Virginia’s Eli Harold is very Seahawky

If the Seahawks want tough, gritty players with plus athleticism — Eli Harold has to be a strong candidate if he makes it to their pick in the first round. We’ve talked about him a lot this year without dedicating a full debate to his talents. It’s time to have that discussion.

There might not be a more ‘Seahawky’ defender in the 2015 draft — and his back-story is a good place to start. Here’s Mark Giannotto writing in the Washington Post (note, Walter Harold is Eli’s older brother):

On Nov. 13, 2010, Walter Harold’s son, Forrest, unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart while playing basketball on the campus of Old Dominion University. It was a condition that had gone undetected and sent the family reeling.

Little did Eli know that at the same time, their mother, Sheila Korvette, was battling pancreatic cancer. Walter, Eli’s sisters and his mother kept the diagnosis from him until a few days before Korvette died in her Virginia Beach home on Jan. 2, 2011.

Those initial days afterward, once Eli moved in with Walter, are moments they still remember vividly. Previously, Walter had served as the closest thing to a father figure in Eli’s upbringing, but he had his own family to deal with. “We went everywhere together,” Eli says of their relationship.

Walter also admits to dealing drugs and was convicted of cocaine possession in 1991 before finding God and reforming. When tragedy struck, he worried about Eli making the same mistakes.

“All we had was each other. We didn’t really have nobody to talk to,” said Walter…. “When his mom passed, he was real angry. He started beating on the walls and stomping. He don’t show a lot of emotion, but he was devastated. We talk about it with each other.”

I get the sense, like most NFL teams, Seattle’s front office has a lot of time for a player who has battled adversity. Hasn’t had life easy. Has suffered a setback and become stronger as a consequence. We saw it with Russell Okung — who had to be the father figure to his siblings when his father passed away. We saw it with Bruce Irvin, who flirted with trouble before finding inspiration in football. We saw it with Russell Wilson — a quarterback doubted constantly due to a lack of height who also lost his father at a young age.

Harold has faced adversity — and when you combine that with his athletic potential there’s a lot to appreciate here. He was an elite prospect in high school — a true 5-star recruit. He was touted to play receiver, linebacker or defensive end — flashing a tremendous wingspan and closing speed. A Virginia native, he had his pick of the top colleges. Florida, LSU, Ohio State and more. They all showed interest. He chose to stay local.

He’s admitted to struggling to keep weight on. He has a high metabolism and lingered at 225lbs early in his Virginia career. They wanted him at 245lbs ideally. According to ESPN, he played at 250lbs in 2014. That’s a positive sign. When you look at his frame it’s almost ideal for the LEO position. The length is perfect — 6-4 and nice long arms. He’s incredibly athletic with fantastic foot speed. The burst and explosion is all there. The Seahawks have to like this guy. Have to.

The tape isn’t always great, however. I’ve watched three Virginia games from 2014 and he’s pretty boom or bust. There are times where he just gets smothered by bigger linemen and it hints at further work at the next level and maybe even something akin to a redshirt year (like Jordan Hill). His production dropped off considerably in the second half of 2014 — he had 1.5 sacks in his last seven games for Virginia (although he had 6.5 TFL’s) and struggled to make an impact against Florida State’s offensive front. The potential is there for all to see but he needs to learn to counter and not just rely on speed. He’s not quite adept yet at converting speed-to-power — although you see flashes of brilliance. Against Louisville he shoved the tackle into the backfield before exploding to the quarterback for a splash play. He just needs more time, more experience and further strength work. He’ll get there.

On the very next play in that Louisville game he lined up in a three-man front and just shot by the guard — who turned around in disbelief wondering what just happened. Another splash play. After that, he disengages an interior lineman to chase down the quarterback for a loss of two at the right sideline. Since I started writing this blog in 2008 I’m not sure I’ve seen acceleration like this from a defensive lineman. If you give him a lane he’ll impact the play — 4-3 and 3-4 teams will love this aspect and will enjoy trying to find ways to get him into space. You can just imagine him lining up next to Cliff Avril off the right edge — Avril absorbing the attention of the left tackle and Harold exploding into the backfield. It’d be pretty damn hard to defend.

He’s a respectable individual who speaks well. He leads. He’s also capable of being led — as evidenced by his appreciation for coach Mike London and his defense of said-coach when he came under fire:

The coach returned the favor when he made the decision to declare:

“Eli is an exceptional young man and has the potential to be a great professional player… I appreciate the passion, effort and heart he brought to our program.”

