De’Jon Harris physically looks like a safety, but he doesn’t play like one.
And therein lies the reason why the New England Patriots linebacker went undrafted last month. But clearly the Patriots had some competition for the undersized Arkansas product’s services, because they gave him $140,000 guaranteed as part of his three-year rookie free-agent contract. That’s actually more guaranteed money than center Dustin Woodard received as a Patriots seventh-round pick. It’s the most guaranteed money the Patriots gave an undrafted free agent this spring.
An easy way to summarize Harris as a player: think former Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts. The Patriots lost Roberts in free agency to the Miami Dolphins earlier in the offseason. New England drafted him in the sixth round in 2016, and like Harris, he’s an undersized defender who’s best used as an inside linebacker moving downhill.
Harris ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 1.68-second 10-yard split, 9-feet, 3-inch broad jump, 4.32-second short shuttle and 18 bench press reps of 225 pounds at 6-feet, 234 pounds. He ran a 7.06-second 3-cone and registered a 33.5-inch vertical leap at his pro day in March.
For comparison’s sake, Roberts ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash with a 1.67-second 10-yard split, 4.26-second short shuttle, 7.20-second 3-cone, 36-inch vertical leap, 10-feet broad jump and 25 bench press reps of 225 pounds at 5-foot-11, 234 pounds at his pro day in 2016.
In an ideal world, an undersized linebacker would be more athletic than either player. And the testing numbers tell a pretty good story. Roberts plays faster, more explosive and stronger than Harris.
Harris is a thumper, however. “Scoota” was a three-year starter at Arkansas and registered triple-digit tackles in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He finished his college career with 26 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and nine passes defended.
Harris primarily played middle linebacker for the Razorbacks, though he did take some snaps in the slot. He’s at his best when he’s filling gaps close to the line of scrimmage. He has nice short-area quickness and can get to a ball-carrier in a hurry when moving forward.
He’s a slightly inconsistent wrap-up tackler who whiffed nine times in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. His 2.87 missed tackle-per-snap rate ranked in the bottom half of qualified FBS linebackers, per PFF. His 10.6 run-stop rate ranked in the 85th percentile, however.
If Harris can make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, we could see him as an early-down run-stuffer in the mold of Roberts. We’re not sure how much he can contribute on special teams because of his lack of speed. It takes a pretty special player to play inside linebacker at 234 pounds in the Patriots’ defense. We’ll see if Harris is up to the task.