Eagles Draft preview: Are we sleeping on Charles Harris?

The Philadelphia Eagles have put themselves in a position to select the best player available with pick No. 14. Yeah, we get it. This point has been beaten into all of our brains by numerous Eagles news outlets that it seems like we’re all now programmed to say it repeatedly on social media.

The main names that are being associated with the Eagles 14th pick for months have been Christian McCaffrey (of course), John Ross, Gareon Conley (even though it took way too long for people to warm up to this pick), Dalvin Cook and Derek Barnett.

There is a name that is being floated around as of late and the prospect of adding this player doesn’t seem to be too keen on the fanbase.

Mizzou’s defensive end Charles Harris a new name being linked to the Eagles with the No. 14 pick. The word you see associated with this pick is “REACH” and while I understand why many seem to feel that way, I personally couldn’t disagree more.

Harris is a prototypical pass-rusher. He has the speed, athleticism and hand movement you love to see from an edge rusher. His most impressive trait in my opinion – his ability to explode out of his stance.

Missouri DE Charles Harris 2016 Highlights ᴴᴰ

Obviously, anyone can show one highlight play. Believe me I get that. But bare with me for the gif I’ve posted above of Harris versus Vanderbilt. You see how he’s on the outside shoulder of the left tackle? That’s what he’ll be asked to do under Jim Schwartz. His first step shows so much burst out of the stance. His explosiveness is so quick on this play, the left tackle doesn’t get a chance to set his feet to block and let’s Harris blow past him forcing a fumble on the play.

This has become a regularity for Harris. Obviously a defensive end isn’t always going to win his matchups like Harris does above, but he’ll definitely be able to generate a good amount of pressures at the next level with these skills.

Am I expecting to sell you on Harris with that one play? No, of course not. Hell, I’m not even expecting this article to change your minds. I just want to explain why Harris and his skill set are perfect for an edge rusher in this defense and I believe if the Eagles were to select Harris it would be in comparison to the Falcons selection safety Keanu Neal with the No. 17 pick last year, which was consider a reach until Neal balled out in Dan Quinn’s defense because he was a perfect fit.

Missouri DE Charles Harris 2016 Highlights ᴴᴰ

Again, Harris showcases his initial burst out of his stance perfectly. He leaves Georgia’s left tackle with little time to get into his stance and gets to the quarterback instantly before he even senses the pressure. This is just Harris’ calling card as an edge rusher. His burst out of his stance is what will make him successful at the next level and you can see it working in multiple defensive fronts, not just the wide-nine.

Charles Harris ||

Another key component to Harris’ pass-rush arsenal that I’d like to bring to your attention is his spin move. Honestly, it’s phenomenal. His elusiveness is on full display in that clip above. Florida’s tackle had no idea which direction Harris was heading in thanks to the speed he showcased in that spin and of course it led to a sack.

Charles Harris 2015 Sophomore Highlights

Again, strong initial first step,  pushes tackle back to give himself a wide enough lane, then uses his unguardable spin move to get to the quarterback.

Charles Harris 2015 Sophomore Highlights

This play might not seem as special to you as it does for me, but I’ll explain why I loved it anyways. Harris does get double-teamed on this play, but Kentucky’s running back isn’t showing the best blocking technique here, obviously. The main reason why I love this play was Harris’ awareness here. His eyes never left the quarterback and he noticed instantly once he saw the gap that the quarterback was going to utilize it so he peeled off his block and made a clutch shoe-string tackle, which saved a decent gain. This was Harris’ first season as a starter in this 2015 clip and I was impressed by his play recognition for a freshly new starter.

Now of course there’s going to be flaws with every prospect. My major issue I have with Harris is the fact that he could seriously improve on his run defense. He’s shown flashes of being able to disrupt runs in the backfield, but it’s not consistently enough to consider him a good run-defender at this point.

I absolutely believe Harris could improve his run defense. I believe he has the talent to be able to disrupt running plays regularly, but he needs to start gravitating to the ball carrier quicker and more consistently.

Another issue people seem to have with Harris was a poor combine performance. Personally, I try not to condemn players on these performances because we’ve seen way too many instances of players having shruggish combine numbers and have it not affecting the player they become at the next level. His Pro Day was much improved and that’s expected.

Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) of sportingnews.com reported that he’s hearing that multiple teams gave Harris a top-10 grade and that he expects him to be drafted in the top-15.

Like I’ve mentioned, Harris was a two-year starter at Mizzou. During that span he was utilized on 703 pass-rushing snaps, recording 17 sacks, 32 quarterback hits, 67 hurries, 77 tackles and 16 missed tackles (11 of which came in 2015; only five in 2016, so the improvement is noted).

As I said before, in no shape or form am I expecting to persuade anyone with this article that Harris should be the team’s pick at 14. This is simply just an article showing the potential he’d bring to the Eagles defense, because his assignments are so similar in 2015 as what they would be on the Eagles.

Why am I specifically pinpointing 2015 you ask? The Mizzou Tigers underwent a scheme change in 2016 and Harris unfortunately fell victim to this change. His assignments and role in this defense did not match his pass-rusher skill set as it did in 2015 and NFL talent evaluators are aware of this fact.

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,” an NFC North regional scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.

Zierlein compares Harris to ex-Eagle Connor Barwin, which I’m sure will scare some fans off and I get that as Barwin was a terrible fit in this scheme, which prompted his release. With all due respect to Lance and the amazing work he does covering draft prospects, I couldn’t disagree more. Trust me, I know I for one am not a professional, but when I watch Harris off the edge I see Greg Hardy (as a player who was once a dominant pass-rusher let’s not forget) in his pass-rushing skill set.

I urge viewers to please watch some of Charles Harris tape in your free time. As football fans, you know what to look for and can form opinions just as well as us writers can, believe me I’ve seen some of your great analysis on the comment sections of my articles or Twitter/Facebook. Here’s a link to watch as much game film on Charles Harris as you possibly can and I suggest paying attention to his 2015 game film and watching his pass-rushing assignments. He’ll be asked to do the same here has well.

You can view Charles Harris game film here.

 

Mandatory Photo Credits: USA Today Sports Images

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