A combination of rawness and a slow burning college career could temper expectations at the next level, making him a viable option for the Seahawks in round one. I think any hope for that will change at the combine. He’ll run a blistering ten-yard split and forty yard dash. He should test well across the board. He has ideal length and size. He could be a faster version of Brian Orakpo — who went in the top-15. Harold should easily top Orakpo’s 1.58 ten-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran 1.50’s — he should target that mark.

He might be the perfect edge rusher within this class for Seattle’s scheme and identity. It’s just a matter of whether after the combine the Seahawks will have any shot at taking him. Don’t be shocked if he winds up in the top 15-20 based on upside.

Another talented Virginia pass rusher — Max Valles — surprisingly announced his decision to enter the draft this week. We’ll take a look at him over the next couple of weeks.


  1. CC

    He reminds me a bit of a younger faster Clem. We also know that the Seahawks like Virginia guys! Nice find – thanks Rob!

  2. OZ

    Valles looks good also…..

  3. Michael M.

    Rob, I’d like to get your thoughts on Christian Covington – DT from Rice. I’ve heard him referred to as a bargain version of Aaron Donald. Have you seen him play at all?

    • Rob Staton

      I think the Donald comparison is unfair. Donald is that good — it’d be like saying someone is a bargain Earl Thomas. I’ve seen one game and he was interesting, but I think tempering expectations is best.

  4. Cameron

    I think the numbers I’ll be most interested from seeing from Harold at the combine will come during the weigh-in. I’m highly skeptical of his 240 lb listed weight, as he seems very rangy and long. Sort of reminds me of Dion Jordan in stature (shorter obviously).

    I think he’ll get comped to Bruce Irvin by the SDB crowd and for good reason. He looks like a pretty one dimensional prospect to me, a fantastic edge rusher who will struggle if a tackle or guard gets hands onto his shoulder pads. For me though, Bruce is the superior overall talent. I think he flashed a counter at WVU and was better with his hands. Harold does have a nifty little stutter (fake the inside move) and go however.

    For some of the same reasons Bruce Irvin was considered a reach, I expect Harold will be viewed as a 2nd round or later pick by most teams.

  5. Ukhawk

    Harold or Golden? Production vs potential?

    As much as I like Golden, I’m worried as a former RB he is maxed out size wise and doesn’t possess the length hence could be neutralised much more so in the pros – will need to wait for his 10yd split. The downside risk is he is another Upshaw.

    Harold on the other hand has the speed and length which I prefer but likewise does he have room to grow, is he small waisted?? Seen the highlights but how does he play the run?? Think the Hawks are happy to develop size/strength and if the potential is there I say go for it.

    Fallback is they could be used to be LB if he couldn’t make it as a LEO but we’ve just resigned Wright and have already done this with Irvin so flexibility is less there. Bottom line is while we do need to augment our pass rush with younger guys, maybe we get them later in the draft as we have bigger needs. Maybe Orchard or Mauldin are better bets later? Also I favour a bigger or better power/speed mix type of DE a la Dupree, Fowler etc unfortunately they are probably gone.

    • Volume 12

      I like Louisville DE-LEO Lorenzo Mauldin as well. He has the length, the athleticism, and would fit in a rotation. If we’re talking about prospects who have an incredible back-story, then Lorenzo Mauldin checks every box. He was homeless on the streets of Atlanta, was a ward of the state, and lived in 16 different group/boys homes. Never had any parents, dances in between plays, is ‘gritty,’ coaches love and rave about him, and has a really good head on his shoulders.

      • Ukhawk

        Thx for the reply Volume12. Also wanted to say with so many pass rushers available, forgot to mention I agree with your previous posts and also like ‘OO’ from UCLA. In fact, maybe he is my preference for a later round pass rusher and just above true LEO Orchard. ‘OO’ has got the quicks and length, plus brings the speed/power mix and the flexibility to play both ends and inside…..

        • Volume 12

          Your welcome my man.

          Yes, I’m a big fan of OWA, and your right, his versatility is very appealing. Big fan of Utah DE-LEO Nate Orchard as well. There’s just so many damn good edge rushers available this year. I think the consensus in the community here has been that Seattle does need another LEO to add to the mix. And with so many good ones in every round really, were all just trying to figure out and familiarize ourselves with where or who Seattle takes this year, in regards to the LEO position.

          • Hay stacker509

            I’m still going to pound the drum some more like another poster has but
            WSU DT/DE Xavier cooper 6’4 295. Monster on the line and was constantly double teamed this year and still was thriving in the backfield. He was the one bright and shiny star on an otherwise crappy D!
            I’m not proclaiming him to be a first by any means but I would pull the trigger on a low end 2nd and every pick after the second.

