Najee Harris vs Jaylen Warren Fantasy Outlooks: Which Steelers RB Should You Target in 2024?

Najee Harris vs. Jaylen Warren: Who Will Lead Fantasy Football Managers to the Promised Land?

Key Takeaways

– With an improved line and offensive coordinator, the Steelers running game is a massive fantasy football buy in Round 8 right now.

Najee Harris is a safe bet to outproduce his RB23 price tag and is the higher floor investment, even if boring. He’s the choice in most cases.

Jaylen Warren was one of the most efficient RBs in the league and has a massive fantasy ceiling as the best “handcuffs-with-benefits” in 2024 Fantasy Football

Najee Harris vs Jaylen Warren: Best Steelers RB to Draft for 2024 Fantasy Football

Introduction: The Changing Fantasy Market

Based on the current 2024 Best Ball Market, Zero or Hero RB is the strategy smart drafters are deploying. Acquiring “WR Firepower” is a must to compete, and the elite wide receivers are flying off the board faster than ever.

Meanwhile, quality RBs are falling to the Round 7-11 Range like never before. One of my favorite backfields to attack in these builds is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But which Steelers RB should you prioritize in your 2024 fantasy football drafts: Najee Harris or Jaylen Warren?

The Improved Steelers’ Backfield Situation

Arthur Smith is a man of many faults. Crafting a strong running game, however, is not one of them.

Across five years of play-calling, Smith’s offenses ranked:

  • 10th, 2nd, 29th, 1st, and 3rd in Rush Attempts
  • 3rd, 2nd, 31st, 3rd, 9th in Rushing Yards

Over his two years with the Titans, the team averaged 153.5 rushing yards per game and 5.1 rushing yards per carry, second to only the Baltimore Ravens.

Yes, Year 1 with the Falcons was a dud. Yet, once Smith got his players, the team turned around a 31st finish to finish No.3 in rush yards and No.1 in attempts.

The team owner cited Smith’s ability to maximize the running game as a major reason for hiring him, saying:

“I think we have an idea of what we want the Steeler offense to look like. Start with that. You have to have a coordinator that feels like they can work with this roster and be successful with it.”

“I think we have two high-performing running backs in Najee and Jaylen and they, along with an improving offensive line, can be the foundation of success going forward.”

We’ll dive into Najee and Jaylen in a second, but indeed, the Steelers’ line is massively improving.

In the 2024 NFL Draft, the Steelers invested both their first and second-round picks on mauling linemen. Troy Fautanu, selected at 20th overall, was Dane Brugler‘s No.1 ranked guard. Meanwhile, Round 2 pick Zach Frazier, was Brugler’s third-ranked center. In 2023, the Steelers also spent first round capital on Broderick Jones.

Clearly, the Steelers are trying to get back to “bully ball” up front. The Steelers offense will likely emphasize the run game, aiming to dominate in rushing attempts and yards. Don’t be surprised when the Steelers finish Top-3 in attempts and rushing yards in 2024.

Yet, who will feast the most between Najee Harris vs. Jaylen Warren?

Najee Harris vs. Jaylen Warren: Who to Draft in 2024?

The Case for Najee Harris (ADP 87.2, RB23)

Harris is the safer of the two picks, with a sturdy floor for his low price. If I am doing a true Zero-RB build and don’t have an RB1, I like drafting Harris as my top-guy, as I know he’ll give me something most weeks.

Najee has finished every year of his career with at least 250+ carries, 1,000+ yards, and 7+ TDs, and has yet to miss a single game. Harris has finished as the RB4, RB14, and RB22 in his three professional seasons. It may not be sexy, but that level of dependability is nice to have available so late.

Moreover, it’s not as if Harris has zero ceiling. Harris closed the 2023 season on a hot streak. After sucking to open the year, Harris was the RB9 in FPPG from the midpoint, including two 24+ blow-ups to close out the year:

Harris is also reportedly “motivated, to say the least” after the Steelers declined his fifth-year option. With increased involvement in the passing game, Harris is already down seven pounds. He’s a safe bet to outperform his RB23 ADP, even in a timeshare.

Najee Harris ranks as my 69th overall player and RB20 in my 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings and Big Board. He is also 81st overall in my 2024 Best Ball Rankings.

The Case for Jaylen Warren (ADP 90.7, RB25)

While Harris is typically my preferred choice and definitely the more reliable option for 2024 fantasy, Jaylen Warren is a stronger “shoot for the moon” play. If I already have a “Hero-RB” I love, especially two RBs, I would like to go after Warren and his greater “spike week” upside.

Yes, fantasy success for RBs is more volume-driven than any other position. Shoot, that’s why Najee has been able to maintain study fantasy value, even with inefficient, ugly metrics.

Still, an RB needs real talent to become a true difference maker with league-winning upside – the Christian McCaffrey, Breece Hall, even De’Von Achane types. In some of the best “talent-measuring” metrics, Warren is absolutely off the charts:

  • 1st in missed tackles forced per attempt
  • 3rd in yards over expected per carry
  • 3rd in explosive run rate (8.1%)
  • 2nd in elusive rating
  • 2nd in yards per attempt (5.2)

Warren also thrived as a receiver. He ranked 5th in receptions (63) and 5th in yards per route run (1.41). An upgrade at the quarterback position could further enhance his performance and the team’s offensive output.

The issue becomes volume. Thankfully, Arthur Smith has been Top-3 in total RB touches in three of five seasons. Smith has also typically featured backfield rotations when not paired with Derrick Henry. Just by the nature of the scheme, Warren should command more touches.

Yet, what if Harris did ever miss time? What if Warren is just too good to keep off the field for a Harris who already has one foot out the door?

Warren’s contingent fantasy value is truly unmatchable at RB. He would rank as a weekly Top-5 option as the Steelers’ feature RB. If you unlock this upside during your season stretch run, your Best Ball or Redraft team could prove unbeatable.

Conclusion: Najee Harris vs Jaylen Warren

Both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are strong buys in Round 8 of Best Ball Drafts right now. The bolstered line and Arthur Smith’s run-heavy tendencies ensure a fertile fantasy environment for whoever’s on the field, and both RBs should see plenty of action.

Harris provides an unusually high floor for this price range. He is my higher-ranked player and preferred option in most builds, given that I usually start Zero-RB and need something dependable. Still, Warren’s upside is undeniable, and even higher than Harris’ given the former’s elite efficiency. If I already feel solid about a Hero RB (or have two RBs on the roster), I lean towards the true league-winning upside of Warren. Otherwise, Harris is the better bet of the two.

Still, I am well-above the ECR on both RBs in my 2024 Redraft Fantasy Rankings, as well as my 2024 Best Ball Rankings.


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