It was a tale of two seasons for Najee Harris (and for the entirety of the Pittsburgh Steelers) in 2022, struggling mightily in the first half of the season while thriving in the second half.
Najee Harris' First 8 Games:
361 rushing yards
112 receiving yards
3 total TDs
87.5 fantasy points (RB23)
10.9 fantasy PPG (RB30)
Najee Harris' Final 8 Games:
574 rushing yards
117 receiving yards
7 total TDs
126.1 fantasy points (RB5)
15.8 fantasy PPG (RB8)
The 45% increase in per-game production and the 18% increase in per-touch production can be attributed to a greatly improved Steelers' offense in the second half of the season with the in-season development of rookie QB Kenny Pickett, better play-calling from OC Matt Canada, and more offensive opportunities with the return of T.J. Watt on the defensive side of the ball as well as Harris being farther out from a preseason Lisfranc injury that limited him early on in 2022.
If you look at the Steelers' offense at the start of 2022 and now, it is shockingly different (and better). Pittsburgh not only gets a second full offseason of development (and progression within the offense) from now-sophomore QB Kenny Pickett but there were also numerous major upgrades to the offense this offseason. The Steelers completely overhauled their offensive line, bringing in Isaac Seumalo, Nate Herbig, and Le'Raven Clark to bolster the depth up front, while trading up in the 2023 NFL Draft to select Offensive Tackle Broderick Jones out of Georgia. Pittsburgh also brought in the top run-blocking TE in the draft with Darnell Washington in the 3rd round, who will oftentimes serve as an additional offensive lineman at 6'7" and 270 lbs, as well as acquiring WR Allen Robinson to give the Steelers one of the top receiving corps in the league.
The QB play will be better. The offensive line will be better. The receivers will be better. The offense as a whole will be much better.
Najee Harris will have every opportunity to keep the ball rolling on his excellent late-season run in 2022 that saw top-5 production from him in the second half of the season. Now the best part: he's going extremely cheap for what he brings to the table.
Currently going as the RB14 in the late-3rd/early-4th round (4.02) on ADP and projecting as a 3rd-rounder and the RB13 on ECR, Harris seems to be going at what would be his floor (outside of injury). For someone that has been a top-5 fantasy RB in 3/4 of his career and was a top-3 RB as a rookie, I am all aboard the Najee Harris hype train as one of the best early-round values on draft day!