Despite being relatively inexperienced at the position, Alabama’s Christian Harris has the potential to be one of the top linebackers in the 2022 NFL Draft. Can he follow in the footsteps of Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster, and C.J. Mosley as a first-round selection for the Crimson Tide?
Christian Harris NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 232 pounds
Christian Harris Scouting Report
As you would expect from someone who has only played the position for two years, Harris is a raw linebacker talent. However, he possesses some exceptional qualities that make him an exciting prospect. The Alabama prospect already demonstrates an excellent understanding of the position by being entrusted to communicate plays and ensuring teammates line up correctly.
Harris owns impressive athletic ability to boot. He moves incredibly well, showcasing a good change of direction. Harris explodes through gaps to be a force as a blitzer while possessing solid lateral agility to seek out the ball carrier in the ground game.
His athletic prowess, combined with his high school experience as a defensive back, helps Harris hold his own in coverage. He has proved he can stick with tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Areas for improvement
One of the most significant areas of concern as Harris transitioned to linebacker was with tackling ability. That remains the area where he could most improve his game. Although the Alabama linebacker exhibits the ability to come downfield and lay a heavy hit, he needs to refine his technique.
As a coverage linebacker, Harris needs to develop more awareness of the game behind him. He excels when the ball is in front of him. Yet, there are examples of receivers sneaking behind him, which may limit Harris to man-coverage-specific teams at the NFL level.
If Harris can elevate these elements of his skill set, it will solidify his status as a potential first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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, he never received an offer from the state’s powerhouse program, LSU.
Before his senior season, Harris committed to Texas A&M. However, 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 linebacker 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 him, but Harris 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. As a result of his stellar outings, Harris earned Freshman All-American honors from USA Today and ESPN. Additionally, he was awarded Freshman All-SEC merits by conference coaches.
Developing into one of the top linebackers in the nation
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. The Alabama coaching staff named him the team’s Defensive Player of the Week for his endeavors. Harris would add another four such awards against Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Auburn.
Against Kentucky, he set a new career-high single-game tackle record with 11, one of three double-digit tackle performances. Despite suffering an injury against Arkansas, Harris rebounded to record his first multiple-sack game in the SEC Championship win over Florida. Further highlighting a passion for the big game, he secured his first career interception in the College Football Playoffs against Notre Dame.
Harris finished the season with 79 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 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).
Harris returns to lead the Alabama LB group for the 2021 season. Another impressive campaign will almost certainly ensure that Harris receives first-round attention in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.