The Miami Dolphins opened their 2017 NFL Draft selection process with the pick of Missouri defensive end Charles Harris, picking up a high-end pass rusher to develop behind Cameron Wake, and ultimately be able to fill in for whenever Wake retires. It was a great move by the Dolphins, who landed one of the two players they coveted with the 22nd overall pick, a player they did not expect to still be on the board when they selected.
There has been a lot of talk about Harris, both here on The Phinsider and among the local and national analysts who cover the Dolphins and the league. We have not yet taken a look at what the people who covered Harris throughout college think of the Dolphins’ new defensive end. For that, I turned to Rock M Nation, SB Nation’s Missouri blog.
Some of the strengths of Harris were included in a look at analyzing Harris' value over replacement:
"Over the past two years, by purely “yards per play” metric, Missouri’s defense was 14 PERCENT better with Harris on the field than when he was off the field," writes David Morrison. "To put it simpler terms, Missouri’s defense was 0.82 yards a play better with Harris on the field (5.12) than off (5.94). Let’s take the average of non-kneel plays (887) over the past two years. At 5.12 yards a play, it’s 4541 yards against. At 5.94 yards a play, it’s 5269 yards again. That’s 728 yards. Or, like, nine touchdowns
“Over the two years, the run average when Harris was on the field versus off was just about the same (lending some credence, perhaps, to the sometimes-held knock on Harris that he’s not great against the run?).
“But the completion percentage against is 14 percent better and the yards per pass against is nearly 19 percent better.
“And the 'PPS' — or pass attempts per sack — is nearly 67 percent better. Missouri logged a sack on a pass attempt about three times more often when Harris was in the game than when he was out.
"Think about this: Missouri logged 51 sacks with Harris on the field over the past two years and only four without him. The difference was especially stark in 2016, when the Tigers had 26 sacks with Harris on the field and only ONE with him on the bench.
“Sacks came 18 percent more frequently and nothing plays came about 8 percent more frequently.”
Morrison also took a look at Harris, comparing him to some of the other pass rushers in the draft, specifically comparing NFL Scouting Combine results. He also took a look at some of the former Missouri edge rushers, including Markus Golden, Shane Ray, Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Jacquies Smith, Aldon Smith, and Stryker Sulak:
Charles Harris vs. 2017 Draft Edge Rushers
You can see that Harris is about the size of the average top edge rusher in this year’s class, if a little lighter. His arm length and hand size are a little smaller which, really, doesn’t matter.
What does matter is when we start to get to some of the testing.
His 21 bench-press reps are tied for eighth of the 12 who lifted at the Combine, his 32-inch vertical jump is 11th of 12 and his 109-inch broad jump is last of 12.
Those aren’t huge deals, either. Who cares if your 3-4 sackmaster can only jump nine feet from a standstill instead of 10?
The speed and explosiveness times are more germane. And about as concerning for Harris. His 4.82-second 40-yard dash was a tenth off the top-15 average and 11th of the 13 who ran. His three-cone drill (7.47 seconds) -- which tests short-space quickness and fluidity of movement -- was 11th of 12 and his short-shuttle drill (4.42) -- also testing quickness and change of direction — was seventh of 10.
None of them were above average for a top-flight prospect at the Combine.
There are plenty of other positives teams can look to for Harris if they wish to overlook some of those testing shortfalls. His backstory, for one. A no-star who tirelessly worked himself into an all-conference player. His intelligence, for two, both on the football field and in life. His game film, for three. David Sharpe is still shaking off flashbacks from that spin move.
His college production, for four.
He had more tackles per game, on average, than his top edge rusher compatriots and, while the sack per game number sinks behind, the tackle for loss per game number is pretty much right on. When you subtract Derek Rivers’ stats against FCS competition, his tackle for loss number is nearly identical to the average (.909).
So there’s plenty to like about Harris. But when you see a bigger, stronger guy like Myles Garrett also put up far more impressive speed and explosiveness numbers, or a similarly sized T.J. Watt go .13 seconds faster in the 40 and .68 seconds faster on the cones, it also could leave a bad taste.
Charles Harris vs. Missouri Edge Rushers Past
Again, the 40 isn’t great. Neither is the three-cone, although the short shuttle is better than average.
Here’s what I found interesting: Harris is the same size as Jacquies Smith was at the 2012 Combine. So he’s a useful physical comparison, at least.
Harris’ 40, bench, broad and vert are right about in line with Smith’s, but the shuttle and three-cone are worse.
Smith went undrafted. Harris...uh...is getting drafted. Probably rather highly.
Why the difference? Partly because Harris was a much more productive pass-rusher in college.
His .474 sacks per game puts him right on par with Shane Ray — a first-round pick, remember — and his .908 tackles for loss per game plop him between Ray and Aldon Smith. Again, a first-round pick.
So NFL scouts can see what he did in college and know that, even with mediocre testing numbers, he can be a legitimate pass rush threat at the next level.
I also spoke to Bill Connelly over at Rock M Nation, who agreed that most of Harris’ strengths have been reported either in the above articles or through what others have said about Harris since the Draft. He did share a little into the what Harris will bring this year, and what will need time to develop:
I think the ESPN folks got that just about right on TV when he was picked -- his size is only decent, and he can take himself out of some run plays by attacking a bit recklessly. He definitely improved on that from his red-shirt freshman season onward, but it's a work in progress. He was picked to go after the passer, and the all-around play will theoretically come later.
It basically sounds like Harris will be exactly what we expect him to be when he takes the field as a rookie: a pass rusher who needs to continue to work and develop as a run-stopper and all-around defensive end. The Dolphins will likely look to use him as a pass-rush specialist this year, working behind Wake and Andre Branch, while allowing William Hayes, for whom the Dolphins traded this year, to work as the edge-setting, run-stuffing defensive end for running situations.
A big thank you to both Connelly and Morrison and all of Rock M Nation for sharing their thoughts on Harris.