NFL Draft Preview 2015: SS Anthony Harris
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This fourth week, the focus is on safeties. Our first strong safety prospect is Anthony Harris out of Virginia.
Harris spent four years as a Cavalier – starting three – and played in 49 games during that time. He finished his college career with 289 total tackles, two sacks, 11 interceptions, 20 passes defended, and two forced fumbles. His eight interceptions in 2013 led the nation. Virginia was not a good team while Harris attended, finishing 19-30 (10-22, ACC) from 2011-2014.
Harris has good hands, he reads routes well, and he can line up against tight ends. He has decent speed and showcased it at the Scouting Combine by running a 4.56-second 40-yard dash. He blitzes well but not particularly often.
His awareness is also very impressive. Check out this interception against Louisville this past season, where he followed the ball as it was tipped at the line, before snatching it out of the air:
Harris, standing at 6’1” and 183 pounds, does not have great size for an NFL safety. He also struggles at tackling; he had 16 combined missed and broken tackles this past year. Defenders can drag him along as he attempts to bring them down, which will be a problem if it continues in the NFL.
Harris is also currently injured and did not work out at Virginia’s pro day, though the extent of the injury is not known.
In all likelihood, Harris will be a second- or third-round pick, as long as his unknown injury is not serious. Most rank him as the second-highest-rated strong safety, behind Alabama’s Landon Collins, though the gap between them is significant (Collins grades out as a first rounder by most estimates). Harris’ awareness and ball hawking skills will get him drafted and likely get him a starting role come training camp.
The Colts, Chiefs, and Steelers are all in need of strong safeties, and depending on how each team acts in free agency, any of these three teams could jump on Harris in the second or third round.
The Colts may look to re-sign Mike Adams, which would take away an immediate need, though the front office could still decide to draft a replacement now to groom for a couple years. The Steelers still have Troy Polamalu on the roster, though many suspect that he could soon be cut. The Chiefs do not currently have a strong safety available with Eric Berry battling cancer. The team could look to a short-term replacement in free agency and bank on Berry returning rather than using a high draft pick on a player who could end up being expendable sooner rather than later.