With the NFL Combine behind us and the 2022 NFL Draft less than a month away, the final stages of the scouting process are starting to take shape. I’ve been hard at work grinding the tape to bring you detailed breakdowns of some of the top prospects available to the Atlanta Falcons throughout the draft, and I’m excited to finally share them with you now that the athletic testing has been finalized.
First, if you’re unfamiliar with my scouting reports from previous years, you can read about my grading system here. Please keep in mind this system is still in development, and may be adjusted as more data points come in.
Next up is another elite athlete at the linebacker position: Alabama’s Christian Harris. An excellent coverage player and disruptive blitzer who has issues with inconsistent tackling, how highly will NFL teams value Harris’ skillset?
LB | Christian Harris | Alabama | #8
Games watched: Georgia (CFP), Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Auburn
Alabama’s Christian Harris is an uber-athletic but undersized linebacker who very much fits the mold that many modern NFL defenses are looking for. Harris possesses elite range, long speed, and explosiveness that give him considerable upside in several areas of his game. His overall mobility and sideline-to-sideline range is undoubtedly his best trait, as he can chase down runners with ease to prevent big gains on the outside. Harris is also an effective blitzer who can use his explosiveness and pursuit ability to wreak havoc in the backfield.
His athletic traits also transfer well to his coverage responsibilities, where he was deployed in a variety of zone coverage looks. Harris gets depth effortlessly and has the ability to close quickly on receivers entering his coverage area. He’s also an asset in man coverage against both running backs and tight ends. His ball skills are currently a work in progress, but Harris has very high upside as a coverage player.
His biggest issues lie in run defense, where he flashes high level play and pursuit ability but frustratingly inconsistent results. As a tackler, the physicality is clearly there, but the technique simply isn’t. There are far too many missed tackles on tape, and he has to clean this area of his game up at the NFL level. His effort as a pursuit player is also very hit-or-miss, as Harris has a tendency to let off the gas far too early. Overall, Harris is a smart player with good instincts, exceptional athleticism, and versatile coverage ability, but he needs to go to a system that will protect him in the run game–at least until he can improve his technique as a tackler.
Solid but unspectacular tackler. His biggest weakness right now. Missed tackles in every game I watched. Has the power at the point of contact, but too often fails to finish. Tackle radius is just average. Better technique would help here.
Run Defending: 5
Above-average run defender. Most effective as a run-and-chase player. Sideline-to-sideline range helps him shut down outside runs and chase down ballcarriers. Good at side-stepping blocks, but little ability to shed once engaged. Needs to be kept clean. Ability as a true thumper is limited and can struggle against bigger, more physical backs.
Excellent player in coverage. Deployed often in a variety of zone coverage looks. Gets good depth in his drops and uses his explosiveness to close quickly. Capable of man coverage against RBs and TEs. Limited ball skills, but elite athleticism gives him upside here.
Blitzing/Pass Rush: 6
Good blitzer. Explosive through the A-gap and capable of causing instant havoc. Difficult to outrun if he makes it through the line. Less effective off the edge, as he tended to be over-aggressive and was too often locked up by OTs.
Flexibility/Lateral Mobility: 8
Elite lateral mobility and flexibility for the linebacker position. Changes direction effortlessly. Sideline-to-sideline range as a run defender and capable of chasing down all but the fastest runners. High-level pursuit player when the effort is there. Athletic traits give him considerable upside in both zone and man coverage.
Football IQ: 6
Good football IQ. Generally makes the right reads and fills his gap in run defense. Instincts are good and he triggers quickly. Reliable player in zone and man coverage who knows where he needs to be and gets adequate depth. Can be over-aggressive at times and lose contain/over-run the play.
Competitive Toughness: 4
Inconsistent competitive toughness. Plays hard and is unafraid of contact against the run. Gives tenacious effort as a blitzer and is aggressive. The issues come in pursuit, where he is guilty of letting off the gas too early. Has the elite speed to chase down broken plays, but you rarely see it.
Good leadership qualities. Can be seen relaying calls and getting the defense in the proper position. Passionate player who pumps up his teammates. His own inconsistent effort hurts him in this area.
Good versatility. Three-down linebacker who can affect both the run and pass game. Can be an asset in coverage. Blitzing ability is a plus. Run defense can be hit-or-miss, but can be an impact player in the right scheme and situation.
Very good production as both a run stopper and pass rusher. 80 total tackles (45 solo) along with 11.5 TFL. 5.5 sacks, including 3 against Georgia in the CFP Championship. Ball production in coverage is limited, just 6 career PD and 1 INT.
Athleticism: 9.04, 18/20
Elite athlete. Undersized for the position at 6’0, 226. Elite speed and explosiveness with a 4.44s 40-yard dash, 1.53s 10-yard split, and 11’ broad jump. No official agility times, but looks excellent based on tape.