The Miami Dolphins have found a way to address a serious need at defensive end while also taking one of their top-ranked pass-rushers on their draft board, as the team drafted 22-year old Charles Harris out of Missouri with the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
Harris, who is regarded as somewhat undersized for a defensive end, standing at 6-3 and 253 pounds, is described as an explosive rusher off the edge with a great burst and hands while also being able to utilize an impressive spin move thanks to his background in basketball.
In his 2016 season for the Missouri Tigers, Harris accumulated 9 sacks and 12 tackles for a loss, and he was a two-time second-team All-SEC selection in his college career.
“The strengths of my game, you obviously see it on film." Harris said after being selected. "I get to the quarterback. I’m going to cause pressure, without a doubt. I’m going to get to the quarterback."
That's precisely what the Dolphins are drafting Harris to do, and General Manager Chris Grier revealed that Harris was one of two players in total that Miami had targeted at their spot in the draft, and that decision was made as early as an entire month ago back in March.
“The love for football oozes out of him." Grier said. "When you watch film, when you talk to the kid and ask questions as you try to get to know him as a person – to see if it matches with everything you are told as the schools and it does. He loves talking football and that is what he wants to do. For us, again, those are the traits we are looking for – those guys that love ball and it is the end-all, be-all for him, and that is truly what it is for this kid.”
Unfortunately, as talented as Harris is, there are some concerns regarding certain aspects of his game. He has shown a susceptibility to being pushed around by bigger blockers, and his inability to effectively set the edge and stop the run means Harris will - at least in the beginning - be utilized as a rotational pass-rusher rather than an every-down defensive end.
But Grier made it clear on Thursday that the team is not concerned with Harris's edge-setting ability, and they feel that the newest member of the Miami Dolphins will do just fine in that regard.
"Remember we talked in the pre-draft press conference we had, it was about things we are going to (do to) tweak the defense and doing things to help." Grier said. "So in the Wide 9, you can have players like this that can be good run-defenders. With his athletic ability and the stuff he can do – he is a tough kid. He can be better and he will be. We are very excited for his future.”
When the Dolphins went up to pick, they chose Harris over some other very talented players, not the least of which was Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, who eventually went 31st overall to the San Francisco 49ers who traded back up into the first round to select the falling star before he became a second-rounder.
Miami refused to spend a lot of time talking to Harris before the draft in order to avoid tipping their hand and giving an indication that he was the player they wanted all along. Clearly, it seemed to work. Now the question is whether or not it will work out for the Dolphins in the long-run, as now Harris will have to share time with Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, Williams Hayes and Terrence Fede in the defensive line rotation.
Harris is only the first of seven total picks that Miami has in the 2017 draft. The Dolphins have one second-round pick (No. 54 overall) and one third-round pick (No. 97 overall) on Friday, and then on Saturday they will have three fifth-rounders (166th, 178th and 184th overall) and one seventh-round pick (233rd overall).
Friday’s second round begins at 8 p.m. and Saturday’s fourth round begins at noon. There's still a lot of talent to be had, and if Miami wants to replicate their miraculous 2016 season, they must make wise decisions.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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