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    Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State | NFL Draft Scouting Report

    He's a former five-star recruit without an elite production profile, but can Ohio State EDGE Zach Harrison leverage his physical upside into early capital?

    Since 2021, and perhaps even earlier, the ascent of Ohio State EDGE and 2023 NFL Draft prospect Zach Harrison to the NFL level has been heavily anticipated. After a productive, but at times, underwhelming collegiate career, Harrison has a wide range on the draft board — but, in the right hands, he has the tools to potentially be a steal.

    Zach Harrison NFL Draft Profile

    • Position: EDGE
    • School: Ohio State
    • Current Year: Senior
    • Height/Weight: 6’5 1/2″, 269 pounds
    • Length: 36 1/4″
    • Wingspan: 85 1/2″
    • Hand: 10″

    Harrison is one of those players you keep tabs on as an NFL prospect the moment he gets out of high school. He was a consensus five-star recruit, whose arrival at Ohio State was met with endless fanfare.

    The excitement was well-placed. Harrison was a long and lanky 6’6″ defender who was already over 240 pounds out of high school. He clocked a 4.47 40-yard dash at his size and had a documented vertical jump close to 40″. Harrison’s talent was a national spectacle, and when he logged 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his true freshman season, the excitement only grew.

    After 2019, however, Harrison stagnated. In a shortened 2020 campaign, Harrison logged 4.5 TFLs and two sacks. And in 2021, he added a mere six TFLs and two sacks to his stat line.

    Harrison was by no means bad in his second and third seasons. But for a former five-star recruit with early-round aspirations, he left many onlookers wanting more. In 2022, however, he brought some of that desired progression.

    Once again earning a spot as a starter on the Buckeyes’ defense, Harrison embarked on a career-best campaign, totaling 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception, four pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. The highlight of his season? A dominant two-sack outing against projected early-round tackle prospect Jaelyn Duncan.

    Harrison has always had a strong profile off the field. He was a team captain in 2021, a scholar-athlete, and a member of the Big Ten’s Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. But now, Harrison has the production to back up his talent. Is it enough to lift him into the early rounds?

    Zach Harrison Scouting Report

    Harrison’s physical upside is alluring. NFL coaches, in particular, who view prospects with the expectation of coaching them up, could fall in love with the potential that Harrison possesses.

    Harrison’s Positives

    Teams like Ohio State have a habit of drawing the freakiest athletes. Harrison is about as freaky as they get. He has dominating size, with a long, burly frame, and an elite wingspan.

    With his rare length and frame density, Harrison has quantifiably elite raw power capacity, and that’s a central part of his game. Harrison has the power capacity to generate displacement with long arms and bull rushes, and work tackles off-balance. He also has the rotational power and torque to drive blockers into the turf with superior leverage.

    Harrison is undoubtedly powerful, but what certifies him as a freak athlete is the explosiveness he brings with that power. The Ohio State EDGE possesses excellent initial explosiveness off the line. He gets off the snap with torrid quickness and covers ground quickly downfield with long, powerful strides.

    Going further, Harrison has flashed the ability to carry acceleration around the edge on pass-rushing reps, and he uses his straight-line explosiveness to quickly pressure angles and convert speed to power. His 34.5″ vertical and 10’3″ broad jump at almost 270 pounds help to convey his natural burst.

    Beyond his length and explosiveness, Harrison has a measured degree of twitch and flexibility. He’s able to get linemen off-balance with lateral moves, then capitalize with burst. While his bend isn’t elite, he does have legitimate ankle flexion. He’s shown to reduce his surface area and pinch tight angles around blocks while sustaining acceleration.

    With his blend of traits, Harrison has the ability to execute in both phases — against the run and the pass. In run defense, Harrison is able to extend inside the torso, then lock out and draw power up from his base, driving blockers back.

    He can blast blockers off their spot in run support with ruthless, powerful extensions, and has the length and core strength to set a strong edge as a run defender. With his strength and lateral burst off the snap, Harrison surges into gaps, wrenches up blockers, and swarms running backs as they enter lanes.

    Meanwhile, as a pass rusher, Harrison can win around the edge with heavy rip moves and cross-chops. His power profile makes him tailor-made for bull rushes, long-arms, and push-pull moves, but he’s also able to stack inside clubs and rips while employing ankle flexion and fast, violent hand usage with his length.

