One of the best things about being super bowl champions is the number of options you have in the NFL draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the opportunity to take a long term investment in their future with the 32nd pick or a player they feel can come in right now and help them repeat as champions. As they build their big board, it allows them to make what some people might call a luxury pick.
For a team like the Bucs who have more playmakers than maybe any other team in the league, adding another offensive weapon might fall into that luxury category. However, that could very well be the case. With Ronald Jones entering the final year of his deal and no other proven running back returning to the roster next season, another option out of the backfield could be high on the list of priorities.
One name that is sure to be linked to the Bucs is Alabama running back Najee Harris. Coming off a very impressive 2020 season, capped off with a national championship, his draft stock couldn’t get much higher. Not only is he considered the best back in the draft by many, but he also appears to be a perfect fit for what the Bucs are looking for.
At 6’2 and 230 lbs, Harris is an imposing presence. He provides the physical build that the Bucs can maximize in their between the tackles running attack. He is an absolute nightmare to tackle and it led to him racking up 1466 yards and a whopping 26 touchdowns on the ground last season.
Even with these impressive numbers, it’s not a lock that Harris could win the starting job over the incumbent Jones. After all, Jones is a very good ball carrier and is more explosive than Harris with an element of long speed that the soon to be rookie lacks. However, Harris has an elite skill set that has nothing to do with his ability to run the ball which could give him a clear path to starting for the defending champions.
Harris is an excellent pass catcher. He runs a wide variety of routes and can even line up in the slot as a receiver. This has been put on display over the last two years where he caught 70 passes for over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns. On top of that, he uses his massive size at the position and makes for a very good pass blocker when asked to stay in and block. He can dominate the short and intermediate passing game in the Bucs vertical offense.
It’s worth addressing the elephant in the room that most teams avoid making a large investment in a running back. This would include drafting one in the first round. This has only been done 14 times in the last decade with only five projected to be a starter next season.
With that said, this pick would still makes sense for this Bucs team. Quarterback Tom Brady has made a career out of utilizing running backs in the passing game. On top of that he is 43 years old and will likely look to do this more than ever as he continues to defy father time. And when the day comes that Brady retires and the team replaces him with what will likely be a rookie, it would pay to have this type of multidimensional running back to take pressure off.
Regardless of positional value and drafting trends, Harris is a great player and a great fit for the Bucs. He is the perfect complement to what they are doing now and can be the foundation of their offense in the future. It’s unclear if Harris will be available at this point in the draft, but if he is then he will certainly be near the top of the Bucs big board.