Ever since Derrick Henry was drafted by the Tennessee Titans, the casual devy owner has steered clear of the Alabama backfield. The running back gold mine of the Crimson Tide may not be what it once was, but it will continue to produce. In this article, we will look at the four current running backs who will one day look to make an impact at the NFL level. Most devy owners look at Bo Scarbrough as the next big impact running back at the NFL level, but in fact, it will be Damien Harris. Najee Harris will be the next big back in line after this season, but do not let Joshua Jacobs slip through the cracks, as he is talented as well. Production numbers are difficult to accumulate on teams with multiple talented prospects, but it is very important to point out that three of these four prospects were top recruits in their class, while the other was a top ten positional recruit.
All four running backs evaluated in this article have been relatively healthy so far this season, and have had an opportunity to contribute. This is important to note, as it gives us the opportunity to compare apples to apples. I will break down all the numbers in the first part of this article, then follow it up with a scouting summary on each player. In evaluating advanced metrics, I want running back prospects to have good size and speed, be competent in the passing game, but most importantly, be productive. In breaking down tape, I want to see speed, lateral quickness, and good vision.
By the Numbers:
Bo Scarbrough: Size – 6-2/230, Age – 23.1, Projected Draft Age – 23.5, Projected 40 Time – 4.50 sec.
Damien Harris: Size – 5-11/214, Age – 20.7, Projected Draft Age – 21.1, Projected 40 Time – 4.55 sec.
Najee Harris: Size – 6-2/227, Age – 19.6, Projected Draft Age – 22.0, Projected 40 Time – 4.54 sec.
Joshua Jacobs: Size – 5-10/212, Age – 19.5, Projected Draft Age – 20.9, Projected 40 Time – 4.49 sec.
Alabama has always liked big running backs, so Bo Scarbrough and Najee Harris fit this bill perfectly. Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs are smaller backs, but both have good size and BMI. None of these running backs are burners, but they all have good enough speed to not hurt them at the next level. Bo Scarbrough is old for only being a junior, while Najee Harris’ age also stands out, as he is a year older for being a true freshman. Joshua Jacobs’ age is not published anywhere I could find, but he was a true freshman last season, and was a 2016 recruit.
Bo Scarbrough: 2017 Rushing Stats – 81/377/6TDs, YPC – 4.7, Dominator – 12.9%, 2017 Receiving Stats – 11/86/0TDs
Damien Harris: 2017 Rushing Stats – 81/697/10TDs, YPC – 8.6, Dominator – 21.1%, 2017 Receiving Stats – 4/46/0TDs
Najee Harris: 2017 Rushing Stats – 49/282/2TDs, YPC – 5.8, Dominator – 6.7%, 2017 Receiving Stats – 5/23/0TDs
Joshua Jacobs: 2017 Rushing Stats – 24/171/0TDs, YPC – 7.1, Dominator – 6.2%, 2017 Receiving Stats – 6/96/1TDs
*Dominator = Player’s percentage of team’s total offense, rushing and receiving.
Damien Harris’ production jumps off the page when quickly looking at the four player’s 2107 production. His 8.6 yards per carry is significantly better than what Bo Scarbrough and Najee Harris have averaged this season. Damien Harris’ dominator of 21.1% is also very impressive on a team with so many talented offensive weapons. It is also worth noting that Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has rushed for 572 yards on 84 carries with six touchdowns. Hurts’ rushing numbers eat into the production numbers of all four of these running backs. Bo Scarbrough’s low yards per carry is concerning, but it is nice to see a running back with his size being involved in the passing game. Najee Harris and Joshua Jacobs are not used much in Alabama’s offense, but that will change next season as they will take over for Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough seamlessly.
Bo Scarbrough: Rushing History – FR: 18/104/5.8/1TD(4G), SO: 125/812/6.5/11TDs(13G), Impact Age -20.1
Damien Harris: Rushing History – FR: 46/157/3.4/1TD(10G), SO: 146/1037/7.1/14TDs(15G), Impact Age -19.7
Najee Harris: Rushing History – NA, Impact Age – NA
Joshua Jacobs: Rushing History – FR: 85/567/5.1/4TDs(14G), Impact Age – NA
*Impact Age = Age of player the first season they have a 20% dominator, mid-season.
Following the 2016 season, I can see how many devy owners liked Bo Scarbrough, but Damien Harris’ rushing numbers were better. Alabama has a system for bringing along their young running backs, as the usage for all four of these running backs has been similar throughout their time with the Crimson Tide.
In evaluating prospects, numbers and advanced metrics can be key indicators for success, but it is imperative all players be scouted by watching game tape. Below is a summary of what I see from each of the Alabama running backs.
By the Tape:
Pros – Big, strong, powerful runner, with solid acceleration for his size. Has good vision, and has shown to have good hands in the passing game.
Cons – North-south runner only, who lacks lateral quickness and agility when bouncing the ball outside. Also lacks long speed.
Pros – Shifty runner with quick feet, and has great cutting ability. Has good burst and great vision, which helps him hit holes quickly and efficiently.
Cons – Toughness was an issue in 2016, but he looks stronger and more determined this season. Lacks high end long speed.
Pros – Big strong back, who is very difficult to tackle, with good cutting ability. Has good quickness, which makes him unexpectedly elusive for his size.
Cons – Needs to improve footwork, which should help with balance. Lacks long speed.
Pros – Shifty grinder, who is tough to tackle in tight space. Has good quickness and agility, and overall does everything well.
Cons – Does everything well, but nothing outstanding.
Other than Bo Scarbrough, I think the Alabama running backs are all undervalued by the devy community. I really like Damien Harris, and think he will be drafted higher that people expect. Bo Scarbrough lacks some of the key characteristics I look for in a running back prospect, but his size and pedigree should find him a role in the NFL. Injuries have also looked to slow Scarbrough down this season, which is a red flag. I expect Najee Harris to be a hot target in devy leagues this offseason, but his value should stay suppressed due to his low production numbers. When I look at Najee Harris, I see a running back the same size as Bo Scarbrough, but he does everything better already as a freshman. So if you like Bo Scarbrough, you should really like Najee Harris. Joshua Jacobs is an intriguing prospect, and I am excited to see what he can do next season with Scarbrough and Damien Harris out of the picture. In deeper devy leagues I will be looking to acquire him.
Current Devy RB Rankings:
Damien Harris – RB#18
Najee Harris – RB#20
Joshua Jacobs – RB#28
Bo Scarbrough – RB#33