Arizona Cardinals may surprise with first-round running back
One of the most high-profile names on the Arizona Cardinals extensive free-agent list makes his money as a running back. Kenyan Drake, the team’s starter for the past one and a half seasons, will be looking to cash in this offseason. The Cards will have limited funds to work with, so keeping the talented ball-carrier in the desert could prove to be too tough a task for the club’s front office.
If Arizona does ultimately lose Drake to a higher bidder, a replacement for the 27-year old will be needed. One option for doing that could come by way of this coming April’s NFL Draft. In fact, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim could even opt to use the franchise’s first-round selection on a player who can potentially fill Drake’s shoes.
One individual who the Cards could look to do that job was a star performer at the University of Alabama. Najee Harris, who spent the last four years toting the rock for the school, is projected to be taken in the draft’s opening round. Some experts feel that good running backs could be obtained much later during the three-day event, but Harris may be too good to pass up.
Harris was a member of the Crimson Tide scoring attack for four campaigns, but was handed only a part-time role as a freshman and sophomore. During his first season with the squad in 2017, the 6’2, 230 pounder rushed for 370 yards and three touchdowns in the 10 games he dressed for. In 2018, Harris racked up 783 yards and four scores on the ground in 15 appearances for the Tide.
During his junior year in 2019, Harris was anointed the starter and began to excel. In 13 starts, the California native rumbled for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Harris showed he had hands as well, by catching 27 passes for 304 yards and another seven scores on receptions for Alabama.
Last season, as a senior, Harris elevated his play to another level. In 13 matchups, the 22-year old amassed 1,466 rushing yards and and eye-popping 26 rushing touchdowns. Harris also flashed his skills as a pass-catcher again by hauling in 43 passes for 425 yards and four more receiving scores.
Arizona’s in-house replacement candidates for Drake include Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin and Jonathan Ward. Edmonds is a solid, all-around performer who is probably better suited for a complimentary role. Benjamin and Ward were rookies in 2020 who have yet to prove themselves at the NFL level.
As previously mentioned, there are those who believe that first-round draft choices should not be used on a running back. Nevertheless, there are certain players that play the position who warrant top-selection consideration. Alabama’s Harris could very well fit into that extremely special group of ball-carriers.