NAME: Damien Harris
POSITION: Running Back
JERSEY: No. 34
RECRUITMENT RATING: 5-star
WT: 216 lbs
Vision –Love his anticipation to press into a gap and react late if his blockers create late movement or scraping defenders over-pursue at the point of attack. Quick to bend back into an adjacent gap. Trusts the power at the POA but isn’t married to a gap and can get off script.
Feet/Change of Direction –Precise with his steps. Hard feet working into the hole to stay balanced and have some spring with confidence. Lateral burst isn’t great but he’s smooth. Effective drop step to redirect and get back into the teeth of the POA if first press is bottled up.
Durability –Physical runner who hasn’t been tested with a lot of tread on his tires. Lowest carry total in three seasons as a senior in 2018 and has been featured in shared backfields for his entire career. That said, power will let him be a finisher.
Balance –Does well to not over-extend himself. Quick, smooth feet allow for late adjustments at the point of attack, giving him some added balance vs. what one would expect. Contact balance vs. soft tackle challenges is strong.
Pass Protection –Would have liked to have seen more consistent efforts in addressing defenders in the pocket, can be complacent in setting himself into favorable position to bang pads. As a result can catch defenders and doesn’t stun to hold ground.
Elusiveness –Has only modest burst in the open field, more effective when he possesses a runway into the second level. Lateral quickness is limited to his feet when looking to step through gaps, doesn’t have wiggle or ability to create missed challenges with anything other than power.
Receiving Ability –Modest production as a receiver but teams should be worried by his lack of dynamic spring in space. Won’t have a lot of success separating from athletic LBs at the next level and will be regulated to screen passes.
Short Yardage Skill –Effective in dropping his pads through gaps and making sure he’s not exposed to hits that will drive him backwards. A “fall forward” type back who does well to drive his legs and use thick lower half to generate some forward push.
Football Intelligence –Effective between the tackles runner thanks specifically to his vision and understanding of allowing his blocks to develop. Does well to accelerate when clear movement is produced and opens up a lot of space for build-up speed.
Effort –Runs hard. Isn’t going to get cute with a lot of his runs and should be relied upon in thick traffic to grind out tough yards. Aware of keeping the ball tucked away does doesn’t typically jeopardize possession in an effort to grind out yards.
BEST TRAIT – Short Yardage Skill
WORST TRAIT – Elusiveness
BEST FILM – LSU (2018)
WORST FILM – Clemson (2017)
RED FLAGS – None
Damien Harris has modest potential as a lead back for gap/power rushing offenses. Harris has smooth feet for his size and is precise with his steps to get vertical through a crease and generate power behind his pads. His lack of long speed may limit his explosive plays but Harris can grind out tough yards and wear down tacklers late into football games. Harris’ ceiling isn’t necessarily high but he can be a volume rusher in stretches and be a starting back
PROS: Compact, powerful frame. Very little wasted movement, doesn’t dance in the backfield, finds space and gets vertical. Mental processing is outstanding, finds cutback lanes and gets north. Manipulates second level defenders. Light, quick feet to redirect quickly. Always has a plan of attack. Contact balance is impressive, absorbs shots and keeps moving. Drops his pads through the hole. Soft hands as a receiver, and savvy enough to maximize his opportunities. Ball security is excellent. Terrific ability to find slivers of space in short yardage situations.
CONS: Not an explosive runner. Burst and long speed are lacking. While his balance is excellent, not a true tackle breaker or battering ram back. Not particularly elusive in the open field, nor dynamic in space. Role as a receiver was simplistic, very little downfield work or splash plays. Lack of elite athleticism could put a ceiling on his NFL impact. Technique in pass protection is disappointing. Often resorts to throwing a shoulder at his opponent, rather than squaring up and punching. Knocked back by bull rushes and struggled to handle linebackers 1v1.
Vision – Is a bit lacking in terms of creativity and instinct, but rarely makes the wrong decision. Great inside/outside zone runner who sees through the first and into the second level — has some good cuts behind the line of scrimmage to create space for himself. Ultra-decisive which can mutate into impatience and unnecessary urgency behind slow-developing concepts.
Burst – Average to below average in this regard, for NFL play. A rumbler who prefers to seek out contact when working into the second level, as opposed to exploding into space to break angles. Best explosiveness shows out when working outside of the tackles and looking to win the boundary; can draw linebackers in and then beat them outside. Can get tackled in pursuit on outside zone flow given lack of explosive traits.
Change of Direction – Is a measured and controlled runner behind the line of scrimmage who is always ready to stick a foot in the ground and get upfield. Has good swivel in his hips to redirect when pushing the line of scrimmage and work into backside gaps. Lacks elusive traits when he opens up his stride in the second level — won’t cut or spin out of tackles. Still retains good fluidity to redirect at top speed. Cuts aren’t explosive, but they are efficient and don’t seem particularly heavy.
Power – Slugger who seeks out contact. Runs with tremendous pad level and leg drive, always ready to explode into contact and deliver a shot. Vertical, decisive style of running lends itself to regularly being the instigator. Has great power in his legs to pull tacklers with him and finishes every run falling forward. Majority of tackle-breaks come as a result of power/leverage.
2nd Level Speed – Has some good track speed; perhaps better than what you’d expect. Lack of burst makes him take a second to get there, but can win footraces with LBs. That said, still is only average/decent in this regard and will miss out on breakaway opportunities by getting caught in pursuit. Further development of a stiff-arm would do wonders for his downfield game.
Contact Balance – Cannot, and will not, be taken down by half-hearted tackle attempts. Is rocked up throughout and can absorb glancing blows even when he doesn’t see them coming. Arm tackles from first-level defenders do nothing to slow him down. Regularly requires rally tackles when in the second level. Quick footwork lends itself to bracing for contact immediately.
Decision-making – No-nonsense and deliberate. The ideal short-yardage/goal line back for his aggressiveness getting upfield and ability to drive the pile with lower-body power. Eschews some tighter holes at times to search for more sunlight, in part because he really needs a runway to get up to speed. Strong outside zone reads marry nicely with size and one-cut ability. Downfield instincts to break that one last tackle are lacking, likely in part because of inexperience.
Pass Catching – Saw his most productive and positive pass-catching season in his final year, which is a huge net positive for his film grade. At his best on quick swing routes and screen routes, which let him keep his hips upfield and prepare for contact. Not a candidate for option routes given lack of phone-booth agility to separate. Does have success on more downfield passing concepts.
Pass Protection – Frame, want to, and know how all check the boxes. Technique with his hands is a little underdeveloped, but he’s still a comfortable distance beyond most collegiate running backs, and that issue should be nicely tidied up in the NFL. Recognition from inside out is clear and effective; rarely fails to find the threat. Delivers a shot and has some flashes of maintaining and continuing blocks long-term.
BEST TRAIT – Power
WORST TRAIT – Change of Direction
RED FLAGS – None
PRO COMPARISON – Corey Clement
Damien Harris would be a welcome addition into any NFL backfield, as long as his round value and expectations are tempered accordingly. Harris will never be a top back in the NFL, though he is able to handle a lion’s share of the touches, simply because his athletic profile limits him from creating enough for himself. That said, he’s a hard-nosed and disciplined runner who will rarely lose yardage for you and regularly pick up the tough yardage on short downs and in goal line situations. There isn’t a team who would say no to a bet as sure as Harris.
But the round value is the question. Harris can handle the bulk of the carries, but must be spelled with a more dynamic threat who can win with the quickness and creativity that Harris lacks; he could have been a true bellcow in a different age of ball, but today is more a 1A option. Harris does have some good receiving ability in his own right, and should warrant at least 15 touches/game over the course of his rookie deal.