The Cleveland Browns drafted OL Austin Corbett early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, which naturally created expectations that the Browns will have a rookie starter up front. They do...it just isn't Corbett. Undrafted free agent OT Desmond Harrison, he of the West Georgia Wolves, will be taking over at Left Tackle after the retirement of future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas this spring. Who? How?
Well, once upon a time Harrison was a well regarded 3-star recruit from California. Harrison originally enrolled at Texas after being courted by USC, NC State, Cal, Arkansas, Oklahoma and others. But Harrison's time with the Longhorns was short-lived, as he was suspended the entire 2014 season before being dismissed from the program. Harrison would take some time away from football before enrolling at West Georgia to continue his playing career and get his affairs together.
Despite a limited playing resume (17 games and just 9 starts), it was clear that Harrison was a physically gifted player and superior to the competition at West Georgia. But regardless of the expectations surrounding his athletic ability, it was impossible not to be blown away by Harrison's 6-foot-6, 292 pound frame running 4.90 (official) in the 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine.
Does his technique consistently match the testing? No. But Harrison was still considered a highly valuable player who carried simply too much baggage to ignore and draft.
Here's a look back at Harrison's 2018 NFL Draft report and what Browns fans can now expect from their new starting left tackle:
Some things we've seen from Harrison throughout the pre-season that mirror his college tape?
- Wonderful length and range as a blocker. Showcases impressive natural strength...
- Bully mentality, often times will uproot on first contact.
- Best natural athlete of any OL in the class.
- Natural suddenness and ability to get depth out of stance...even with some false steps.
- Does show willingness to reset the hands and has a useful forearm club to negate defender's first punch...
Sounds good, right? It's an odd pairing, that the "win now" Browns would be willing to start such a skilled but inconsistent prospect at Left Tackle. But if the NFL coaching has jumpstarted Harrison's development, look out. This could be a massive boom.
Now, there's plenty to dislike about the management of this situation, even if the end result is attractive. Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson did his best to mismanage this situation. The team waited until early August to pull Left Guard Joel Bitonio out of his spot and hand him the 1st-team reps at Left Tackle. During that time, Corbett and Harrison primarily competed to play Left Guard.
Now, a month later, the Bitonio experiment at Left Tackle is over. Why? That's a great question. But it's a difficult opportunity cost to overlook when considering that the uber-talented but raw Harrison could have afforded to not be pulled around the offensive line and be allowed to settle into a single position for practice reps.
There will be growing pains with Harrison on the blind-side. There's even a chance that Harrison doesn't pan out at all, given his equally looming floor and ceiling. But if there's one unit that's been in good hands for the past several years in Cleveland, it's the offensive line.
Here's hoping Harrison can continue that lineage.