In the comments from the Justin Hunter topic yesterday, one name seemed to dominate the conversation: Mark Harrison. The predominant thought was that Seattle didn’t need to reach for Justin Hunter in round one if they could get a prospect like Mark Harrison much later. I hadn’t watched much of Harrison yet, so I figured I’d explore this topic and share my thoughts.
Harrison stands 6’3″ at 231 pounds and ran a 4.46 forty at the combine. There aren’t very many NFL receivers that play at 6’3″ 230, and even fewer that run fast while doing it. Andre Johnson is one of the very few. He’s 6’3″, 230, and ran in the 4.4’s during the 2003 draft run-up. There are a lot of 6’4″ guys that might weigh 215, but stocky, heavy, tall, fast receivers are pretty unique.
I think the thing that surprises me the most about Harrison is his arm length. I thought for certain that his arms would be shorter than Hunter’s, just going by the eyeball test. Hunter has 33″ arms, which is a very good arm length for a receiver. I thought Harrison might have 31″ or 32″ arms. He has 35″ arms. Few pass rushers in this draft have arms that long. Only two other receivers cracked 34 inches.
Harrison also posted a 38.5″ vertical leap.
Watching Harrison, I have no idea why he’s not at least considered a 3rd round prospect. Tony Pauline is a highly informed reporter in constant contact with NFL scouts, coaches, and executives, and while his draft rankings badly need an update, I tend to trust them (with a grain of salt, of course). Those rankings don’t even list Mark Harrison in the top 160.
One of my favorite things to do when talking about a prospect is to try to dig up some nugget of information that almost nobody knows about. I tried doing a google search on a quest for some Harrison reading, and well, there just wasn’t much out there. Outside of a token article here and there, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of people are talking about this guy.
Interestingly, Mark Harrison worked with star Chicago Bears’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall before the combine to work on his catching mechanics (as reported at Mocking The Draft). He also asked for advice from former teammate Mohamed Sanu.
Harrison never posted a 1000 yard season in college. He had just 583 yards (but had 6 touchdowns on just 44 receptions) last year. In 2010, he had his best season with 829 yards and 9 touchdowns (also on just 44 receptions). His yards per catch that season was an astronomical 18.8, which along with his touchdown numbers suggest that Harrison was a potent vertical threat at receiver. His yards per catch dropped to 13.3 last season.
I wonder if his usage changed as the team transitioned from centering around Mohamed Sanu to centering around Brandon Coleman. Coleman’s career yards per catch is an unbelievable 21.2. Maybe the team handed the deep threat mantle to Coleman and used Harrison as more of an all-purpose receiver?
At the very least, Harrison’s 2010 season proves what he is capable of- monster per catch production- which hints at him being a strong deep threat target. Last year Golden Tate and Sidney Rice posted very strong yards per target and touchdowns per target rates. Their potency in the deep passing game played a large part in that.
One of the things I like about Harrison is that while he may not have Percy Harvin type foot quickness, and can turn upfield quickly and shows burst in his acceleration. I don’t see that same kind of explosiveness in Justin Hunter, who clearly generates his speed through long strides.
Another thing I like- Harrison had a couple drops in this video, but I would think that’s an aberration based on his technique. He typically extends his hands to the football and always seems to take that extra moment after every catch to make sure he has the football before turning up field. And at 9.66″, Harrison has some of the largest hands among this year’s receiver class. It would be nice if he cut it out with the Willie Mays underhand stuff on deep throws though. He needs to face the ball and present a target with his hands instead, as he does (and does well) when executing his curl routes.
It was frustrating to watch Rutgers use Harrison so rarely on slants. Most of his receptions were on curl routes, with most of the rest of his targets coming on post routes. In fairness, Harrison runs a sharp curl route, but I think he’s a great weapon running diagonally across the field. The problem with a curl route is that they essentially kill yards after catch since the receiver is coming back to the football. If Harrison was open running across the field, he could catch a well placed pass and then use his outstanding acceleration to turn the reception into a potential home run play since a tackle wouldn’t be imminent like it is on a curl route or a well covered post route.
Harrison shows good awareness when a defender is about to go for a desperation ankle tackle. He fires his hamstrings to elevate his knees and ankles far off the ground, something that Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin often did last season when they sensed a defender might be about to go for their feet from behind.
I think Mark Harrison deserves a third round grade when compared to his peers in this draft class. But in a draft class that has far too many 2nd and 3rd round prospects to actually go in those rounds, we’ll see 3rd round receivers falling into rounds four and beyond. I think Harrison could be an excellent pick later on as Sidney Rice depth if the team opts for a more all purpose receiver early on, such as Ryan Swope or DeAndre Hopkins.