The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis in just 7 days. I will be there and in between now and then I’ll be doing a lot of work getting up to speed on the draft class of 2015. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.
What they’re saying:
STRENGTHS: At 6-1, Harris has a lean, wiry frame with long arms and nice proportion throughout. He makes good breaks on the ball with a strong first step despite his long-striding run style, and has quick hips and a second gear to recover over the top when plays go vertical.
WEAKNESSES: Despite the durability Harris showed at Virginia, his lanky frame looks better suited to cornerback or even wide receiver than safety. He isn't an intimidating hitter over the middle and resorts to ankle tackling, at times -- though to his credit, he's a generally reliable open-field tackler.
—Derek Stephens and Rob Rang, CBS Sports
How he fits the Redskins: I wrote about the possibility of Harris being the Redskins’ starting strong safety at some point during the 2015 season. The position is a major need for the Redskins and Harris could be sharp enough to get up to speed in time to start at some point during his rookie year. Harris logged plenty of playing time at Virginia, seeing substantial action as a freshman and becoming the starter his last three years there.
At 6-1, he’s probably just about at the bottom end of the height that Scot McCloughan is looking for in a safety. Some analysts think he’s better at free safety, some prefer him at strong. As the NFL often requires players to be adept at both, that versatility could be a good thing.
Potential issues: The other side of the size coin is the “lanky” description. Can he add on weight and still move as well? If he plays smaller than his height he won’t fit into McCloughan’s long-term vision for a “Legion of Boom” sized backfield.
Bottom line: It’s tough to rely on any draft pick to start as a rookie, especially on picked after the first round. The second round might be a reach for Harris; the third is likely where his value is. Out of 36 third-round picks in 2014, just nine started at least half of their teams’ games as rookies. Having the pick earlier in the round does help. Four of the players who had eight or more starts were picked in the top 10 selections in the round.
If McCloughan is going to pick Harris in the third round it’s going to be because he thinks he is the best player on the board at the time and that he will be a good player in 2016 and beyond. An immediate need at safety won’t drive the pick.
But sometimes a draft pick steps up when you don’t expect him to, like Bashaud Breeland did in 2014. If the Redskins do take Harris it wouldn’t be shocking to see him as a major contributor by the time the year is out.
Previously in Combine Countdown: