How high is Najee Harris’ fantasy football ceiling in 2022?

Much of the battle in fantasy football is simply opportunity. We can claim all we want for talent to win and players to have chances, but if a player isn’t on the pitch they don’t score fantasy points. He literally can’t do it. It is not possible!

There’s efficiency and scoring rates and stuff from there, but making sure our guys get shots and touches is key.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris don’t have to worry about it.

Head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t worried about that part either. “This guy is a cowbell,” Tomlin said. “He’s going to have to be a cowbell for us. If that train goes somewhere in 2022, he’s going to be a major part of it, and he’s capable of that.”

Alright, so. There is this part. Case closed. Draft Najee early and move on, right?

Alright sure, but what’s the cap here?

After all, Harris managed a league-high 381 touches in 2021, but finished as an RB4, more than 100 half-PPR points behind top earner Jonathan Taylor.. On a per-game basis, Harris’ 13.3 half PPR points ranked him as the RB8.

If he once led the NFL in chances and was excellent – but not elite – what is his path to becoming the RB1? Does it exist? Let’s dig.

The offense

Playing on a good attack generates fantasy points. It’s just common sense. More efficiency means more yardage and more red zone drives, which can lead to high scoring results.

How good can the Steelers’ offense be in 2022?

The obvious difference from a year ago is the quarterback situation. Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to an overall ranking of 26th in offensive efficiency, according to our adjusted expected net points (NEP) metric. Their rushing attack was 21st.

Now they’ll either have Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett under the center (with a strong inclination towards Trubisky, according to camp reports).

Based on our NEP metrics, Trubisky has generally struggled to make a difference in his career.

In 2017 and 2019, he underperformed the NFL average passing NEP by setbacks of 0.12 and 0.09 points, respectively, which basically means that – more than 50 setbacks in a game, say – a team led by Trubisky would score six points less than an average offense would.

In 2018 and 2020, however, it outperformed the average by 0.05 and 0.03 points, respectively.

Let’s be optimistic and say the Steelers can be an average offense in 2022 with Trubisky — assuming he’s their guy. Average (or thereabouts) is good enough to bolster an RB1 (i.e. top 12) performance based on history, so I think it’s dishonest to claim that Harris – locked in a elite workload – cannot produce Something to note with this offence.

But can he really repeat as a top-five fullback? Could it be the RB1?

Since 2012, we’ve (naturally) had 50 top fantasy running back seasons to review. Of those 50, more than half (28 or 56.0%) were part of a team that finished in the top 10 in our adjusted NEP metric. Additionally, 41 (or 82.0%) were on teams 16th or better (so, the top half). That’s probably a fair cap for this offense unless Trubisky or Pickett significantly overperforms.

Going back to Harris finishing in the top five in 2021 on the 26th ranked offense, it was the third worst offense to produce a top five fantasy since 2012 (with Todd Gurley in 2015 playing on our lowest ranked offense and Christian McCaffrey in 2019 on a team ranked 28th).

While that won’t reduce Harris’ chances to zero, especially if the Steelers can flirt with the NFL average, unless you firmly believe in Pittsburgh in the top 10 in overall efficiency by the end. of the year, Harris has a higher order ahead of him than some other fullbacks drafted early.

Harris’ efficiency and the offensive line

The larger question then becomes whether or not he can turn an average offense into something great on his own.

Harris played with the league average Rushing NEP per run in 2021 (0.01) with a lower success rate than rushing (40.4%, compared to an average of 42.8%). By NextGenStats‘ More rushing yards than expected, Harris shed 48 fewer yards than expected on his runs last season.

Now, in fairness to him, no return on the Steelers was expected.

Benny Snell Jr. finished at -27 on 36 carries for -0.79 per carry, so we have to take it a little easy with Harris, who outplayed his teammates behind an offensive line that ranked 28th in FootballOutsiders. yards of adjusted lines and 26th in ProFootballFocus’ stroke lock grade.

The problem there: the line should not be so much better in 2022.

ProFootballFocus ranks Pittsburgh line 30th entering the season.

Looking again at this list of the top five backs, two-thirds (33 overall, or 66.0%) of them played on a team with a top-10 line in adjusted yards.

In fact, of those top five players, only Saquon Barkley in 2018 played on a worse line (29th) in adjusted yards than Harris last year (28th).

You can look at it this way: Harris’ workload was so good in 2021 that he could finish in the top five even in a poor environment, and he’s pretty much guaranteed a huge workload again as long as he can handle it.

Or you can see it as Harris having an outlier performance despite a bad situation, a situation that doesn’t look drastically better. This pessimistic view would indicate that Harris would need a second consecutive outlier performance to be in the top five again – even with a heavy workload.

Najee Harris 2022 Fantasy Football Screening

numberFire’s fantasy football projections pit Harris against RB5 in semi-PPR setups, and in Best FanDuel DraftsHarris is drafted as an RB6, on average.

Is it too high? It’s hard to say.

It’s incredibly difficult to watch a player in a star role who is fully expected to have the same role again and ignore the security he can bring to a lineup provided he stays healthy.

That being said, the offensive picture — overall efficiency under Trubisky or Pickett, Harris’ below-average performance, and expected offensive line play — point to a low-end RB1-like environment.

For Harris to be a true game-changer, win the league and rack up some fantastic points, he’ll have to once again defy what historical trends say — and more.

He’s not a full-back to scratch as it’s impossible to overstate what a running back’s consistent production can add to a fantastic squad. However, a lot needs to change for Harris to become fantasy football’s best running back in 2022, even if he leads the league by touches once again.

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