Theoretically, the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers, one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL should be a fantasy football stud. However, since Ryan Grant suffered a high ankle sprain early in the 2010 season, the Packers have basically not had a fantasy worthy running back. That is precisely what intrigues the fantasy football community about DuJuan Harris; Harris was a waiver wire pickup for the Packers who started their playoff games.
Part of the issue in forecasting Harris’ future is a lack of certainty. We don’t know if Green Bay is going to draft or sign a free agent running back or if they even want Harris to be the guy. The front office and coaches have said many positive things about Harris, but have not committed to him as the starter for 2013. If Harris does get the nod however, he’ll be available at a huge value due to a general lack of trust in Green Bay running backs and Harris himself.What do we know about Harris? We know he ran 4.4 40, a 7.15 3-cone drill and did 27 reps at his 2011 Pro Day, coming out of Troy. Harris went mostly unnoticed coming out of college, owner of 6.2 yards per carry senior season, 32 total touchdowns and 4,042 total accumulated yards. What really matters for our analysis, however, is what Harris was able to accomplish in his 6 games with Green Bay.
Starting out with some metrics from Advanced NFL Stats, Harris ranked 7th in Win Probability Added per Game, 16th in estimated points added per play),and 33rd in Success Rate. These metrics paint Harris as a solid blocker and solid runner. It’s highly likely that Green Bay is aware of this, giving credence to the idea that Harris could start. It was a bit surprising, even to a Harris supporter, that he measured out this well in these categories. These aren’t fantasy stats, but rather point out his usefulness in an offense. This is important because of the uncertainty of Harris’ future in relation to the starting job.
Focusing on more fantasy relevant stats, we turn to Pro Football Focus’ Premium Stats. Perhaps most impressively, Harris led the Green Bay backfield by a wide margin in Elusive Rating with a 39.2 rating, which was higher than Trent Richardson, Reggie Bush, Stevan Ridley, Ray Rice and Matt Forte, among others. Next, we turn to Harris’ breakaway percentage of 13.4% which is not as impressive, seeing as it was equal to the plodder of all plodders, Shonn Greene. Harris’ PFF profile paints him as a standout in some areas, while lacking in others, especially in yards per route ran and missed tackles. In all of Harris’ carries, he only forced 9 missed tackles out of 71 touches.
Finally, we turn to Harris’ involvement in the redzone to help dispel worries about John Kuhn and the Packers’ offense as a whole. After week 12, Harris lead all Green Bay ball carriers in attempts inside the 20. Harris received 7 of his 34 carries in the redzone during the regular season and scored on 2 of those attempts. Harris averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the redzone and had a RZR% of 53%. When Harris touched the ball in the redzone, he produced. Worries that Mike McCarthy won’t utilize a run game in the redzone should dissipate with the realization that Brandon Jackson once received 28 touches in the redzone, that Ryan Grant and James Starks combined for 39 redzone touches and that John Kuhn has never led the Packers backfield in redzone touches. If Harris proves himself to be an efficient rusher in these situations, McCarthy and Rodgers will go to him enough to sustain fantasy value.
Harris’ Yards Per Carry average of 4.6 in the regular season is an impressive number, but certainly not legendary. His 3.6 YPC average in the playoffs was decidedly mediocre; these diverging numbers effectively paint the portrait of DuJuan Harris. There were plays where Harris looked electric, shifty and elusive. There were others were he was just another guy. Fantasy footballers probably won’t know the truth until Harris gets a shot, but either way he will be worth a look in 2013.