The 2023 fantasy football season is in full swing and it's time for another NFL player debate! If you haven’t had your fantasy football draft yet, then you are probably looking over the fantasy football player rankings. You’ve already printed out and studied the Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet, right? Good. What about doing some fantasy football mock drafts? Fantastic. 

But even with all of that research, you are probably still staring at certain players, wondering if drafting them at their current fantasy football ADP is, not just giving you the proper value, but if they are even right for you or your team. Is the juice worth the squeeze? 

This is where we come in with our all-new Fantasy Football Player Debate series where two analysts go head-to-head and give you the pros and cons to help with your decisions.

Today, Andrew Cooper and Dan Malin go head-to-head to help you decide whether you want to or even should draft Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris.


Why You Should Draft Najee Harris in Fantasy Football

By Andrew Cooper

This game used to be at lot easier - especially at the running back position. You had one starter that played virtually every snap and, if he got hurt, the backup played every snap. Look at Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in 2003-2004. These days, it’s not so simple. EVERY backfield is split to some degree. The only back to play more than 75% of the snaps last year was Saquon Barkley (Najee Harris played the 5th most snaps of any back). And with that change, what matters to us for fantasy football has changed. Now it’s all about “high leverage touches”. And you get those in situations like the red zone and the two minute drill.

The first category quite clearly belongs to Najee Harris. Here’s how the carries broke down among the Steelers running backs in that area last year, per Pro Football Reference.


Inside 20

Inside 10

Inside 5

Najee Harris




Jaylen Warren




Benny Snell




Anthony McFarland





Pretty clear there. Najee was top-10 at the position in terms of his percentage of the team rushes in the red zone. And, considering that Najee is 6’1” 232 pounds and Jaylen Warren is 5’8” 216 pounds, we don’t expect that to change. The goal line belongs to Najee.

Now, let’s talk about the two minute drill. It’s different than general pass snaps - any running back can spell the starter for a random rushing play or a couple pass snaps at times. The two minute drill, however, requires a special level of trust from the coaches. You need to know the entire playbook including all the audibles and pass blocking schemes to have that role. Quarterbacks are often calling multiple plays in the huddle and they are changing the call at the line. And there isn’t really time for substitutions, so the job belong to one player. This offseasons in an attempt to analyze the “two minute drill” I look at situations where teams were either tied or down by two scores or less with less than three minutes left in the second quarter, fourth quarter, or overtime. In those situations, Najee Harris got 11 targets and eight carries. The other backs on the team, including Jaylen Warren, combined for zero.

So I completely understand where folks are coming from with the Jaylen Warren talk - he seems like a solid young backup. There are a lot of deep formats out there where the line is blurred between “handcuff” and “handcuff plus” where a lot of interesting players might crack a lineup. But the reality is that, like many backfields with an elite back, Jaylen Warren simply goes out there to spell Najee Harris when Najee is tired. And the important, high-leverage plays, still belong to Najee Harris. This is a guy that was able to put together a 1,000-yard season with double-digit touchdowns last year despite Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett limping their way through the season. Now that Kenny Pickett has a full offseason under his belt as the starter, this offense could pick up some steam. And Najee Harris is the steam engine that makes it run.  

Why You Should Not Draft Najee Harris in Fantasy Football

By Dan Malin

Najee Harris has been an absolute bell cow since breaking into the league a couple years ago. He was outstanding in his rookie season with Ben Roethlisberger still at quarterback in 2021. In his first year in the NFL, Harris totaled 1,200 rushing yards, 467 receiving yards, and ten total touchdowns on 381 total touches. Last year saw a little regression in the workload but he still stayed (relatively) healthy and touched the ball over 300 times and duplicated the ten touchdowns again. But there are concerns with Najee Harris heading into the 2023 fantasy football season that give me pause when drafting him at his current ADP in round three.

The running back position is dependent on the workload. It’s a volume-based position and one that takes a beating. Harris has already touched the ball almost 700 times in his first two seasons. Running backs tend to start regressing after back-to-back seasons with heavy workloads. A big problem for Harris will be teammate, Jaylen Warren, who can be drafted much later in fantasy football drafts.

Warren was a far more efficient runner than Harris last year. Harris averaged just 3.9 yards per carry as a rookie and then that dipped to 3.8 yards per carry in his second year. Warren, in his rookie year, averaged 4.8 yards per carry. And for all the accolades Harris receives for being an elusive running back, Warren can once again match that.

Now that tweet from Scott Spratt does have a pro-Harris tone to it, but all it’s telling me is that they’re capable of breaking tackles while one is more efficient as a runner and we know Warren doesn’t have much tread.

I won’t use Harris’ lone game with a 100-yard rushing effort in 2022 as a flaw. He did have a foot injury last year. But what Warren did can only incentivize the Steelers to lighten his workload a bit to keep him healthy. Jim Wexell has been very vocal about how much better Warren has looked than Harris so far in camp and we’ve already seen Warren take away some of Najee’s targets last year. And Mike Tomlin has already spoken about giving Harris a lighter workload in camp to keep him healthier this season. Who is to say that won’t roll over into the regular season now that they know what Warren brings to the table?

The running back position is opportunity-based as I led off with not too long ago. Harris has definitely benefited from that opportunity the last two years when healthy. But the Steelers are facing a crisis of having to decide whether to pick up Harris’ fifth-year option and 2023 will likely play a large role in that decision. But they also seem to have found a gem in Warren who is efficient and explosive when hitting the hole. At his current ADP, I just don’t love taking Harris with Warren looming. I’d rather consider one of the anchor running backs going earlier or wait on running back until rounds four or five. And based on the glowing review I’ve given Warren he is a running back I’m targeting later in fantasy football drafts.