It’s officially NFL Draft month. While the 2020 NFL Draft won’t be business as usual this year, it still represents a dream come true for hundreds of prospects. However, being an undrafted free agent, or late-round pick, doesn’t kill the chances of a prospect to live out his dream. Such may be the case for underrated, but likely, undrafted free agent cornerback Reid Harrison-Ducros
What makes Reid Harrison-Ducros underrated?
The trait that’s going to intrigue NFL scouts and teams the most about Harrison-Ducros is his agility. Harrison-Ducros may be one of the most adept players in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class at flipping his hips and turning to run with the wide receiver. It’s completely seamless how he goes from back-peddling to flipping his hips and then running stride-for-stride with his receiver in coverage. More than just oily hips, Harrison-Ducros also possesses impressive change-of-direction skills. These two traits are absolutely vital for a cover cornerback.
These traits, however, don’t mean anything without either possessing the physicality needed to disrupt a wide receiver’s route or the speed to keep up with the wideout. What Harrison-Ducros lacks in physicality, he more than makes up for in the speed department.
It’s not a stretch to say that Harrison-Ducros has elite speed. Though he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, he was clocked at a 4.39 40-yard dash during workouts at Duquesne University. This time would have put him in a tie for second-fastest at the position with C.J. Henderson and Javaris Davis.
The combination of speed and agility makes Harrison-Ducros an underrated prospect, but he possesses one more trait that should ensure he gets a shot at his NFL dreams — ball skills. While some may overrate the importance of ball skills for a cornerback, NFL scouts certainly put an emphasis on it. In two seasons with the Dukes, Harrison-Ducros tallied 14 passes defended and four interceptions.
There’s a lot to like about Harrison-Ducros’ game and the traits he possesses. But we wouldn’t be talking about him as a priority free agent if there weren’t some serious reasons for caution. Harrison-Ducros is an underrated corner with great potential, but he doesn’t come without his flaws.
Why the NFL downgrades him
The NFL is constantly evolving, and scouting has to evolve with it. As wide receivers have gotten bigger, stronger, and faster over the years, so too have cornerbacks. Teams are more and more looking for cornerbacks who are over six-feet tall and have the length needed to cover the Mike Evans and A.J. Greens of the NFL, which does not play in favor of Harrison-Ducros. At just 5-foot-10, and a shade under 190 pounds, most teams aren’t going to see Harrison-Ducros as a cornerback to trust on the boundary.
He is likely to be relegated to an inside, slot cornerback position in the NFL. A position of importance, but one that limits his versatility in the eyes of the NFL. Another area where Harrison-Ducros’ lack of size shows up, and further limits his versatility, is in the tackling department.
As a smaller corner, Harrison-Ducros is forced to go lower than other bigger cornerbacks to make a tackle. This necessity can lead to diving for — and missing — a tackle. His lack of size can also lead to “business decisions” where he may not take the best angle to the runner and not get involved with the play at all, avoiding a tackling situation altogether.
What it all means for his future in the NFL
It’s possible that Harrison-Ducros slips into the latter portions of the NFL Draft. He has an intriguing combination of speed and agility. He’s also going to win some scouts over with his ability to play the ball and make plays for his team. However, his lack of size and the level of competition he faced at Duquesne is likely going to lead to most teams viewing Harrison-Ducros as a project.
On the right team, the positives can outweigh the negatives. As a priority free agent, Harrison-Ducros can make for an underrated gem at the back end of a team’s depth chart, who could one day develop into a solid nickel cornerback.