The Charles Harris buzz is heating up with the 2017 NFL Draft only a week away. According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, Harris “will be selected higher than most believe” and “possibly ahead of Derek Barnett.” If that report is true, there’s a good chance Harris will be the third pass rusher off the board behind potential No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas.
There’s a thinking that this Harris buzz could be the result of misinformation. It’s certainly possible; you can never truly separate fact from fiction at this time of year with so many agendas out there. But it’s possible that NFL teams are truly higher on Harris than people realize. Mock drafts don’t always perfectly represent how the NFL feels about certain players.
The Eagles just might be one of those teams who happen to be high on Harris. As noted earlier this week, he’s reportedly one of five players Philadelphia covets with the No. 14 pick. The Eagles privately worked him out this offseason and the team is rumored to be taking a defensive end in the first round, so the dots are there to connect. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris did nothing to diffuse the Harris hype by slotting him to the Eagles in the first round of his latest mock draft.
A lot of people don’t seem to be thrilled that the Eagles might go with Harris in the first round. People question the fact he tested poorly at the NFL Combine. People also question why mock drafts and rankings don’t project him to go higher if he’s so good. A lot of Eagles fans see Harris as a reach and compare him to Marcus Smith.
While I’m hardly convinced Harris is a slam dunk pick for the Eagles at this point, I’d like to correct some misconceptions. It’s not like no one is projecting Harris in the first round. Good note by Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz here:
The poor showing by Harris in Indy made people think he would go late 1st or early 2nd. Prior to that, he was considered a solid 1st round pick. When Harris originally declared for the draft, Todd McShay had him ranked as the 11th overall prospect. Several other key sites had him in the 16 to 32 range. Back in mid-January, Daniel Jeremiah had him going 19th overall to the Bucs in a mock draft.
And as far as the notion that Harris might go higher than Barnett, Greg Cosell of NFL Films doesn’t seem to disagree.
If forced to choose, Cosell would opt for Harris over Barnett.
"I would probably lean towards Harris only because I like the way he moves better. And I think when all is said and done, that will be a factor in the NFL," he said. "Harris just looks different on film because he's a more explosive guy."
Norris also further explained why he has Harris going to the Eagles in his latest mock draft (via PhiladelphiaEagles.com).
First of all, let me talk about him not being a reach, OK, and the term ‘reach.’ I mean I understand in media evaluations and rankings, we have our own set of prospects. But who is to say that NFL teams do not consider him a top 10 selection? A top 12 selection? I bet many do. Charles Harris would not be a reach at No. 14.
What I love about his game, and specifically with Jim Schwartz’s defense in the wide alignment, Charles Harris is one of the most explosive edge rushers in this class. And he has a primary move, he has a power punch, in terms of getting up the field, winning within three steps, and turning the corner with flexibility and bend. Once the offensive tackle compensates for that, he has an outstanding counter move, which is his inside spin move. And really with pass rushers, you only need two pass rushing moves to be consistent. And after Charles Harris improved on his horrible Combine with a very good pro day or a solid pro day I should say, I became much more comfortable in my evaluations. And I think you can never have too many pass rushers, and I think his fit at No. 14 would be outstanding.
Norris also weighed in on why Harris ranks over Barnett.
“It’s a great question, and I know Barnett had a ton of production in the SEC, but to me it’s how they get production. It’s how that production was achieved on the field. And I like Derek Barnett, but I think Derek Barnett’s ceiling is a secondary pass rusher on an NFL team. I think he has very good bend for his size, and I think he has an outstanding motor. But is he going to win consistently in his first three steps? Those are pivotal for a pass rusher. I’m going to say no. I don’t think he can consitently beat left tackles like that in the NFL, especially ones who are athletic that can mirror and occupy him on the outside. But again, he has very great bend and a very good motor. So I think he’s going to to be a secondary rusher and rack up a ton of coverage sacks. But if we’re talking about individual, isolated, one-on-one situations, I think Charles Harris’ ability tops that of Derek Barnett’s.”
Harris isn’t without flaws, and that much is apparent when you watch his tape. His run defense has been questioned. But it’s worth noting how Missouri’s 2016 scheme factors into the Harris evaluation. Some NFL insiders believe his 2015 tape is a better indication of the player he truly is. Via NFL.com:
"Don't get caught up in his numbers this year. He just didn't mesh with what they asked him to do. He's also got to be coachable and I think he may have fought the changes a little too much. What I saw in 2015 is what I think he's going to be." NFC North regional scout
We’ll see soon enough if the Harris-to-the-Eagles hype is real or not. In the meantime, it’s a possibility worth preparing yourself for. Howie Roseman has stressed the importance of building through the trenches. In addition, Schwartz has had a significant influence over the Eagles’ personnel moves (see: all the Bills signings last offseason). The Eagles need cornerbacks and offensive weapons, yes, but they might feel the draft is deeper at those positions and can get those players later. Pass rusher is viewed as a premium position in the NFL and the Eagles definitely have a need there. Philadelphia’s top three players Chris Long (32), Brandon Graham (29), and Vinny Curry (soon to be 29) are not exactly young in NFL terms. Not to mention it doesn’t seem like the team really trusts Curry a lot after only playing him 40% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2016.
For more on Harris, watch his game film (via Draft Breakdown) to determine your own opinion on him. Check out a highlights video below to see him at his best.