2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Damien Harris

  • Damien Harris, 5-10/216

  • Running Back

  • Alabama

  • Damien Harris Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

  • Three-down starter potential
  • Instinctive, natural runner
  • Dangerous one-cut downhill runner
  • Receiving ability
  • Soft hands
  • Runs good routes
  • Good cutting ability
  • Tough to tackle at the second level
  • Picks up yards after contact
  • Thick build
  • Short-yardage ability
  • Excellent body lean to run low
  • Runs behind pads
  • Bends at the knee
  • Keeps feet going after contact
  • Quick enough to hit the hole
  • Good vision
  • Wears down defenses
  • Decisive runner
  • Effective short-yardage back

  • Weaknesses:
  • Lack of speed
  • Can be caught from behind
  • Not a fast back

  • Summary: Alabama has been churning out a steady stream of NFL running backs under Nick Saban, and Harris will keep that tradition alive along with Crimson Tide teammate Josh Jacobs. Harris was the starter over Jacobs, but Jacobs will be drafted ahead of Harris in 2019. Still, over the past three seasons, Harris was a steady contributor for Alabama.

    On only 145 carries in 2016, Harris averaged 7.2 yards per carry for 1,040 yards with two touchdowns. He had 14 receptions for 99 yards, too. Harris was Alabama’s leading rusher for the season. Harris then ran really well for the Crimson Tide in 2017, averaging 7.4 yards per carry for 1,000 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also had 12 receptions for 91 yards. As a senior, Harris averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2018 for 876 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 22 receptions for 204 yards.

    For the NFL, Harris could be a three-down starter who is the engine of a steady rushing attack. He has good bulk along with knee bend and ability to run behind his yards. That combination makes him tough to tackle and leads to him picking up yards after contact. Harris would be an excellent fit in a zone-blocking system because he thrives as a one-cut downhill runner. He also has good vision, cutting ability, and decisive running to hit the hole. On top of handling a larger work load, Harris does well in short-yardage situations.

    What makes Harris more of a second-day talent than a first-rounder is a lack of speed. He is quicker than fast. He has the speed to hit the hole and accelerate to the second level, but he can be caught from behind on long carries, and that will be seen even more in the NFL given the faster defenders. For the pro game, Harris is not a back who is a home run hitter with elite speed.

    In the passing game, Harris is an asset. He did some real damage catching passes out of the backfield. On check downs, Harris is very dangerous to rip off yards in chunks. He has soft hands and runs good routes. In the open field, Harris is tough to tackle. He uses his powerful frame to run through tackles from defensive backs. Harris also has excellent balance to stay on his feet even when defenders go low on him. If he is not a starter, he should be a really good backup back with his ability to contribute in both phases and serve as a receiving outlet.

    In surveying sources at a handful of teams, they believe that Harris will be a second- or third-round pick.

    Player Comparison: Doug Martin. Harris’ running style and versatility remind me of Martin. Both backs have a thick build with quickness but not great speed. They also can contribute as a receivers. In the NFL, I could see Harris being a back of similar caliber to Martin.

    NFL Matches: Oakland, Miami, Washington, Carolina, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia

    There are a few teams that could consider taking Harris on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft. Perhaps the highest that Harris could hope to go would be to Oakland with 34th-overall pick as the Raiders need a running back of the future. Harris would be a good scheme fit for Jon Gruden.

    Miami needs to replace Frank Gore, and Harris could form an excellent tandem with the brittle Kenyan Drake.

    Washington could consider Harris. The Redskins have Adrian Peterson returning, but with Derrius Guice coming off a serious injury and having character issues, the Redskins could consider another back. Harris could be in play for one of Washington’s third-round picks.

    Carolina could use some running back depth behind Christian McCaffrey. If Harris gets to the third round, he could be an option for the Panthers.

    A trio of playoff teams have a pair of second-round picks, and Harris could be a fit for any of those three teams. The Texans need to upgrade their running back talent, and Harris would be a really good value for them if he fell to one of their second-round picks. The Eagles need a No. 1 running back, and Harris would be a good scheme fit for Philadelphia. He also would provide nice bang for the buck with one of the organization’s second-round picks. At the end of the second round, Harris could be in play for Kansas City, which needs a replacement for Kareem Hunt. With the Chiefs’ original pick or the one from the Rams, Harris could be in play for them.


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