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A three-year starter for an elite college defense, Alabama’s Christian Harris will look to bring that experience to the next level as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2022 NFL draft.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Crimson Tide’s defensive leader:
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A mainstay at the heart of one of the nation’s most dominant defenses, Harris had his best year yet in 2021, tallying 79 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His production has been solid over his three years in the starting lineup, and that consistency will be attractive to NFL teams.
Built like a prototypical linebacker, Harris has a strong upper body and a thick, muscular lower half. He also possesses above-average athleticism that shows up on tape. He stays loose on the field, studying what’s in front of him before bursting laterally or vertically with ease. Harris has the speed to match running backs who attempt to bounce it outside or run across him, making him an effective sealer in the run game. He has the ability to slip blocks and introduce himself to the ball carrier early.
In coverage, Harris has enough athleticism to go up against speedier tight ends and carry running backs outside the hash marks. His fluid hips allow him to snap and run with the best athletes at those positions, making him a three-down defender.
While his athleticism is top-notch, it’s odd to see Harris get lost in coverage at times, playing catch-up against the opposition instead of sticking to the route. He could get exposed in the NFL by better route runners who can separate quickly from any errors in coverage. He’ll need to develop better instincts and get coached up at the next level to improve this part of his game.
Harris can also be swallowed up in the run game, and will likely need bigger lineman to support him if he plays the MIKE role in an NFL defense. He may have to move to the weakside position to make the most of his skill set.
Harris is an experienced, athletic linebacker who should have little trouble transitioning his game to the NFL. Teams should be eager to maximize his combination of athleticism and experience against top competition, hoping to develop him into a full-time starter, likely as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3. His instincts and play strength need improvement, and may prevent him from being a first-round pick, but he should shouldn’t last long on Day 2.
Projection: 2nd Round