Taking a weekly look at various players who could tempt the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, watching at least three or four of their games. As the draft gets closer, I'll post these reports more frequently and take a look at other rounds as well.
Player: Eli Harold
Position: Outside linebacker
Weight: 247 pounds
Projected round: Late first, early second
Games watched: Florida State, Miami, Louisville and parts of UCLA.
What I liked: Flashed potential as a pass-rusher because of a good first step (when he reacts to the ball and not the man at the snap). Liked how he kept his balance as a rusher around the edge; he does a good job of staying low in his stance and after his first few steps. It gives him a chance and it enabled him to turn the corner. At times he had a quick get-off – against Florida State on some rushes he was a good yard or so ahead of his linemates. But that’s likely when he went off ball movement. Liked how against Miami, he was taken out of a play with a block but got back in the play and ran several yards downfield to help cause a fumble. Need to see more of that quality. He was able to beat Miami’s Ereck Flowers inside a couple times, but never finishing. He did a better job vs. Flowers when Virginia was winning big and Miami was forced to pass. Harold showed the ability to win inside; once he got to the inner half of his blocker, he could win with power. He rushed from both end positions and as a stand-up linebacker. Harold shows a nice burst from a four-point launch. While he's quick, others are definitely quicker. His 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash of 1.61 seconds is fine. (By comparison, Trent Murphy's 10-yard split was 1.67 seconds last year.)
What I didn’t like: Just didn’t see Harold make a whole lot of plays behind the line. Seems like there’s something to work with, but I would like to have seen more production. In the three-plus games that I watched, I saw one play made behind the line of scrimmage (he did have an interception off a tipped pass and forced a fumble). He’s considered an active player, but at times I did not like his pursuit if the play went away from him. On one occasion, it was a third-and-6 in which the quarterback ran to the right. As Harold jogged to the ball, the quarterback cut back inside. Had Harold not been jogging, he’d have cleaned up. Needs to work on winning with his hands; at times he tried to win with them, but there was too much of a gap between himself and the tackle for it to be effective. Seemed to react mostly on movement by the tackle; it led to some slower get-offs in some games. Seemed to lack a plan as a rusher. Flowers was able to get his head around him in the run game and seal the outside, though there were some times Harold did a nice job of forcing the runner back inside. He’ll need to learn how to disengage against stronger tackles - - or to not be thrown off his rush path by a hard shove.
Why they would want him: I think we’ve established by now the Redskins’ desire to add another pass-rusher. It’s like pitching in baseball: You can never have enough pass-rushers. Even if they believe Murphy will develop, adding another one would be good. That rusher would still be on the field 60-70 percent of the time and would help them have an impact on games. Seattle built a world-class defense in part because of its pass rush – and also crafted a secondary that paired well with that sort of line. Against Louisville, Harold did not play the run well and struggled to disengage. When he rushed from a stand-up position against Louisville, he did not always use his hips to generate power.
ESPN insider on his intangibles: “Nephew Forrest unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart while playing basketball in November 2010. Condition had gone undetected. Mother Sheila Korvette passed away from pancreatic cancer in January 2011. Brother, sisters and his mother kept the diagnosis from him until a few days before she died. African American studies major. Brother is a father figure to him. Brother also admits to dealing drugs and was convicted of cocaine possession in 1991 before becoming religious.”
How he fits: Harold would be an edge rusher and would need to develop against the run to become a full-time player. I’m not sold on him – not sure the film matched the workouts -- but my opinion doesn’t matter. So if they drafted Harold, he likely would be used as a third outside linebacker in nickel situations. If the Redskins drafted him in the second round, that would be good value. I was not wowed by him, but he has qualities that can be developed.