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Cowboys 2017 Draft: Charles Harris Could End Up Being A Sneaky Good First Round Pick

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The edge rusher from Missouri doesn’t wow anyone with his athleticism, but could he quietly be one of the better defensive ends in the draft?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

If I was a gambling man, I’d bet a sizable amount of chips that the Dallas Cowboys will be drafting one of these three defensive ends with their first-round pick:

  • Taco Charlton
  • Takkarist McKinley
  • Charles Harris

They are all really good players and would offer up some hope that the team’s pass rush could take a step in the right direction. For a lot of people, they have a favorite between Taco and Takk (sorry T.J. Watt fans for the snub), where Harris typically ends up being the guy left over. Many mocks have TNT (that’s what I’m calling the Taco & Takk duo from now on) going before pick 28, leaving Harris as the lone choice for the Cowboys in the first round. And from OCC’s mock crunch results, that’s exactly what happened and sure enough Harris was selected by Dallas.

Some view this as the Cowboys settling after missing out on the “dynamite” edge rushers in the draft, but that might be a little presumptuous because Harris could be every bit as good as those other guys. In fact, right now - he’s better.

Harris possesses a lot of great edge rushing qualities. As far as get-off speed, he is lightening quick and offers up that great first-step Rod Marinelli looks for. He’s a missile off the line of scrimmage and maintains great balance throughout the rush. He doesn’t allow himself to be pushed to the ground despite making sharp turns and being in compromising angles. He can tear up interior linemen and has a great spin move that allows him to burst inside. His fundamentals are first rate and he has an arsenal of pass rushing moves. He’s one of the most NFL ready edge rushers in the draft.

So why wouldn’t Harris be projected higher?

Well, without beating around the bush - he’s just not very athletic. His spider chart is about as unimpressive as you’ll find as your eyes don’t have to stray too far away from the middle. There isn’t one single measurable attribute that he’s good at. And his combine results are part of the reason his draft stock is as low as it is.

But there are some other issues with Harris as well. He struggles reacting and gets hung up when he’s tracking the ball. He either gets you or he doesn’t as tackles that are able to withstand his initial move are likely going to win the play.

Our own Joseph Hatz put together a nice profile on him and he touched on some crucial things that people must be aware of:

Pros: Good burst off the snap, suddenness and closing speed once he is able to turn the corner. Shows quickness when shooting gaps. Impressive first step and good, but not elite speed off the edge.

Cons: Not good against the run, too easily washed out of his gap by OT’s, doesn’t shed well and plays too high at times. Needs to improve gap discipline.

The lack of athleticism dampens his upside and his read-and-react makes him less effective in a 3-4 scheme. Sure, you hope you’re getting a complete player in the first round, but Harris fits more as an exclusive pass rusher. However, he’s really good at that part. While his SPARQ score will make you grimace, it’s hard to look past the simple fact that Harris does his job very well. He doesn’t posses the upside that TNT has, but he’s a player than can come in right away and improve the Cowboys’ pass rush.

Harris could be the last call of the night for any team looking to add an impact defensive end in the first round of the draft. If the Cowboys pass up on him, the second day selections will be better than they typically are, but they won’t be of the caliber of Harris. He’s a good player, he’s very low risk, and he fits a huge need for the team. Some people are great athletes and some people are great football players. Harris falls into the latter and sometimes that’s all it takes to have a strong NFL career.

Is Harris in the mix with your favorite edge rushers? If not, is he still good enough to warrant picking before you start giving serious thought to one of the better cornerbacks in the draft?