The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
Junior | 6’3″ and 214 Pounds | Projection: Round 1-2
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 34 in | broad: 120 in
It’s usually a safe bet to assume anyone talented enough to earn a starting position on Alabama’s defense will eventually get a chance to contribute on Sundays. Harrison isn’t an exception, as he repeatedly thrived while playing a variety of roles in the Crimson Tide’s perennially loaded secondary. The two-year starter earned first-team All-SEC honors as a junior and proved capable of making an impact on special teams throughout his career. A hamstring issue prevented Harrison from running at the combine, but his size and on-field versatility could make him Alabama’s eighth defensive back drafted in the first two rounds since 2012.
Playing behind arguably the nation’s best front seven certainly has its advantages, but Harrison proved to be plenty vital in his own right during his three years in Tuscaloosa. He racked up two interceptions in limited playing time during his freshman year, and the team could hardly get him off the field as a sophomore or junior. Overall, Harrison boasts career numbers that stack up very favorably next to those of the last four Alabama safeties selected in the first two rounds as well as his more-hyped teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick.
- Eddie Jackson: 126 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 9 INTs, 12 pass deflections
- Cyrus Jones: 37 tackles, 4 TFLs, 0 sacks, 2 INTs, 7 pass deflections
- Landon Collins: 184 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 0 sacks, 5 INTs, 13 pass deflections
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix: 48 tackles, 0.5 TFLs, 0 sacks, 5 INTs, 11 pass deflections
- Fitzpatrick: 171 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, 9 INTs, 24 pass deflections
- Harrison: 174 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3.5 Sacks, 7 INTs, 17 pass deflections
Harrison’s well-rounded production reflects his versatility in the secondary. He and Fitzpatrick were regularly asked to rotate as the defense’s high and low safeties, and both proved to be plenty capable of working at both positions. This versatility will be valued at the next level, where position-less defenders are becoming increasingly hot commodities.
Due to tougher rules meant to make the game safer, hard-hitting safeties can at times be more of a headache than blessing. The new-age safety isn’t asked anymore to be a defensive enforcer; he’s asked to serve as a matchup-proof chess piece. Harrison is further along in coverage at this point in his career, but he’s certainly still capable of rolling down into the box and setting a strong edge.
Harrison proved just as adept at manning up on tight ends and running backs as he was at playing in one- or two-deep coverage. He’s not without faults, as his poor habit of throwing his shoulder into ball carriers instead of wrapping up needs some work. Still, Harrison possesses the instincts and physicality to back up his elite combination of production and size.
Asking Harrison to step in as a starting strong or free safety right away might be asking a lot, but there’s no reason he can’t work as a defense’s dime linebacker or big nickel as he develops. The question is whether a team will be willing to spend a Day 1 pick on a hybrid defensive back who doesn’t play on the outside. Harrison has the skill set to earn a role wherever he lands, but depth chart and scheme fit will determine how quickly he gets the chance to ruin the days of opposing tight ends and running backs.
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