“OH MY GOD, WHAT DO WE DO?!”
Hey, hey… whoa… calm down, readers. Yes, the 2021 NFL season is off to a wild start. It is not lost on any fanatic of this made-up game of fantasy football that lofty expectations for certain preseason darlings being met did not come to fruition nor did certain situations the hive mind of the tilt-prone enthusiasts pan out in a predictable fashion, but hey: that’s the game, baby.
Before we move any further, take a breather. To quote the great perpetually underappreciated kooky pop-rock band of the late 90s/early 00s Barenaked Ladies, it’s been one week. Drink some water, check your pulse, and let us go through a key event from the weekend. Should worry be warranted, this piece will be the voice of reason (hopefully) in a crowded echo chamber of the take-lock-laden cacophony of the popular social media applications known to humankind.
Without further adieu, this is the 2021 Week 1 Absurdity Check:
“SEE?!? I TOLD YOU THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS OFFENSIVE LINE SUCKS! NAJEE HARRIS IS A BUST!”
Okay, part of that is true; as expected, the Steelers offensive line is not a group of impenetrable behemoths that will open running lanes as wide as the Grand Canyon, but let us give credit where credit is due. The rookie out of the University of Alabama appeared on 58 of 58 offensive snaps and received all 17 of the 17 running back touches on Sunday (per 4for4) going up against the Buffalo Bills. That is exactly what we were hoping for. 5.9 points in PPR scoring and an RB46 performance on the week is not quite the scoring output folks had hoped for, but as far as the stranglehold on the work share opportunity and volume, expectations were met.
Sunday presents a bounce-back opportunity against the Las Vegas Raiders team that was the fourth-worst against running backs in 2020 and a combined 31.2 PPR points to the Baltimore Ravens collective backfield on Monday Night Football. Logic would dictate that Najee Harris should see improvement, but how are we supposed to evaluate his future for the rest of the season?
ABSURDITY CHECK: 2/5, RIDICULOUS BUT NOT WITHOUT CONCERN
On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being “hush, calm down” and 5 being “the sky is on the ground and it has fallen”, I would rate this at a 2. The argument for Harris’ viability all along was steeped in a lack of competition and volume and he definitely possesses that. Any sort of “bust” designation is wholly premature at this particular juncture, but where this becomes an interest-piquer per se is this: will Najee Harris be a matchup-dependent RB?
The answer is, unfortunately… perhaps. It would be nice to believe that the Pittsburgh o-line can come together quickly and operate cohesively as a unit, but that does remain to be seen. While it is true that the odds are in Harris’ favor relative to opportunity, there may be a chance that o-line is a touch more important than some would argue. Roll Harris out in your lineup, Sunday should be good, but keep this information in the back of your head.
Despite being the worst rushing offense for real-life football, the combined effort of the Steelers’ running back room in 2020 with 278.6 PPR points was good enough to have been the RB3 on the year. In a hypothetical situation in which Harris never gets injured and continues to play 100% of the snaps, things should be fine, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Speaking from a cumulative standpoint, Harris is likely to finish top-15 assuming health and continued usage, but as fantasy managers know, per game efficiency is a better indicator of value, and as it stands right now there is reason to have a single eyebrow raised ever-so-slightly.
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