The world was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ oyster. Then, tragedy struck. After starting 11-0, the Pittsburgh Steelers stumbled into the playoffs, finishing the 2020 season with a 12-4 record before falling to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card Round. The Pittsburgh took two fantasy football-eligible players with their first two picks, including the first running back off the board. What can we expect from Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth in their rookie campaigns, and what should certainly be Ben Roethlisberger’s final run?
FULL PITTSBURGH STEELERS DRAFT RESULTS
|2||55||Pat Freiermuth||TE||Penn State|
|4||128||Dan Moore||OT||Texas A&M|
|4||140||Buddy Johnson||LB||Texas A&M|
|6||216||Quincy Roche||DE||Miami (FL)|
|7||254||Pressley Harvin III||P||Georgia Tech|
Round 1, Pick 24 Overall: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama (6’2” 230 pounds)
RB1: Najee Harris
RB2: Benny Snell
RB3: Anthony McFarland
RB4: Kalen Ballage
RB5: Jaylen Samuels
Najee Harris is a powerful, shifty runner who has enough speed to run away from a defense with easy strides. Harris has wonderful vision at all levels, which allows him to pop through collapsing holes and make open field defenders miss. He has adequate hands (though not anywhere near Travis Etienne’s level) but tends to gather once catching the ball instead of trusting the vision he shows elsewhere. Once Harris has the ball, he’s extremely difficult to bring down, instead ping-ponging off defenders and breaking ankle tackles before zooming off for a touchdown. He showed his athleticism by vaulting a tackler in the Rose Bowl and gaining dozens of extra yards. He reminds me of a young Todd Gurley or a more athletic David Montgomery.
Look at that running back room. There just isn’t anything there to get worried about for Najee Harris’ workload. We know Benny Snell is bad, we think Anthony McFarland might be, Kalen Ballage is just Benny Snell, and Jaylen Samuels is a short tight end masquerading as a running back.
It’s also unlikely to become a committee due to Mike Tomlin’s dedication to his room not becoming a committee if he can help it. Since Tomlin entered the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank fifth in games where a running back gets 20+ touches. He wants to lean on one guy, and Najee Harris is his guy to lean on.
2021 FANTASY FOOTBALL OUTLOOK
If I had to pick one rookie running back to end the season as a top-12 running back, it would be Najee Harris. He was my #2 running back in this class, but with… whatever it is… Jacksonville is doing with Travis Etienne, he’s my post-draft #1 for 2021. I think he has the opportunity to kick the doors down in Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will give him every opportunity to do so. It is a priority for me to get Najee Harris wherever I can in my 2021 fantasy football redraft leagues.
Round 2, Pick 55 Overall: Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Penn State (6’5” 250 pounds)
TE1: Eric Ebron
TE2: Pat Freiermuth
TE3: Zach Gentry/Dax Raymond/Kevin Rader
Pat Freiermuth isn’t too shabby a tight end prospect, but Kyle Pitts just completely overshadows him as a player. Freiermuth is a big, athletic guy who has more speed than you would expect for someone his size, and who Penn State played all over the field. Freiermuth does all the things you ask of him, including blocking, where he is really enthusiastic and pretty good. He also isn’t a slouch in the passing game, where he runs good routes and has good enough hands. Pat Freiermuth can blast past LBs or jump over CBs to get the football when it’s thrown his way. He’s really good, and he reminds me a lot of Hunter Henry when I watch him play. Freiermuth is just a solid all-around tight end. That having been said, don’t forget the rookie tight end rule (they’re always bad).
I like to point out that rookie tight ends tend to never produce very much in their rookie year campaigns, and I also like to point out that Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends tend to get inflated thanks to Heath Miller. Last year, Eric Ebron had the second-most targets for a Ben Roethlisberger tight end, getting 91 targets. But, Eric Ebron remains and remains the team’s TE1 this season. What about the other tight ends? What did Ben Roethlisberger do for Vance McDonald, Jesse James, and Jerame Tuman?
Throughout his career, Ben Roethlisberger throws his #1 tight end 65 targets per season or 4.06 targets per game. Should Eric Ebron go down with an injury, a rookie Pat Freiermuth is closer to the Jesse James and Vance McDonald talent level than Eric Ebron’s. Don’t expect anything out of the rookie, and don’t say I didn’t warn you if a charlatan tries to convince you that Freiermuth has “sneaky value” in his rookie campaign. He doesn’t. That is no knock on him as a player; the opportunity just doesn’t exist.
2021 FANTASY FOOTBALL OUTLOOK
He won’t get targets and he’s a rookie tight end. I’m passing on him this season unless he starts to show something in the second half. If that happens, then I would consider streaming Freiermuth in a good matchup. Otherwise, no thank you.