that Harris possesses in the running game summarized by Gridiron Experts’ own Matt Hicks (@TheFF_Educator). There’s also a clip about David Montgomery that I could not remove from the tweet embed for some reason so make sure you check out the other fantasy article on David Montgomery by Aaron Sopchak. Gotta love Twitter.
As a pass-catcher, Harris caught 52 receptions for 407 yards at the collegiate level. Fantasy owners need to love the idea that Harris can be used in the passing game because it adds such a significant boost to a fantasy running back’s ceiling. Both Jacobs and Harris both compiled 48 receptions in the three years they both were simultaneously at Alabama. However, I would not identify Harris’ ability to catch necessarily a strength, but rather he did what he was asked to in the passing game. He did not run great routes and did not split out as Alabama did with Jacobs. It’s hard to project that Harris would command a dominant target share at the NFL level with just on-par receiving skills unless he ends up in a situation whereby default he is the best receiving running back.
The main weakness of Harris’ game is defintely is his speed. This will be something to monitor as he makes the leap to the NFL level; Can he reach the edge perimeter against faster defenses? I am not so sure. The other glaring weakness for Harris is his elusiveness.
Over his last three seasons at Alabama, Pro Football Focus totaled Harris avoiding 22, 33, and 32 tackles; ranking outside the top 50 every single year. To put it in perspective, other 2019 draft prospects David Montgomery and Devin Singletary both avoided 96 tackles just in 2018. In 2016 and 201 7 however, Harris ranked 25th and 4th overall in elusive rating for college running backs with at least 135 carries. That fell significantly in 2018 down to 73rd in elusive rating. Harris on film defintely intiates contact more to defeat a defender rather than perform a juke on one.
Best Fit: NFL Scheme
When I watched Harris run, I felt that a pro comparison to him was Nick Chubb. Though Chubb slightly heavier (5 ft 11 in, 227 lbs), they looked very similar as runners at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. What’s great about Harris identical to that of Chubb is that he thrived when he was the “guy” at Alabama, and also was productive when splitting time with Jacobs last season. Most fantasy owners would love to see Harris to be a three-down back somewhere, but with so little teams needing that (or desiring one), it’s probably unlikely to see that. In terms of style of offense, Alabama is a predominantly a zone blocking team, so Harris ending up in a scheme like that would be beneficial. Some teams that could be in the market for a running that have run a zone blocking schemes include the Texans, Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs, Jets, and Eagles.
For the most part, Harris is for sure being overlooked by fantasy gamers. With the consensus for the best running back in the class pre-draft being Jacobs, it bears reminding that Harris played ahead of him essentially three years at Alabama. Entering the 2018 season, Las Vegas even had 40:1 odds for Harris to win the Heisman trophy. It also doesn’t stop at Jacobs in terms of how good that Alabama backfield was in 2018 with another guy like Najee Harris. Harris rushed for 783 yards at 6.7 yards per carry on 117 attempts in 2018. So even though we look for college running backs with high touch market shares, Harris’ college dominator rating via PlayerProfiler (14.7%, 17th percentile), is low that has a lot to do with the fact he was surrounded by other NFL running backs at Alabama. I do expect that Harris to gain some value after performing well enough at the combine, but seems like an excellent running back to target later in the middle rounds of your rookie drafts.