“Dance with my dogs in the night time.”
That phrase, coined by the rap group Migos, was spoken by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks following their team’s clinching of the NFC West division last week. He said it out loud in the locker room, and after seeing how his teammates reacted to hearing the phrase, head coach Sean McVay told Cooks to break the team down, and he did so with that same phrase — it was funny to see Wade Phillips try to understand what the hell was going on at any point.
That phrase from the song Stir Fry has a few different layers of what exactly it could mean. The first and most obvious is that it means that you’re out for the night with your crew. Night life often signifies primetime, as the exciting and memorable things in life tend to happen at night under the lights. The other is that calling your crew “dogs” is both a term of endearment and camaraderie, but also describes the type of people they are. They’re your ride or dies, the ones that aren’t afraid of anyone stepping to them, people that have your back and can control a situation.
In an NFL locker room, you need dogs, or in this article’s case, a wolf.
You need a Kelvin Harmon.
The N.C. State Wolfpack’s star junior wide receiver stands at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds. In 2017, he recorded 1,017 receiving yards on just 69 catches with four touchdowns. In 2018, Harmon increased every level of his production with 1,186 yards on 81 catches with seven touchdowns. That was while playing one less game, too.
The reason why Harmon will be playing one less game this year is because he’s skipping his team’s bowl game, as he has declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Many regard Harmon as one of the top wide receivers in the 2019 draft pool. With the stats and the size boxes already checked, let’s see if the tape matches, and if Harmon can be a dog an NFL offense can dance with.
Play No. 1: Contested Catcher
Harmon’s top trait, and the reason why I truly view him as an alpha wide receiver, is that he thrives when caching through traffic and with contact on him or near him. This is an important trait for an NFL wide receiver to have since there are so many elite athletes at the next level that space and separation will always be limited.
Harmon does a great job adjusting to passes and bracing for contact in ways that does not let the ball out of his possession. I wish that he didn’t let the ball come into his chest as much as he does, but even when he does, he rarely lets those passes become drops, even with contact. So it’s hard for me to knock him too much for that.
Whether it’s hand fighting a defensive back, staying balance through a hit or just out-muscling a defender in the air, Harmon’s “trump card,” if you will, as a wide receiver is the fact that he has the alpha trait to come away with the ball in almost any situation that puts it in his grasp. Though he doesn’t appear to be too high of a jumper and a player who lets the ball get into his chest more than catch with his arms stretched out, one-on-one passes are to Harmon’s advantage.
Play No. 2: Fast Feet
Harmon also shows that he has nice feet for a big man.
When defenders are in close coverage, Harmon loves to chop it up at the line of scrimmage to get them to bite one way or another, or to just catch them awkwardly in their backpedal before making his move. He’s not as quick as guys who are sub-6-foot, but quick feet in and out of his breaks, as well as getting his toes down on sideline catches, show me he has good control of his lower body in his feet.
That rounds out his game, and is encouraging to know that his route tree can be expended with such traits.
Play No. 3: Subtle Separation
I’ll start by saying this: Having a specialization for separation via routes is the most translatable trait to the next level. This is why I was so high on players like Sterling Shepard. If you can separate with quickness and precise route running, you can win in the NFL.
Harmon does not separate with regularity with route running, but he does separate subtlety with hand fighting and timing when the ball is arriving.
Even on the few plays above, one is a go route and the other is a comeback to the sideline, Harmon doesn’t get very far away from his guys, and yet he does so just enough to bring the catch in. This happens a lot in Harmon’s tape. I constantly finding myself questioning his speed and short area quickness due to the fact that he just can’t seem to completely separate himself form coverage, but the other caveat is that he always comes up with the catch. He give himself just enough of a window to reel it in, and he usually does.
Harmon isn’t a speedster down the sideline, and he’s not a ninja with his feet. But you know what? He also has plays like the one above in almost every game no matter who is guarding him.
Would I like to see Harmon separate better? Sure, especially since I know the competition only gets faster and stronger at the next level. But how much can I really knock a guy for not having a certain style when the way he does it yields the same result?
I really can’t. Harmon has a lot of success without being a consistent separator.
Play No. 4: Willing Blocker
Fine, I’ll say it: Wide receivers can be divas — and I’m sort of a sucker for those kinds of players.
In that sense, sometime wide receivers don’t like doing the dirty work. Harmon does, and it’s also something that he takes pride in. Though I think Harmon could be a little better with his hand placement in blocking, at times, he certainly showed he could consistently block almost any defensive back he went up against this season.
Take the clip against Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall for example. Hall is a good cornerback, and he was giving Harmon some physical battles in that game. But in the clip above, Harmon locked him up so well Hall threw a little fit at the end. Anytime you can get under some’s skin like that in the blocking game, you know you’ve won that battle.
Harmon can definitely check the box for blocking, which is key for an outside wide receiver on any outside runs.
Play No. 5: Big Play Baller
A good way to cap this all off is to reiterate that, though there may be little preferences of wide receiver play in or out of Harmon’s game here and there, this kid is good.
Harmon has a knack for making big plays. He’s been N.C. State’s go-to offensive player for two straight years now, and you can tell he loves it. He wants the ball when the team needs to move the chains, take the deep shot or to get the ball into the end zone.
But it’s not just about those accomplishments for his offense, either. You can tell Harmon plays this game with a lot of pride. He also wants to make sure he can tell his defensive back he got the better of them when it’s all said and done.
I wanted to make sure I posted those last two clips in here because, where before I was questioning Harmon’s speed, he showed he could catch and burst away from his defender on foot in that long pass. And where I said I wish he didn’t catch it with his chest so much, it’s because of plays like the one directly above where I see him fully extend and put together spectacular plays with his hands.
I had to make sure you visually saw that he can do both.
Overall Harmon will be one of my top receivers and one of my top players in this draft class. I’m interested to see how he test at the Combine, but the Alshon Jeffery comps might not be far off. Both are players who win regularly by catching through traffic.
I think Harmon can be a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 at the NFL level. He has the talent to be a good pro in this league for a long time.
He’s a dog you can dance with in the night time.