Continuing our look at the Patriots draft picks with a scouting report on safety Duron Harmon, the team's second third-rounder this year.
Alignment: Harmon aligned as a safety for Rutgers, often as a strong safety to the tight end side of the formation.
Build/athleticism: Harmon stands at 6-foot-1 and close to 200 pounds, with good thickness through his chest and lower half. He is a sturdily built safety who did not miss any extended time in college due to injury. He has good athleticism overall, good size, acceleration and quickness, but he's a little stiff in his hip swivel. He is not an overly reactive athlete and can get stuck at the top of routes in man-to-man coverage. An aggressive, hard-nosed safety.
Skills/traits: Much like former Rutgers and current Patriots teammate Logan Ryan, Harmon's aggressive, physical playing style shows up early on tape. He is a downhill player who is a very willing run defender and a sound, wrap-up tackler. He is just a sufficient man-to-man coverage player; because of his hip movements, receivers can beat him at the top of routes. He shows very good eye discipline and route recognition as a deep-half-of-the-field defender and takes good angles toward the football. He is a responsible, reliable over-the-top defender who gets to the right place, but he's not elite enough of an athlete to consistently get there early to force turnovers. He showed good ball skills in limited exposure of on-ball opportunities.
Projection: Also like Ryan, Harmon should benefit from not being forced into action immediately on defense as a rookie. Assuming Devin McCourty remains at free safety (there's little to suggest otherwise), there are three veterans who project ahead of Harmon on the depth chart: Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson and Adrian Wilson. But like another drafted safety from the 2012 class, Nate Ebner, Harmon should be an immediate contributor on special teams and will have the opportunity to learn from the veteran safeties ahead of him. One thought on Harmon is that while he may not play extensively on defense in 2012, the Patriots don't have an established strong safety of the future besides him on the roster. Adrian Wilson and Gregory are both in their 30s, and Tavon Wilson could be viewed as a free safety option. Harmon doesn't project to be a consistent playmaker in the back half of the field, but he's a tough, physical player who can be reliable as a developmental option.