    While his full application and consistency can still improve, Harrison does have a working arsenal of pass-rushing moves. Beyond that, he has the burst and bend to win around the apex, as well as the raw power to drive straight through tackles and barrel into the pocket. That complete physical toolbox is extremely enticing.

    Predictably, Harrison’s combination of size and athleticism can make him dangerous in pursuit. It also helps that he’s an urgent defender with a good motor in both phases, and he keeps his energy high through second-effort opportunities. The Ohio State EDGE has enough athleticism and length to get out in space and blanket running backs escaping to the flats.

    Harrison also brings exceptional closing burst in pursuit. With his length and explosiveness, he engulfs ball carriers and has very good straight-line pursuit speed in space. Additionally, Harrison improved his read-and-recognition abilities as an option defender over the course of 2021.

    Harrison’s Areas for Improvement

    While Harrison has ankle flexion and bend, his torso can be stiff at times. That stiffness limits the amount he can shrink his surface area and sometimes prevents him from rolling his hips through rushes. Harrison’s rushes do occasionally fade at the apex, when he’s unable to dip below blockers.

    With his size, Harrison can also struggle with leverage. He sometimes drifts upright after making contact, causing his leg drive on power rushes to stall out. The OSU EDGE also often comes out of his stance with his pad level too tall. When this happens, his extensions can cause lurching and neutralize his lower body from rushes.

    Harrison’s pad level as a rusher still has room to become more consistent. Stiffness and poor leverage can dilute opportunities for him on passing downs. His pad level also hurts in run support. Harrison needs to anchor lower and acquire better leverage, as he can be worked back past his center of gravity when he plays too high up.

    Moving onward, Harrison can be a bit stiff laterally when he has to change directions quickly. He’s more of a linear athlete overall. He also sometimes struggles to unlatch and break anchors in run defense. His hips aren’t flexible enough to pry around blockers in pursuit consistently. To that end, the Ohio State EDGE doesn’t have elite play strength, and Harrison often experiences a delay when trying to break through extensions.

    While Harrison shows glimpses of excellent hand usage, there’s still room for him to refine his craft and be more consistent as a pass rusher. His hands have fast capacity, but they’re sometimes heavy and looming. Harrison has room to maximize energy efficiency on rushes, and he could do a better job sustaining rushes and stacking pass-rush counters. The Ohio State EDGE has rushing moves, but he sometimes experiences delays between them.

    In a similar vein, Harrison can better load and re-exert power with his hands on occasion. He doesn’t always load maximum potential energy ahead of extensions and has some wasted motion in his upper body.

    Current Draft Projection for Ohio State EDGE Zach Harrison

    Harrison lands just inside my top 75 in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s a Day 2 prospect on my board, with physical upside worth considering in the mid-to-late Day 2 range. Depending on team size and length thresholds, he could be a surprise top-50 pick as well.

    Harrison carried first-round upside throughout his collegiate career, and while he never quite rose to that level as a prospect, 2022 was a step in the right direction. Harrison had his most productive year to date, showing off improved pass-rush nuance, bend application, and finishing ability as a rusher.

    The majority of Harrison’s appeal still comes from his high-level physical skill set. At his size, with arms over 36″ and a dominating wingspan, Harrison has elite traits. He combines them with elite explosiveness and exceptional pursuit speed. Especially when his path is linear, Harrison can be very disruptive, and he has enough ankle flexion to work around the apex.

    Harrison could still be more consistent with his hand work, but his overall pass-rush arsenal is vast — a product of his complete athletic skill set. He naturally wins with power and strength, but he also has a variety of chops, rips, and swipe combos. He even has enough bend to execute a dip-and-rip.

    Consistency is the name of the game with Harrison. For a prospect with his high-level traits, he disappears too often as a pass rusher, and his leverage management still needs work in run defense.

    Nevertheless, as a 4-3 defensive end or hybrid front rusher with alignment versatility and the ability to work from three and four-point stances, Harrison has the physical potential worth investing in within the top 100. He’s a valuable rotational player right away, with starting upside within a couple of years.

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