Virginia safety Anthony Harris was a productive three year starter for the Cavilers who is currently recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Harris missed the Senior Bowl, was held out of his pro-day, and only ran the forty at the combine (4.56). The injury and the lack of pre-draft workouts has caused his draft stock to slip.
Harris had a pre-draft visit with the Vikings, so it’s safe to say they have enough interest in him to at least engage in the “do-diligence” process with the former All-American and All-ACC standout.
A talented safety like Harris falling to the mid to late rounds might to be a welcomed gift for the Minnesota Vikings secondary.
As a true freshman, Harris quickly made his mark in Charlottesville by playing in 13 games and collecting 14 tackles. He started all 12 games as a sophomore registering 87 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Harris enjoyed a breakout junior year starting 11 games and leading the nation with eight interceptions, 80 tackles, and six pass breakups. He returned for his senior season and played through shoulder pain producing 108 tackles, a sack, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Harris is a tall and long defender who can break on the ball with tremendous quickness. Zimmer loves length and nastiness in his secondary, and Harris has plenty of both. He’s not view as a physically strong or imposing prospect, but he loves contact and attacks in run support with some speed and aggression. Harris is a playmaker who likes to bait quarterbacks and jump routes. He plays the ball in the air very well and has great hands.
Harris is a bit frail for his size and could stand to add some strength and muscle. However, his skill set as a playmaking ball-hawk would be nice rotational complement to the newly signed run stuffing presence of Taylor Mays.
The 2015 safety class is not strong or deep. Last year four safeties were drafted in the first round, and this year only Landon Collins has a legitimate first round grade. Collins might be an option for the Vikings with the 11th pick, but my guess is the team will most likely look to find safety help in the later rounds. Specifically someone like Harris who has the demonstrated ability to make game-changing plays and the versatility to play the deep middle.
Harris has some highs and lows to his game tape. He has long arms and uses them well when wrapping up ball carriers. Harris is a rangy defender with good instinct who plays with some aggressiveness. Those are the traits that intrigue defensive minded coaches like Mike Zimmer. Zimmer is known as the “fixer”, and he will need to coach up Harris in the tackling department. The lack of strength and power on contact shows up too frequently on tape. It’s not because of a lack of burst, poor closing speed or an unwillingness to be physical, it’s simply a matter of frail body type and poor tackling technique due to a lack of strength and leverage.
If the the shoulder surgery question marks checkout, and if Zimmer thinks he can fix some strength issues, Harris just might be a target if he tumbles in the draft.