The safety position is a low-key need for the Patriots, especially considering that both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung will be 32 this upcoming NFL season. Both players were solid performers in the Patriots’ 2018 championship run and the glue of the Patriots secondary. While they are still playing at a high level, the Patriots should look to start grooming their replacement. Fortunately, one such player fits the bill and plays about 45 minutes northeast of Foxborough. That player is Boston College safety Will Harris.
5-10-5 Shuttle: 4.12
Standing Jump: 10’3”
Long Shuttle: 11.42
12 G, 75 tackles (43 solo), 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FR
47 G, 225 tackles (139 solo), 7.5 TFL, 5 INT, 6 FR, 7 PD
- Scheme Versatility
- Strong Athletic Traits
- Physical Tackler
- Can Cover TEs/RBs/SRs in Man
- 4-Down Utility
- 2-Year Captain
- Mediocre ball production numbers (5 INTs, 7 PD, 6 FR in 47 G) despite high athletic traits
- Not the best instincts for the play developing around him in zone
Reasons Why the Patriots Would Draft Him
Harris is a natural athlete who would be an asset in the secondary and in the kicking game. At 6’1” 207, he’s big enough to stick with TEs and RBs in coverage while also handling the box duties as well. The Patriots’ best teams had that type of player who could cover TEs, RBs, and also play in the box against the run with Rodney Harrison and Patrick Chung. In addition to playing a box rule in single-high or 3-deep schemes, he has enough speed and athleticism to play the deep half in a 2-deep scheme. The versatility to be able to be productive in man vs. zone makes him a solid fit for the Patriots, who like to change their defensive scheme to take away the strengths of the opponent. On top of the potential versatility at play, the senior safety was also named a team captain for the Eagles for 2017 and 2018.
Here he is in the Senior Bowl blanketing one of the Pulpit’s favorite slot receiver prospects Andy Isabella (who ran a 4.31 40, 4.15 20SS, and 6.95 3C) in single coverage.
Harris is an instinctive player who gives 100% effort on every play and hits like a truck when he tackles players in the box or the open field. His willingness to be physical and the ability to make open field tackles makes him also a great fit for the kickoff and punt coverage units, where his 4.41 speed is an asset.
Reasons Why the Patriots Would Not Draft Him
I have to think he’s on the Patriots’ board somewhere, the only question is if he’s available in the range the Patriots are comfortable taking him. I would also not be surprised if he’s on Detroit, Tennessee, or Miami’s radar as well given his versatility on the back-end. At the same time, the Patriots might not be too interested at the safety position with Obi Melinfonwu and Duron Harmon at the position behind the aforementioned McCourty and Chung. Given that Harmon saw a reduced role against the speed of the Chiefs and the Rams and Melinfonwu pretty much didn’t play much at all, that’s very little of a concern for me. Duke Dawson is also a potential factor in the safety mix, although he’s a smaller DB at 5’11” 197 and isn’t as quick-twitch as Harris despite excellent production as a slot corner.
Who He Needs to Beat Out: Obi Melinfonwu, Duke Dawson
Rookie Year Projection
Given the potential 4-down utility at play, Harris can contribute right away in the kicking game where his 4.41 speed would be an asset in kick/punt coverage. There isn’t much room for him in the safety rotation behind McCourty, Chung, and Harmon, but given that two of those players will be 32, you have to consider the potential long term at the position. On top of the special teams snaps, Harris will see some action at the safety position both in preseason and late in games in which there is a blowout or the team has nothing to play for in the final week of the season.
Longer Term Projection
Harris the natural replacement for Chung as a hybrid SCB/SS/extra linebacker role. He boasts the athleticism and size to be able to handle such an important role. Even as he becomes a major part of the safety rotation, Harris will also see a solid amount of special teams snaps in kick/punt coverage as well as the FG block unit due to his speed and quick-twitch athleticism.
Grade: 4/5 Future Starter
Put Harris on your short list of potential 2nd round safety reaches, although he is bigger, more physical, and more athletic than the last two reaches at the position. While he faces an uphill battle to find a spot in the safety rotation, I believe his ability to play multiple roles in the secondary makes him a better fit than some of the defensive backs currently on the roster and after the trio of McCourty, Chung, and Harmon there aren’t any locks to a potential 53-man roster.