2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: Damien Harris
Ht: 5'11" Wt: 215
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Evaluated by: Austin Smith
It seems as if the story of Damien Harris' career has been the running backs that were supposed to keep him off the field. In 2016, it was supposed to be Bo Scarborough. Last year, talented youngsters like Joshua Jacobs and Najee Harris were supposed to step in, and even after supplant him when he left as a junior. Instead he stayed for his senior campaign. In the prior two seasons, Harris led the team with 1,000 yards rushing or more, and while he did not hit the century mark in 2018, he still led the team in rushing attempts and yards. Just call Harris "Mr. Dependable" because that is why he is on the field. The guy plays with enough speed to make big plays but he is also physical enough to pick up tough yards. He will block and play special teams, and while Harris may not be the most gifted route-runner, he can catch the ball as well. Even though their running styles are nothing alike, he reminds me so much of Kenyon Drake. Drake was also a talented back that had to be well-rounded in order to get his snaps in Tuscaloosa, and while Harris was at least a starter, it has been that same mentality that has kept him in his role.
My favorite quality about Harris, and possibly one of the most underrated qualities an athlete can have is self-awareness. Harris knows his skillset and he knows what he is capable of with the ball in his hands. So many times, we see a talented athlete leave yards on the field because they try to make the big play. We seldom see Harris bounce the ball outside, but when he does, it's the right decision. Far more often, we see him start to, only to stick his foot in the ground and get positive yardage. He is an instinctive runner with good vision, and he has a knack for creating yardage when little is available. Harris also runs with a low pad level which makes it difficult to stop his momentum. Because he runs low, he also has above-average change-of-direction skills that Harris uses to avoid solid shots from tacklers. He also has enough power to break arm tackles.
While there is a lot to like about Harris, I am not sure there is anything to fall in love with. He isn't going to be the fastest, nor jump out of the room or put up insane numbers in agility drills. As a matter of fact, he may be one of the least talked about players at the NFL Combine. I wish he would have played in the Senior Bowl because that is his forum to shine. He is just a good all-around player that makes his case on the gridiron, and while he has done plenty of that through his time at Alabama, the individual drills through the week in Mobile would have given scouts an opportunity to really appreciate Harris. Because he doesn't have an elite trait, teams may be hesitant to invest a high pick in him. Additionally, he needs to improve as a route-runner if he wants to be more than just a check-down option in the pass game. I also think Harris will have to add some more strength if he is going to be considered a powerful back in the NFL, particularly in the lower body.
After returning as a senior, we got a better picture of what kind of leader he was for Alabama. The Crimson Tide were a young team, and the offensive guys tended to gravitate to Harris when they came off the field. Even after their loss to Clemson in the National Championship, replays showed Tua Tagovailoa being embraced by Harris after the Tides' dreadful performance. Another indictment on his character and work ethic is that you'd never know Harris was a top recruit coming out of high school. He embraced the over-achieving role that he was labeled with his entire career, while most would let their ego get in the way. Even coming off a 2017 National Championship game where an injury to Bo Scarborough was the defining moment of the contest, many had him pegged as a Heisman candidate entering the following year. Still, Harris got tons of praise for his work in the off-season, and the starting spot remained his through 2018. In his mind, there is nothing he can't accomplish, and when you truly believe that, it maximizes your abilities.
I don’t think Harris will ever be that guy that you are satisfied with as your starter, but without a doubt, he is someone you want on your team. You look at all the talent around him during his time at Alabama, and he always seemed to be the forgotten man. People remember the offensive linemen that are now in the NFL or soon will be. The receivers and tight ends that force teams to respect the pass, and the other running backs and their ability. This season, a dynamic quarterback even took over headlines for the Crimson Tide. It is easy for those watching to see him as someone that is overlooked by opposing defenses, or a product of others’ talent, but he led the Crimson Tide in carries for three seasons. How many players can we say that about in the Nick Saban era? The guy has the talent to play in the NFL, and makes the most of it which will be an attractive combination for teams. There may be more intriguing options this April, but I doubt many are picked ahead of him.
NFL player Comparison
Its hard not to see a little of C.J. Anderson in him. Anderson was a similar player in Denver. He was never overly celebrated as the starter for the Broncos, yet he continued to find ways to win that job and produce. Whether it was his ability to run tough between the tackles or catch screens and passes, as well as protect the passer, Anderson continued to get on the field. Harris might have to take a similar path, and don’t be surprised if he starts his career the same way Kenyon Drake did. His former teammate was a contributor on special teams before winning the starting role, and Harris could do the same thing if necessary.
- Terrific vision and instincts running the football
- Solid build with low center of gravity
- Outstanding work ethic
- Stepping up as leader this season
- Offers additional value on special teams and could grow into passing down contributor
- Jack of all trades, master of none
- May need to add some bulk to keep physical reputation in NFL
- Not sure if he has big-play ability at next level
|Scouting Video Courtesy of the University of Alabama|