            • Volume 12

              Louisville DE-LEO Lorenzo Mauldin may end up a steal in the 2015 Draft class. He’s got athleticism, length, has one of the more jaw dropping back-stories, is ferocious, gritty, big time personality, kind of looks like a ‘Seahawk.’ He does need some refinement, but man, pair this guy with DE-LEO Cliff Avril, combined with the mentorship he’d get on this D, and we could be looking at a fan favorite in a year or two. Would love this guy in the 2nd or 3rd.


  6. rowdy

    Bud dupree is the most seahawky defender in this draft, Harold does play though

    • rowdy

      Plays fast*

    • Rob Staton

      I expect Dupree to be long gone when Seattle’s on the clock.

      • rowdy

        I know and it’s too bad, he would be perfect for the hawks.

  7. Phil

    Rob – I know you like to report on the background stories of some of the potential draftees.

    Here’s the background of Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA’s DE — one of my favorites. It discusses his mother, a Nigerian immigrant who struggled to raise her sons as a single-mother while pursuing a nursing degree. As the oldest of her sons, he became the man of the house as a teenager.

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks for the link Phil.

  8. Volume 12

    Speaking of, or since we’ve been more or less discussing the LEO position…

    Check out Virginia DE-LEO/ATH Max Valles-6’5, 240 lbs. 2014 season totals: Led the team in QB sacks with 9.5, 12.5 TFL (over 25% of his career tackles have been TFL), 4 QB hurries, 4 FF. This kid may have some of the longest arms I’ve seen on a DE. He’s only 19 years old!, and quite the physical specimen, is a former TE, and reportedly every bit the athletic freak, if not more so, than DE-LEO Eli Harold is. If he had stayed 1 more year in school, we’re talking 1st or definitely high 2nd round pick.

    Now with that being said, he is extremely raw and unrefined and therefore would be a project pick or obviously brought along slowly, but man this kid has some drooling/mouth watering potential! He seems like the type of upside pick Seattle seems to make every year in the mid rounds. He’d be a great addition with one of their comp picks in the 3rd or 4th round. He’s still learning how to play the game and that has to be very appealing for a defensive minded HC like PC.

    With this more than likely being an offensive heavy draft, he could be that LEO type we’ve been debating who only gets a certain % of snaps, which in my mind, would suit him perfectly

  9. Volume 12

    I’m gonna get burned at the stake for this, but here goes. Besides 2010 when they were picking in the top 15, when has Seattle ever taken a prospect that has so called ‘fell’ during the draft? If anything they take guys who many consider to be 2nd or 3rd round picks.

    To me, that seems like a much more sound strategy, because you can’t bank on guys falling, but you can bank on teams under-estimating or overlooking prospects.

    • Phil

      Vol. 12 — help me understand. If teams “under-estimate” or overlook prospects, this causes them to fall in the draft. So, how are you differentiating between prospects that “fall” and those that are under-estimated or overlooked?

      • Volume 12

        Thank you Rob.

        Phil, I’m talking about their first round or first overall picks. As for under-estimated or overlooked, WR Paul Richardson is a perfect example of a guy who was overlooked for whatever reason, whether it was due to him being to ‘skinny,’ or playing for Colorado, OLB Bruce Irvin was another guy, maybe teams thought he was too much of a ‘tweener,’ or had character red flags.

        As for differentiating between the two, I’m saying guys who are considered first round ‘locks’ so to speak. Remember WR Marqise Lee last year? Seattle tends to take guys who aren’t being discussed or mentioned as 1st round picks. I hope I’m making sense.

        • JeffC

          Not sure if Prich was overlooked or he just encountered a year where the volume of impact receivers was high. The draft blogs I read had him consistently going in the second round, which is pretty good. I think much of the surprise was that seattle took another smallish WR rather than move for a bigger guy. I didn’t hate the PRich pick when it happened, but I was disappointed it wasn’t Bitonio and then a later pick for Martavis Bryant. As it is, the Prich pick will probably work out well and I expect him as a full time starter next season.

          I think if PRich were in this year’s draft, he’d be talked as a late first rounder.

          • Rob Staton

            I think that was the big surprise for me — I expected a bigger receiver and got it wrong. Richardson always had the talent and looked like a very solid second rounder.

            • JeffC

              Nice find on both Bitonio and Bryant from you last year, btw. I peruse about a half dozen writers/bloggers (among them Rang, McShay, and Kiper) and you were the first that targeted those players. and both have had impacts.

