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Jumbo Package: Is Najee Harris the next decade-long NFL superstar?

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The Tide Running Back draws former All-Pro comparisons

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With A-Day over, we’re officially into the early stage of the offseason doldrums. As of my piecing this Jumbo Package together, even AL.com hasn’t posted a new article in nearly 24 hours. Pretty much the only thing out there right now is NFL Draft speculation and the occasional NFL transaction.

D.J. Fluker is joining the Miami Dolphins for the 2021 NFL season, the former Alabama standout announced via his Twitter and Instagram accounts on Monday night.

Fluker has been an unrestricted free agent since March 17.

In his eighth NFL season, Fluker played right guard and right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in 2020. He started half of the 16 regular-season games and also played in two postseason contests. Fluker had two games in which he played all the offensive snaps and three games in which he played none. For the season, he played 52 percent of Baltimore’s offensive snaps.

Though he’s never quite been the elite player that many thought he might be as an 11th overall pick, Big Fluke’s been a consistent middle-tier NFL starter for nearly a decade now. When he joined the Seahawks in 2018, his presence helped them go from the worst rushing team in the league to the best in only one season (though, admittedly, the pass blocking wasn’t much better). In any case, he’s carved out quite a nice career and has consistently been praised by coaches and teammates for being an energetic locker room presence and on-field leader at every team he’s played for.

He’s the perfect hire for a Miami team sorely lacking in quality offensive linemen as well as any seniority on offense.

There was a happy ending for Harris in Tuscaloosa. He lightened up with the head-down exits from the stadium his senior year when he realized this wild Tuscaloosa ride was coming to an end.

“As much as I talk about me not liking it there,” he says, “it was the best decision for what I wanted to do in life. One hundred percent.”

Those early clashes with Saban now in the past, Harris smiles when reflecting on all the trash he talked to the seven-time national champion.

“Me and him have a really, really special relationship,” Harris says with a grin. “That’s why I like that little man.”

This is a really cool interview piece with Najee Harris, where he talks at length about the culture shock, homesickness, and playing time angst he felt in his early seasons at Alabama.

If you haven’t seen it, they’ve released part 2 of Najee’s Road to the Pro’s documentary.

Are position battles at LB, CB over?

Defensively, there are fewer questions since so much of the 2020 defense is back for the 2021 season. The two big openings are at inside linebacker and cornerback, and while there is plenty of depth at both positions, fourth-year players filled them from the start of the spring through the A-Day Game and seem to have firm grips on those spots entering the offseason. Jaylen Moody and Jalyn Armour-Davis will have to hold off their younger teammates, but they have waited their turn and, after playing well all spring, have an opportunity to start this fall.

Can some of the young guys in both position groups make up ground and challenge for playing time? Inside linebackers like Deontae Lawson and Demouy Kennedy flashed in the spring game when Christian Harris and Shane Lee were out. At corner, Marcus Banks and true freshman Ga’Quincy McKinstry will be names to watch moving forward, too. But as things sit right now at the end of spring drills, Moody and Armour-Davis seem like the first-team leaders.

247 is doing their best to keep up the content in the Post-Spring-Game times.

While Deontae Lawson looked great out there, I think Jaylen Moody has locked up this position battle. He’s always been a speedy wrecking ball on special teams, and now he’s translating that to the defense with his wealth of seniority and leadership. I think he’s not only going to be the starter, but is going to have an eye-opening, breakout season.

At cornerback, on the other hand, I think things are still wide open. I’ve always been a fan of Jalyn Armour-Davis (always have a soft spot for the Mobile guys), but Ga’Quincy McKinstry is going to be tough to keep on the bench. And don’t forget Khyree Jackson coming in this summer.

I think the competition is still wide-open, but in this case, that’s a good problem to have.

Finally, if you want a nice recap of all the most highly regarded players in the upcoming draft, I’d advise sticking to this draft guide from Danny Kelly with The Ringer. It’s probably the best out there.

SCOUTING REPORT

Smith has a slim, sinewy frame with a lanky lower half and long, go-go-gadget arms. His lack of bulk will make him a much-debated prospect―not many guys his size put up numbers in the NFL―but all the dude does is make plays. After posting a 68-catch, 1,256-yard, 14-touchdown line in 2019, Smith put together one of the best seasons in college receiver history, becoming the first receiver to win the Heisman in 29 years after leading the nation in catches (117), yards (1,856―over 600 more than the next closest receiver), and receiving touchdowns (23) while adding a pair of additional scores, one on the ground and another on a punt return (he also won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Biletnikoff Award, and the Hornung Award—the first player ever to win all five awards in the same season). Smith not only produced prolific numbers in his four-year career at Alabama, but always seemed to show up big under the brightest lights: In the 2018 national championship game against Georgia, he was on the receiving end of one of the greatest single throws in college football history, grabbing the game-winning touchdown bomb from Tua Tagovailoa. He bookended that performance with another one for the ages in the 2021 national championship blowout over Ohio State, grabbing 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns in just over two quarters of play.

Jaylen Waddle, Alex Leatherwood, Pat Surtain, Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Dylan Moses, and Christian Barmore all also make appearances here.

He mentions Najee Harris reminds him some of the former St. Louis Ram, Steven Jackson. I can kind of see it, though I think Najee is significantly better at being light on his feet.

What are your thoughts on that?