Rookie Scouting Report: Running Back Damien Harris

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 24, 2019

Damien Harris was the most productive running back at Alabama, though his teammate is expected to be drafted first

Damien Harris, Alabama

Height: 5’10”
Weight: 216 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37.0 inches
Broad Jump: 121 inches
3-Cone Drill: N/A

Coming out of Alabama will naturally put you on a big stage and Harris didn’t shy away from it. He’s a no-nonsense downhill runner who wastes no time behind the line of scrimmage and his 4.57-second 40-yard dash was somewhat better than expected, as his teammate Josh Jacobs was clocked at 4.60 seconds in Alabama’s pro day.

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Many have his teammate Jacobs higher than him on their list of prospects, but Harris was the starter for Nick Saban’s offense. Over the last three years, Harris has totaled 431 carries to Jacobs’ 251 carries. Not only has he had a larger sample size, but Harris also averaged 6.76 yards per carry over that time, while Jacobs averaged 5.94 yards per carry. Just because he outproduced him in college doesn’t automatically translate to the NFL, but it’s noteworthy to see Saban preferred Harris in a bigger role.

Vision/Awareness: 4.0 out of 5 stars
It says a lot about Harris’ vision when you continually watch him get downhill and still manage to average almost seven yards per carry over the last three years. There are no stutter steps with him, just straight downhill, highlighting just how fast his processing speed is. His approach doesn’t change much regardless of where they are on the field, which is likely the reason they went to Jacobs on the goal-line a bit more in 2018. If you have an offensive line that gets push up front, Harris will continually eat-up yardage.

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking): 2.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not a high-twitch running back or one who’s going to break tackles on every run, but he’s elusive enough to create. It’s going to get tougher at the next level, as some of his ‘rounding’ corners needs to turn into ‘cutting’ corners. He doesn’t lose much speed when he makes his cuts, though that’s likely because he’s a bit upright and doesn’t make very many hard cuts. Despite being 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds, he hides behind his defenders very well, which does increase his elusiveness grade a bit.

Speed: 3.5 out of 5 stars
He has enough speed for a running back who plays the way he does and will be able to break long runs from time to time. His burst is rock-solid, as it doesn’t take him much time to get up to speed, even if his top-end speed isn’t anything special. Some will wonder how he gets a grade of 3.5 here, but speed isn’t just about 40-time; it’s about what speed shows up on the field, and there’s not much more you can ask for out of Harris who packs a punch when it matters most – his burst.

Pass-catching/Pass Protection: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Used in more of the traditional running back way than Jacobs, featured heavily in the screen-game. He does understand how and when to sit down in the zone to give his quarterback an outlet when the first few options are covered, but he’s not going to be lined up out wide and he’s not going to be targeted 80-plus times like some top-tier running backs in the league. He’s a workman-like performer in pass-protection, as he’s willing to throw his body into a defender. He squares up rushers most of the time, too, so his work in pass-protection shouldn’t limit his snaps upon entering the league.

Balance: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He’s a bit too upright when hitting the hole, may be prone to big hits. Has a lower center of gravity, which helps, but would like to see him get even lower when heading into contact. You won’t see him get his hips too low and change direction on a dime, but rather see him round out his cut due to his lack of balance. Part of it is due to his downhill nature, as he’s almost always bursting north and south on the field. He’s not someone you’ll watch and think, “how’d he pull that off and stay upright?” very often.

Potential Landing Spots
There’s a lot of possibilities for a running back like Harris, as he can work in most offenses with his skill-set. He’s also likely to fall into the second- or third-round, which gives plenty of teams the opportunity. Had the Saints not signed Latavius Murray, he would have been the perfect replacement for Mark Ingram, but that’s not happening anymore. If the Eagles want to continue with a timeshare, Harris makes sense as he’s capable of handling passing-down work but would likely work best in tandem. I can also see new Dolphins head coach Brian Flores loving Harris’ no-nonsense, downhill approach to the game, and he’d make a solid compliment to Kenyan Drake.

NFL Comparison
When I started watching Harris, a lot of his game reminded me of former Alabama running back Mark Ingram. While Ingram breaks more tackles, they have that no-nonsense approach and are just solid all-around running backs. Both can contribute in the passing-game, though they’re not a defensive coordinators worst nightmare or anything. They’re built very similarly as well, though I do believe Ingram is slightly better in most areas. Some might mention Frank Gore, but one thing Gore did in his approach is get extremely low when approaching the hole, something Harris doesn’t do at this point.

Other Rookie Scouting Reports
Josh Jacobs (RB – Alabama)
David Montgomery (RB – Iowa State)

More to come in the following weeks…

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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