Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, the Eagles are in a great position. Although they only have one pick in the first three rounds, Howie Roseman has done a great job of filling any needs for this roster. The position with the least amount of depth right now on the currently constructed roster is at safety. While there are two very capable starters in McLeod and Jenkins, the defense would struggle in a big way if one of them went down. Finding a safety in this year’s draft will be one of the top priorities for Roseman and there is one, in particular, that could still be there at the end of the first round.
The starting tandem of Alabama safeties are both entering the draft this year. While one of them will be a top-10 pick, the other will likely have to wait until the end of the first or early second round to hear his name called. Ronnie Harrison is a two-year starter for Nick Saban’s defense. In those two years, he racked up 86 tackles in 2016 and was tied for a team lead with 74 tackles in 2017. Harrison also had seven career interceptions in Alabama with two of them being in his freshman year when he didn’t even start.
Harrison is an athletic freak. While he did not run in the combine, it is suspected his 40-yard dash would’ve been a low 4.4 and possibly in the 4.3 range. This speed is what his game is predicated on. Harrison has the ability to fly to the ball incredibly fast whether it be in the passing game, running downhill to stop the run, or blitzing the quarterback. When a defender is fast, he usually comes with a tendency to hit hard and Harrison is no exception to this rule. The Alabama safety is someone you definitely do not want to see running at you across the field. Harrison can really do anything a defensive coordinator asks for.
While Harrison does possess Pro-Bowl potential, there are things he will have to work on. The NFL is a whole other level of talent and Harrison will need to be more cautious with his tackling. More often than not, you will see Harrison leaning in with the shoulder to tackle which will result in a fair share of misses in the NFL. Harrison also can rely too much on his athletic ability, whether it be to catch up to a wide receiver or make-up ground on a bad pursuit angle.
The Diagnosis: Starting Caliber Safety
With the flexibility that the Eagles have at this pick, expect them to take a player that doesn’t need to start right away but can replace an older, backloaded contract in a few years. Adding Ronnie Harrison could fill a need at backup safety, and learn from two of the best in the game to become a very capable starting safety when either McLeod or Jenkins leave.