              • Rob Staton

                Thanks man.

                • OZ

                  Rob was not a Bryant fan….

                  • Rob Staton

                    I may have had concerns about his character but I was enough of a fan to mock him in the first round.

    • Rob Staton

      I suppose you could argue Golden Tate fell in 2010… and Jesse Williams in 2013. But there aren’t many examples.

    • TwistedChopper

      Part of this is due to guys they are targeting NOT FALLING to them. It’s known they were targeting DT Dominique Easley in last years draft who was just a great athlete, but might fall because of an ACL injury. That’s the kind of guy who falls that the Seahawks might draft. The guys who fall that the Seahawks don’t draft are the Bjorn Werner’s of the world (first estimated as a top 5 pick, fell to late 1st) who fall in the draft because of lack of ideal measurables.

  10. JeffC

    Here’s one of those nice David Hsu articles:

  11. AlaskaHawk

    Rob, I would be curious of any mid round defense tackles that you like.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Ps Go Hawks!!!

    • Rob Staton

      The two names that spring to mind are both Oklahoma players — Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue. I really like Vincent at Missouri (suggested by Volume12). I like Preston Smith as a flex guy — he will be a really nice pick for someone. Very few orthodox DT’s have stood out for me this year that I would feel comfortable taking in the mid rounds — but I think the options are great early on with Brown, Goldman and Phillips in particular.

  12. Volume 12

    Alaska, I’m not Rob by any means, but I am a big proponent of Seattle taking a interior pass rusher in the mid rounds and a run-stuffer in the late rounds. A lot can and will change between now and after the combine, but since your interested here’s some of my personal favorites/who I see as a good fit for the Hawks. These aren’t in any particular order.


    Marcus Hardison, DT/DE, Arizona St.: 6’4, 290 lb.- 4.7 40 yard dash, probably a fast riser
    Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson: 6’1, 295 lbs.- son of former Falcon Jessie Tuggle, Ray Lewis has mentored him since he was 5. A Physical specimen, sheds and swats blockers very well, big on family
    Chuka Ndulue, DT/DE, Oklahoma: 6’3 285 lbs.- great competitor, intense, interesting back-story, a ‘man amongst boys’ so to speak
    Ray Drew, DT/DE, Georgia: 6’4, 280 lbs.- former 5 star recruit, big personality (check out some of his quotes), Greg Scruggs like with more athleticism
    Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio St: 6’4, 292 lbs.- Really hope he declares, wild be a better pro than college player, a ‘man-child’, great competitor, plays angry
    Preston Smith, DT/DE, Miss. St.: 6’5, 280 lbs- Great athlete, plays motivated, versatile, good length
    Darius Philon, DE/DT, Arkansas: 6’2, 275 lbs.- Impressive wingspan, gritty, don’t know a whole lot about him, seems intriguing
    Louis Trina-Passat, DT, Iowa: 6’2, 294 lbs.- Definition of a ‘lunch pail’ guy, interesting personality, intense, competitive

    1-techs/nose tackles

    Chucky Hunter, DT, TCU: 6’0, 302 lbs.- One of Bruce Feldman’s ‘top 20 freaks of CFB’, not your prototypical 1-tech, amazing strength, great back-story, quick feet, TCU’s motto is ‘1 heartbeat, 1 family’
    Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa: 6’4, 308 lbs- Amazing length/wing span, again not a prototypical 1-tech, good athlete, could be a steal
    Terry Williams, DT, East Carolina: 6’1, 350 lbs.- Some character red flags, very unique, moves extremely well for his size, has ‘swag’
    Tyler Davison, DT, Fresno St: 6’2, 310 lbs.- former wrestler, underrated, pretty versatile
    Lucas Vincent, DT, Mizzou: 6’3, 300 lbs.- Nasty, may end a better pro than college player, decent length, intriguing, not sure if he’s completely a 1-tech
    Antwaun Woods, DT, USC- 6’1, 315 lbs.- Hoping he declares, great back-story, from L.A. (we know PC typically drafts guys from L.A.), intense, nasty/gritty, has swag, typical 1-tech

    This isn’t a finalized list, just some guys who popped into my mind. I personally like Marcus Hardison and Grady Jarrett for 3-techs and Chucky Hunter and Antwaun Woods for 1-techs.

    • Michael (CLT)

      I love Jarrett and Hunter. Both need to add strength, but show nice feet, the ability to track the ball, and will be there in thr 2-4 rounds (today, at least).

      I consider Philon a round one guy. I’m also unsure if Philon has declared.

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