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Jacob Harris was seen as a pure luxury pick when the Rams selected him in the fourth round this year. A college receiver who’s transitioning to tight end, Harris is a raw prospect with a rare combination of size, speed and leaping ability.
But it’s possible he’s not as raw as initially believed. It’s only June, yet Harris has already earned first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp, catching the eye of Sean McVay and the Rams’ coaches. At 6-foot-5 and 219 pounds with 4.39 speed, he’s tough to miss. But Harris has impressed the Rams for all the right reasons.
After the final practice of minicamp, McVay discussed Harris’ impact so far and explained why he’s been getting reps with the starters while Tyler Higbee has been absent.
“I think he’s just earned it,” McVay said of Harris. “Obviously, Tyler’s the lead dog. He’s done a great job. I think he’s one of the most complete tight ends in this league and when he’s feeling good, Tyler Higbee can do it all for us. Jacob Harris is a great addition to that room. I think he’s a guy that has a tremendous amount of upside. Wes Phillips has done a nice job of getting him up to speed.”
McVay continued by highlighting Harris’ rare athletic traits and how he’s stood out in practice settings, which is difficult for NFL players to do, particularly rookies. The coach knows it’s only June and the pads haven’t come on yet, but no rookie garnered more attention at Rams OTAs and minicamp than Harris.
That’s at least a positive sign early on for the first-year tight end.
“His natural range, catch radius, body control for a player his size is pretty rare,” McVay continued. “I think you guys can see, for NFL guys to stand out the way he’s done in some of these limited settings in shorts and helmets, he’s definitely made a positive impression. We all understand it’s about when you put the pads on and how that truly translates, but I think it’s because he’s earned it and I’ve been very pleased with him. He’s smart, he’s conscientious and he’s done a great job improving throughout.”
Harris only has two years of experience as a receiver, catching 39 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns from 2019-2020 at UCF. He got a late start in football, too, after primarily playing soccer in high school. At 24, he was one of the oldest prospects in the draft, but he was also one of the most athletic.
His Relative Athletic Score ranked 12th out of 2,488 wide receiver prospects since 1987. So just imagine where he’d rank among tight ends.
McVay doesn’t know exactly where Harris will play, whether it’s as an inline tight end, detached from the formation, in the slot or outside at wide receiver. However, the more positions he can play, the more mismatches Los Angeles can create on offense.
“I think it’s a little bit too soon, but what I would say is, I think the smart thing would be if he can play in a variety of spots, that’s gonna be the way we can put the most pressure on people,” McVay said. “If he can play as an attached tight end, if he can play in the slot, if he can be detached out wide, that’s the kind of skill set he projects to have, but again, until we really put the pads on – because you look at what he was doing in college, he was basically lined up as a receiver. So being able to make that transition to the tight end and being attached to the core and doing the different things we ask of that spot, there will be a learning curve. I think he’s handled it nicely up to this point, but we’ll get a real chance to evaluate that and allow that to kind of come to life based on how he handles it and I am confident he’ll handle it well.”
The good thing about Harris’ transition to tight end is that he has the athleticism to succeed as a big slot or wide receiver in the interim. He’ll need to develop as a blocker both in the running game and in pass protection, but his size and speed allow him to make plays as a receiver.
He’s understandably a player a lot of fans are excited about and he’ll be someone to watch closely during training camp and the preseason.