According to The Athletic’s Atlanta Falcons beat writer, Jason Butt, the team is sending a 2021 7th round pick to the Miami Dolphins for defensive end Charles Harris, as confirmed by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero minutes later. Harris, the team’s 1st round (22nd overall) selection from Missouri in 2017, has spent the first few years of his career struggling to see the field.
So far, in the first three years of his career, Harris has appeared in 41 games, starting 8 times, while collecting just 3.5 sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss, and 23 quarterback hits. Coming out of college, Harris was considered a good pass rusher and a stout run defender.
What has been the holdup for him in the NFL so far?
What people saw on tape
Charles Harris played in a 4-3 front at Missouri in the SEC conference, widely considered the best conference in college football. Every year, more players are drafted from that conference than any other in college football.
Harris was late to football. He actually didn’t play the sport until his junior year of high school, and NFL scouts were excited to see how much he could improve and grow.
The Tigers played Harris as both a 7-tech and a 9-tech off of the edge. Some times, he would play from a three-point stance and other times he would play standing up. He was a violent and physical presence who was difficult to block. Harris showed excellent hand usage and his blend of tech-use was a lot to handle.
Charles Harris smoked Tyler Catalina to sack Jacob Eason pic.twitter.com/xtOjnIQ1ud— ZouGifs (@ZouCast) September 18, 2016
Harris collected 18.5 sacks over his three years at Missouri, including 34.5 tackles for loss. His sophomore year was by far his best performance, and his junior year he was slowed a little but performed better as a pass-rusher.
Looking at the tape from then, there was a lot to like. He showed good burst, transition from speed to power, the hand usage, and then he played smart. He wasn’t the best athlete, a little clunky if anything, but his technique and power made him difficult to contain so it was somewhat overlooked.
The Draft Process
Harris performed average at the NFL Combine, logging a 4.82 forty yard dash at 6’3″ and 253 pounds. He logged a vertical leap of 32″, and get his twenty yard shuttle in at 4.42 seconds.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, now the general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders, loved the pick at the time. “Really solid pick here.,” Mayock said. “I think he can play four-down or 3-4 linebacker; in Miami, it’s four-down. He has a good first step and is explosive off the edge. This young man is adept at a pass rusher.”
An NFC North regional scout told NFL Network, “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.”
The struggle in the NFL
Unfortunately for Charles Harris, the average athleticism is evident in the NFL. Miami tried him early this season in a hybrid outside linebacker role, and it didn’t work out very well at all. He couldn’t cover efficiently, and he struggled to set the edge.
What is Charles Harris doing? Set the edge! pic.twitter.com/b2kZPRidCV— p a b l o (@PabloGRadio) October 7, 2018
That’s been one of the issues his entire career… Setting the edge, that is. He’s always looking for the big play inside, and as a result, sometimes he abandons his assignment thinking that he sees an opportunity to make a big play. It’s not a good habit on his part at all.
Charles Harris shows up on Dwayne Allen’s highlight reel. pic.twitter.com/nUPwnq9aua— Locked On Dolphins (@LockedOnPhins) March 9, 2019
The lack of real power to Charles Harris’ game also hurts him. He can win with power, but only at certain times when he is driving head on a blocker. He lacks awareness and will get blasted by people.
I think the biggest problem that comes up on tape is that Charles Harris just struggles to get off of blocks, even against tight ends. He’s trying to win with finesse, and you have to win with power in the NFL.
What Charles Harris brings to the Falcons
The trade for Charles Harris is a low-risk investment in their defensive line. Remember, the Falcons have been decimated the last couple of years by injuries on defense. The lack of depth has proven to be a huge issue, and resulted in some of the worst defensive play in the league.
The Falcons are looking to use Dante Fowler in a role much like the Dolphins tried to use Harris. Physically, the two are built similarly, although Fowler is a much better athlete. I think the Harris trade is an effort being made to get him some depth, and maybe even to use in Allen Bailey’s role as well. The depth up and down the defensive front line is porous again, and I think they hope that Harris brings a stability when injuries happen.
Overall, I’d say that this is a solid move by the Falcons. A seventh round pick is a worthwhile investment in a former first round pick who just hasn’t gotten everything put together yet.