For most NFL Draft prospects, the path to success in the league has been drawn out for an extended period of time. Top recruit, start in college fairly early, productive career, then the Combine/Pro Day/interviews/All-Star appearances help determine the draft stock.
Not many have their once promising pro trajectory mauled to near extinction by injuries, nor do they remain in college for six years in a dire attempt to resurrect their once promising draft stock.
That's the path for Virginia cornerback Tim Harris, who looked like he was on his way to the league as a freshman starter for the Cavaliers back in 2013. At 6-foot-1, 204 pounds with over 32-inch arms, Harris was an early contributor to the Cavs' defense at the beginning of his college career before a shoulder injury ended his 2016 senior season early and a broken wrist soon followed in his redshirt year of 2017.
After being approved for a sixth-year of eligibility, the hard work was just beginning for Harris, who now had to earn back his starting spot on the Virginia defense. Ideally-sized with solid athletic traits, Harris was bothered by a back injury in camp that kept his traits from manifesting on the field.
Eventually the sixth-year senior would start eight games, breaking up four passes, intercepting two and recording 36 tackles on the year. Toward the end of the season, Harris started looking like the Harris of old, intercepting Jake Bentley once in the Belk Bowl and breaking up another pass during the game. He's always had enticing physical traits, but was just never on the field consistently enough to put it all together.
At the East-West Shrine Game, Harris has begun to do just that. Granted, the level of competition needs to be considered, but Harris has put together an exceptional week in St. Pete, culminating in two pass breakups and an end zone pick six of Jordan Ta'amu during Thursday's practice.
If Harris can ball out in the Shrine Game on Saturday, it would go a long way toward continuing to point his stock in the right direction. He already has the size and length teams covet in cornerback prospect, and he's looked athletically impressive this week, getting up to contest the ball in the air and showing the ability to break on underneath routes.
Harris' age and injury history will be carefully considered, likely pushing him down the board until at least day three of the draft. However, in that range of the draft risks are plentiful, and Harris's traits suggest he is well worth taking a chance on in 2019. Also, from what I can glean about them online, his past injuries don't appear to be serious in nature. If he runs well and his medicals check out, I absolutely believe Harris will be selected in the final three rounds of the draft.
He may have become a forgotten man at Virginia playing in a secondary with two future top 100 picks in Bryce Hall and Juan Thornhill, but so far this week has belonged to Harris. If he can finish it in that fashion and earn his way to the Combine, he has a shot to be a riser in a fairly weak cornerback class. It wasn't the path he envisioned taking to this point, but now that he's here, Harris might not be ready to go away quietly after all.