Entering the 2022 NFL Draft cycle as one of the top linebackers in the class, Christian Harris might have had an underwhelming campaign. However, finishing strong with the best performance of the year in the CFB National Championship has helped reignite interest in the Alabama LB. With that said, what does Harris’ scouting report reveal about his NFL Draft stock and potential at the position at the NFL level?
Christian Harris NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’0 1/2″
- Weight: 226 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 3/4″
- Arm: 32 1/8″
- Hand: 9 5/8″
Christian Harris Scouting Report
Harris entered the season as a raw linebacker talent, having only made the switch to the position in his freshman season. Nonetheless, his athletic upside and his play through two seasons made him a natural contender for the LB1 moniker in this 2022 NFL Draft class. While he hasn’t lived up to that level of expectation, Harris’ scouting report showcases some traits that ensure he’s not just a highly sought-after prospect but has a long NFL career as a starter.
Starting Harris’ scouting report anywhere other than his athletic upside seems pointless. The Alabama LB showcases great play speed, which is demonstrated in multiple facets of the game. He’s able to explode through gaps with exceptional penetration speed, thriving in the backfield. Meanwhile, he possesses the speed to be a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. Additionally, Harris’ speed allows him to cover even the most athletic TEs and RBs.
While his speed is impressive, Harris boasts other exceptional athletic properties. An upper-tier lateral athlete at the LB position, he plays with excellent change-of-direction ability with fluidity in his hips. This allows him to be able to react to plays with minimal wasted movement and arrive on the scene to make a play. While he plays better in space, this ability ensures he can be impactful in tight spaces.
Explosive, athletic linebacker with underrated physicality
For a linebacker who will ultimately be labeled as undersized for the next level, Harris likes to play the game with a particular brand of physicality. In this regard, you could argue he plays bigger than his size. He’s not afraid to come flying downhill and lay a hit on the RB or QB. Furthermore, he’s willing to use his physical approach to take on all shapes and sizes of offensive linemen.
In addition to his physicality, Harris has demonstrated some technical refinement in terms of block deconstruction. He has decent relative length, and he’s shown that he knows how to use that length and handwork to be disruptive. This is also apparent with his ability to challenge second-level blockers in the ground game.
Harris’ athletic ability, physicality, and some technical nuance are sometimes evident in pass coverage, as you’d expect from a former defensive back. His ability to click and close is particularly impressive in this regard. With the ability to impact the game in multiple areas, the Alabama LB has starting potential at the NFL level. While an ILB role might seem like his natural fit, his athletic profile could even see him adopt a 3-4 OLB alignment.
Areas for improvement
At a time when weighing athletic upside with proven technical ability is a hot topic, the Alabama LB is an interesting case. There’s no doubting that Harris can be a game-changer at the NFL level if a team can maximize his athletic capability and develop his technical aspects. That said, there are elements of improvement required on his scouting report.
As mentioned before, Harris will likely be deemed undersized at the NFL level. Despite boasting a muscular frame that demonstrates power, he weighs in at just 226 pounds and under 6’1″. For a player who likes to play with physicality, that could pose a problem.
There are some question marks over his tackling ability, too. While Harris hits like a hammer coming downhill, he’s had some issues in space. He’ll need to prove a more physical tackler in coverage to have sustained success at the NFL level.
Although he’s shown competitive toughness and leadership, there’s some cause for concern here. As mentioned late in this scouting report, Harris disappeared for swathes of his final season. He needs to play to a high level — and the best of his ability — more consistently.
Harris’ Player Profile
A four-year starter for University Lab High School, Harris was one of the best players in Louisiana. During his final two seasons, he helped lead the Cubs to 26 wins and consecutive state championships. Harris was a highly versatile piece of the puzzle, impacting the game on offense, defense, and special teams.
Even with that versatility, Harris didn’t play linebacker at all during his high school career. He lined up at wide receiver, where his size and speed made him tough to cover. He also played safety and cornerback on defense. His height (6’2″) made him difficult to throw against at the high school level.
