Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of poor injuries, combine showings or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
6-foot-3, 214 pounds
Key stat: Had two interceptions in each of his first two seasons, including freshman year when he was a reserve. Added three more in 2017, bringing his three-year college total to seven.
The skinny: Prep star was raised in Florida State’s backyard, but Harrison — who played some QB in high school — was drawn to Bama. He made his impact felt immediately as a true freshman in 2015 as a top backup in one of the most talented secondaries in the country. As a sophomore in 2016, Harrison returned two turnovers for scores and ranked second on the team in tackles as a starter while still contributing heavily on special teams.
Harrison earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2017, leading the team in tackles and making more plays behind the line — 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also picked off three passes and broke up four others. Harrison declared early for the 2018 NFL draft. He opted only to perform the vertical broad jumps at the scouting combine and did not perform the other workouts at Bama’s pro day, other than positional work.
Upside: Tremendous combination of size, length and athleticism. Former prep QB has good instincts (see Texas A&M game in 2017) and vision. Seems to find the ball often. Has lined up at both safety spots and has covered the slot as well. Excellent special-teams value — led team in coverage tackles in 2016, played on almost every unit over three years and blocked two kicks in his career.
Still very young — will turn 21 just prior to the draft. Has good upside to continue developing and honing his instincts in the passing game. Great big-game experience at Bama. Rangy and tough. Played for demanding coaches in a complex scheme. Recent pedigree of safeties from that program is strong. Harrison is smart, versatile and ready to step into an NFL defense now.
A hammer in the run game — see Auburn and LSU games in 2017. Can race to the perimeter to make plays and also close quickly inside. Plays downhill with a linebacker’s mentality against the run. Watch how he seals the edge and attacks Georgia’s Nick Chubb for a loss in this year’s national title game:
Downside: More effective the closer he is to the line of scrimmage and can get exposed in deep-halves or single-high formations when he’s asked to close and make plays in space. Playmaking ability appears to be good but maybe not special.
Will take poor angles to the ball and overrun plays. Didn’t always fare well when matched up in man against smaller, quicker receivers. Not as good in man coverage. Change-of-direction skills can be questioned at times (and he didn’t run shuttles or 3-cone drill to help verify this).
Technique can break down — opens up too much in coverage and can struggle to transition out of his backpedal. Looks a little stiff in the hips at times. Can be susceptible to play action and double moves in zone when eyes are in the backfield. Will get hyper-aggressive — see the Colorado State game in 2017 when Harrison bit on play action and then overran a perimeter tackle attempt vs. WR Michael Gallup.
Watch Harrison also come up and whiff on a tackle attempt against Clemson’s Mike Williams in the 2016 national title game:
Best-suited destination: Harrison would be best-suited to play for teams that emphasize zone coverage and could be used as both a strong safety and even as a dime linebacker. Teams that ask their starters and primary defenders to contribute heavily on special teams also will have an affinity for him. Among the clubs he might best fit on include the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and others.
Quotable: “Don’t know if he’s special, but he makes a few eye-opening plays. They had him all over the place. He’s got a pretty high floor and will start in this league.” — NFC area scout
Player comp: Kenny Phillips, who had a nice career derailed by injuries
Expected draft range: Late Round 1 to mid-Round 2