The University of Alabama has continuously sent linebackers to the next level. In the NFL today, Rashaan Evans, Reggie Ragland, C.J. Mosley, and Mack Wilson have all carved out roles as starters at some point in their early NFL careers. The next in a long line of Alabama linebackers is Christian Harris. The duo of Harris and Henry To’o To’o were the leaders of the Alabama defense this year.
Harris was a four-star recruit out of high school and was the sixth-ranked inside linebacker in his class. In high school, Harris played quarterback, receiver, and cornerback. Ultimately, he made the switch to linebacker at Alabama. Harris started in all three of his years at Alabama and has gotten himself into the day two conversation following an illustrious career for the Crimson Tide. In his three years, Harris totaled 220 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, ten sacks, six pass deflections, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and an interception.
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Name: Christian Harris
Jersey: No. 8
Weight: 232 lbs
Games Watched: Florida (2020), Georgia (2020), Texas A&M (2021), Florida (2021)
Major Injury History: None
All Alabama linebackers usually are high in this regard. Harris is another player that does well here. He has played in multiple spots for the Crimson Tide, including WILL, MIKE, and nickel defender. Harris has instances where he diagnoses a play quickly and blows it up. Other times, he is hesitant to make a play against the run and becomes stagnant, and the linemen take advantage of him a bit. There are also some plays where it takes too much time for him to read a play, and by the time he diagnoses it, the ball carrier is already past time.
From a leadership standpoint, Harris has that IT factor as well. Even in 2020, he was conducting the defense and was even pointing Dylan Moses, a Senior at the time, in the right direction when there was any motion from the offense.
Harris is a bit inconsistent here. There are times when he flashes his skills to be an above-average defender in this regard, but there are far too many times where he comes up short and lands on the grass without the ball carrier near him. Harris is also a player that leaves his feet too early instead of closing the distance between him and the runner, and he lands flat on his face a few more times than you’d like. Harris needs to become more consistent here to reach his full potential in the NFL.
Block Shedding (8/10)
Harris has adequate upper-body strength to do well in this category. He is quick and can maneuver in and out of the way of linemen. There were some occasions where Harris wasn’t the best in this regard and would almost sit on the block and try to time it so he could get a hand on the running back instead of trying to shake the block.
Run Defense (8.25/10)
Harris has times where his athleticism helps him outrun blockers and get to the ball carrier before he is blocked. He has great sideline to sideline speed, and it shows up. Unfortunately, he is more on the smaller side, only coming in at 232 pounds, so if he faces a stronger offensive lineman, there is a possibility that he gets tossed like a ragdoll.
Pursuit/Closing Speed (9.25/10)
As pointed out already, this is his strong suit. Harris has elite sideline to sideline speed, and it makes him almost impossible to block if he’s on the move and searching for the ball carrier. Sometimes, he even overshoots the ball carrier and flies past him before he can get his tackling form ready, and the runner blows past him. Harris changes directions very quickly and is quite disruptive in zone coverage as a result.
Pass Rush Skills (9/10)
While Harris only recorded ten sacks in three seasons, he was consistently putting pressure on the quarterback. He forced them to throw the ball before they were ready to, causing some timing issues between the signal-caller and receiver. He was consistently sent on blitzes through each gap, and if he had a clear path, the quarterback was in for a rude awakening. At the next level, teams would be wise to be creative with him on blitzes. Harris has the skill set to be a thorn in the sides of quarterbacks.
Man Coverage (8.5/10)
Harris excels in coverage. He has experience covering running backs, tight ends, and slot receivers one on one. Sometimes, it doesn’t go well, like it didn’t against James Cook and Kyle Pitts in 2020. He has shown that he can keep up with tight ends over the middle of the field and running backs on wheel routes. With his speed and quickness in his hips, he can change directions quickly and re-route to keep up.
Zone Coverage (8.5/10)
Overall, Harris is a good coverage player. He is stout in both man and zone coverage. In zone coverage, his instincts and athleticism help him. There were a few times where he was baited, but other than that, he would break up the pass or make a tackle almost immediately after the receiver caught the ball. Harris was typically a hook-curl or flat player.
Ball Skills (4.25/5)
Harris seems to have a knack for knowing where the ball is. In the passing game, he keeps his eyes on the quarterback in zone coverage, and that, paired with his athleticism, really helps him get a hand on the ball before it reaches the receiver. There were a few occasions where he was a second or two late.
Harris has spent time at WILL, MIKE, and slot defender. Harris is a decent run defender and is above-average in pass coverage. His pass-rush skills should intrigue a team to put him in a role where he can use his speed to his advantage, most likely as an outside linebacker at the next level.
Harris is in contention for the third-best linebacker in the class with Chad Muma and Brandon Smith. Harris provides a skillset that transitions well to the next level with his skills in coverage and rushing the passer. The uber-athletic linebacker should find a home in a 4-3 scheme as a WILL linebacker. There will also be some scenarios where he plays inside linebacker, thanks to his coverage skills. Harris will likely find a new home on day two of the NFL Draft in April, and whichever team that may be will get an impact player immediately, who still has room to grow.
Rookie Projection: Starting 4-3 WILL Linebacker
Third Year Projection: Pro Bowl WILL Linebacker
Final Grade (83/100): Mid Second Round
Player Comp: Matt Milano