Despite never lining up at linebacker for University Lab, 247 Sports tabbed him as the sixth-ranked inside linebacker in the 2019 recruiting class. Furthermore, Harris received a four-star ranking and was deemed the fifth-best player in Louisiana. Naturally, he earned in-state interest as part of over 25 offers. Yet, surprisingly, Harris never received an offer from the state’s powerhouse program, LSU.
Before his senior season, Harris committed to Texas A&M. But following a visit to Alabama during the Iron Bowl weekend, he backtracked from the Aggies and pledged his allegiance to the Crimson Tide. Harris’ performances as a senior earned him an invite to the All-American Bowl, where he played linebacker for the first time.
Harris’ career at Alabama
Having demonstrated the tackling ability to play LB at the All-American Bowl, Harris impressed during fall camp in Tuscaloosa. Harris was thrust into a starting role as a true freshman with injuries to multiple starters at the position. It might not have been the gradual introduction to college football that many had anticipated for Harris, but he thrived.
In his debut against Duke, he tallied 6 tackles. A year after being entertained by Alabama at the Iron Bowl, he secured his first forced fumble in one of the biggest rivalries in college sports. Harris closed the season with a career-high 9 tackles against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. In his debut campaign, he registered 63 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss (led all SEC freshmen), 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass breakup, earning freshman All-American and All-SEC honors.
With a year of development in the public eye, Harris flourished into one of the nation’s top linebackers in 2020. In the first game of the season against Missouri, he logged the first sack of his career. For his endeavors, the Alabama coaching staff named him the team’s Defensive Player of the Week. Harris would add another four such awards against Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Auburn.
Harris’ NFL Draft ascension
Highlighting a passion for the big game, Harris secured his first career interception in the College Football Playoff against Notre Dame. He finished the season with 79 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 1 interception. Despite being snubbed for All-SEC honors, he was a Butkus Award semifinalist (given to the top linebacker in college football).
Returning to Alabama for his junior season, Harris began the year expecting to join the likes of Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster, and C.J. Mosley as recent Crimson Tide first-round selections. That expectation appeared warranted after the opening weekend. Harris feasted on the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive line to the tune of 2 tackles for loss and a sack.
However, for large swathes of the 2021 season, he was something of a ghost in the Alabama LB group. As prospects like Nakobe Dean and Devin Lloyd elevated their NFL Draft stock, Harris didn’t appear to make the same leap. That said, he saved his best for last, and the biggest occasion of them all. The Alabama LB tallied 4 TFL, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble, albeit in defeat to Georgia in the national championship.
Ending the season on a high, Harris then showcased the athletic upside that will aid his NFL Draft stock at the NFL Combine. Running an excellent 4.44-second 40-yard dash, the Alabama LB also added impressive numbers in the broad (11’0″) and vertical jump (34.5″). While he may not attain the first-round projections from before the year, the athletic ability and technical refinement in some areas will no doubt make Harris an alluring NFL Draft prospect for some teams.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Christian Harris
Positives: Athletic defender who is a game-changing, three-down linebacker when hitting on all cylinders. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands, and quickly diagnoses plays. Immediately picks up coverage assignments, fluidly backpedals in reverse, and gets tremendous depth on drops.
Very effective in coverage, rarely gets knocked off his feet, and possesses a burst getting to the action. Quick and fluid moving in any direction, forceful up the field on blitzes, and very explosive. Easily stays with opponents on crossing patterns and shows speed in backside pursuit.
Negatives: Misreads plays on occasion and takes himself from the action. Not a stout tackler. Disappeared for long stretches last season.
Analysis: Harris is a gifted defender who performed well during Combine workouts and comes with a large upside. Though inconsistent at times during the 2021 season, Harris played exceptionally well as a sophomore and graded out as a first-round prospect. He possesses terrific upside, comes with scheme versatility, and could be a Day 1 starter.