With the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Missouri defensive end Charles Harris. The selection is one, after the Draft, the Dolphins described as a surprise for them, not because they took the player they coveted, but because Harris was still on the board for them to select. The 6-foot-3, 253 pound Harris has been projected to be capable of playing both as a 3-4, stand-up linebacker and as a 4-3, hand-down defensive end, the role he will fill with the Dolphins.
Harris comes to the Dolphins as the heir apparent to All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake, being able to develop behind an all-time great pass rusher while also working on his ability to set the edge against the run. One similar trait between Week and Harris immediately jumps out when watching film of Harris at Missouri - the speed off the snap. Wake has turned his ability to time and react to a snap into 81.5 career sacks, ranking him second in Dolphins’ franchise history and 59th in NFL history - despite not starting his NFL career until 2009 when he was 27.
At the NFL Scouting Combine back in February, Harris was asked about his first step, with a reporter starting, “You have a very good first step...”
Harris immediately interrupts to correct the questioner, “I have a great first step.”
After everyone laughed, the reporter corrected himself and finished the question, asking, “How did you develop that great first step?
“Really, I just thank God, just natural ability," Harris explained. "To come out of that stance over and over and over in practice. That was our warmup - to come out of that stance.”
He went on to add, when asked about the “secret” to anticipating a snap count, “It ain't no secret. It's just really something you do for the most part. When you're game-planning, when you study the team, you can watch the center, watch some of his movements. You kind of just get a feel as the game goes on as to when he's going to snap the ball. So great preparation for the game is a part of that.”
The Dolphins will likely use Harris as a situational pass rusher, rotating him into the game behind Wake and Andre Branch, at least early in the season. Harris discussed the biggest critique of his game, his edge setting, at the Combine as well. “At the end of the day it's a matter of technique. How does a team want me to play it? Of course every coach has their own way of coaching it, so obviously yougo back and look at my 2015 tape, I had one of the highest run-stopping percentages in the SEC. So I have no problem stopping the run. It's not like I'm scared. I used to play basketball, so I'm not a finesse player. Really, I'm down to get in the trenches, no problem at all. So it's just a matter of technique. Coachestelling me what to do, and me consciously using my hands. And using my body for leverage and using my strength. I have natural strength, can't rely on that any more, especially at the next level. I have to really get my technique down.”
Harris, during his conference call with the Dolphins’ media immediately after his selection, was asked about playing with and learning from Wake. “It means everything, to be able to come in and learn from him," Harris replied. "I’m just coming in with a humble attitude, willing to work, willing to take coaching from any and everybody. It’s everything. He’s a great player, and I’m going to learn. At the end of the day, I’m hungry for knowledge. I’m hungry for … I’m hungry to get better at the end of the day.”
In 2016, Harris had to adjust to a new coaching staff and defensive scheme, a change that he admits was not ideal. "It was pretty tough, but I'm a savage, so I can adjust to any type of coaching staff," Harris explained. "I can adjust to any type of game plan, whatever it is. So I had a new coach,I had a new coordinator, I couldn't cry about, couldn't throw a fit about it. I had to adjust, I had to adapt, I had to survive in my environment. So that's what I did."
Now, Harris will again adjust to a new coaching staff, this time with the Dolphins. He does, however, know exactly where his strengths are, and what he will be brining to the NFL. "I got here by sacking the quarterback," he told the Scouting Combine media. "That's not a secret. So I feel like most teams are gonna play me how I'm supposed to get played. That's me getting the quarterback. Me covering when I need to cover. When it's necessary, me playing special teams. Things like that. I'm big, I'm athletic, I can move. So really using my how I'm supposed to be used.”
Harris backed that up during his conference call with the Dolphins’ media immediately after his selection, saying, “The strengths of my game, you obviously see it on film. I get to the quarterback. I’m going to cause pressure, without a doubt. I’m going to get to the quarterback. That’s the thing about it. Pass rushing isn’t like other positions like DBs, receivers and quarterbacks where you have to learn shifts and other stuff. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’ve got in your heart. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got heart. I’ve got a drive that’s nasty. I’m just trying to ball at the end of the day. I’m going to get to the quarterback without a doubt.”
Harris was also asked during the post-draft conference call about what number he would like to wear at the NFL level, since his college number, 91, belongs to Wake. “I don’t care. Just give me a jersey, a helmet and some pads and some cleats. I can get my own cleats, but I probably have to wear (the team’s) cleats. Just give me some cleats, and I’m ready to go. I don’t care what the number is. I’ll make the name shine.”
The Dolphins will hold their rookie minicamp this weekend, though the team is not expected to get onto the practice field during the three-day event. We will see if Harris has a number assigned to him by then - though he probably will not need the cleats yet.