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2017 NFL Draft: Charles Harris can be Missouri's next first-round defensive lineman

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The NFL Draft is over, but NFL Draft season never truly ends. Several Tigers on the 2016 team could work their way into the 2017 draft. This is our series on how that happens.

Charles Harris, first rounder?
Charles Harris, first rounder?

The 2016 NFL Draft is over, which means it's time to start wildly speculating about next year's draft. Last year I wrote a there were six players who could end up being drafted into the NFL: Evan Boehm, Connor McGovern, Kentrell Brothers, Russell Hansbrough, Kenya Dennis and Harold Brantley. Three of them were drafted this weekend, and two of them signed free agent contracts. Harold Brantley continues to recover from a serious car accident that could hold him out for a second year. Additionally, kicker Andrew Baggett will try out with the Cleveland Browns. Good luck to all of them.

Missouri has 11 seniors and 47 players who are redshirt sophomores or older. Realistically, only a few of them have NFL potential based on what we've seen so far in their careers. I took the liberty to pare down the list for this series to include only the most notable upperclassmen and sophomores (the key here is that the athletes have to be three years removed from high school).

Here's the list of players I think have NFL Draft potential:

NO. Year Name POS. Ht/Wt
1 R-SR Chris Black WR 5'11 190
80 R-SR Sean Culkin TE 6'5 245
10 R-JR Jason Reese TE 6'4 240
90 R-SR Harold Brantley DL 6'3 ???
97 SR Josh Augusta DL 6'4 335
95 R-SR Rickey Hatley DL 6'4 305
30 R-SR Michael Scherer LB 6'3 230
25 R-SR Donavin Newsom LB 6'2 230
11 SR Aarion Penton CB 5'10 190
5 R-SR John Gibson CB 6'0 190
22 R-JR Anthony Sherrils FS 6'0 190
16 R-JR Marcell Frazier DE 6'4 245
56 R-SO Walter Brady DE 6'3 255
91 R-JR Charles Harris DE 6'3 255
The list of Mizzou Tigers prospects lists begins with:

Charles Harris, DE, (6-3, 255, Jr.)

Ace defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski is gone to Miami, but newcomer Jackie Shipp has at least a somewhat comparable pedigree of putting lineman into the NFL. He has a great chance to add to his resume with redshirt junior Charles Harris. Barry Odom's staff will continue to modify the defense to incorporate more 3-4 techniques, but I believe this will accentuate Harris' strengths.

If you'll indulge me a bit, I'm going to reference Justis Mosqueda's "Force Player" metric, which aims to be a predictive model for 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers. In this article he references the similarity between Ezekiel Ansah, the fifth overall pick in 2013, and Shaq Lawson, the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Another player who seems to fall victim to ball reads is Shaq Lawson. Earlier this month, I noted that the only first-round edge defenders selected over the last decade who are clearly better athletes than Lawson are Von Miller, Melvin Ingram and Bruce Irvin. Despite that, some, like ESPN’s Todd McShay, have said Lawson is limited athletically.

On paper, based on the numbers off of the NFL’s combine "master recording sheet," which is sent to every franchise, Lawson is Ezekiel Ansah.

Ansah, on a per year basis, is one of the top 10 edge defenders drafted in the last decade. Interestingly enough, Ansah was viewed as "just an athlete" coming out of BYU. Lawson is being discussed as solely a technical edge-setter, when his upside says he has 10-sack potential. If you happen to rewatch Lawson between now and the draft,  with the different types of get-off reads in mind, you might have a moment of clarity, avoiding a potential misevaluation.

What stood out to me was the similarities between Harris and Lawson. If Harris maintains his tackles for loss and sacks pace, he would be on track to a Lawson-type year as a redshirt junior, which should vault him into first-round discussions.

EDGE Rushers
Year Clemson Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2013 Shaq Lawson ACC FR DE 13 16 14 30 9.5 4.0 1
*2014 Shaq Lawson ACC SO DE 12 16 18 34 11.5 3.5
2015 Shaq Lawson ACC JR DE 15 35 24 59 24.5 12.5 1
Career Shaq Lawson 67 56 123 45.5 20.0 1 1

Year Missouri Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2014 Charles Harris SEC FR DL 11 13 6 19 4.0 2.0 2 1
2015 Charles Harris SEC SO DL 12 32 24 56 18.5 7.0 1 2
Career Charles Harris 45 30 75 22.5 9.0 3 3

Harris was slightly behind Lawson in his freshman year but actually significantly outdid him as a sophomore. What remains to be seen is if he can improve further on those numbers in his junior year.

But, production isn't everything, especially not to the NFL, which covets athletes on the defensive line.

Looking at this past draft, here are the defensive ends with similar profiles to Charles Harris, their combine scores and where they were selected. Harris is listed at 6'3, 255 pounds, and since we don't expect him to grow significantly, we can start comparing him to where other edge rushers have gone based on their measurables. The important numbers to pay attention to are the shuttle and 3-cone drills, which measure an athlete's lateral quickness and agility, something very important to edge rushers and especially so in the force player metric mentioned above.

For an idea of what the 3 cone drill looks like, here's Terry Beckner running one as a freshman.

Name Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Shuttle 3 cone Vertical Broad Drafted
Shaq Lawson 6'2.5" 269 32¾" 10" 4.62 4.21 7.16 33" 120" 1st-19th
Emmanuel Ogbah 6' 4" 273 35½" 10" 4.63 4.50 7.26 35½" 121" 2nd-32nd
Noah Spence 6' 2" 251 33" 10¾" 4.80 4.35 7.21 35" 121" 2nd-39th
Yannick Ngakoue 6' 2" 252 32½" 9½" 4.75 4.50 7.35 34½" 118" 3rd-69th
Shilique Calhoun 6' 4" 251 34¼" 9⅞" 4.82 4.25 6.97 35" 115" 3rd-75th
Charles Tapper 6' 3" 271 34⅜" 11½" 4.59 ? ? 34" 119" 4th-101

A low 4.3 shuttle score and a low 7.2 3-cone drill score at 270 pounds are indicative of the kind of athlete Shaq Lawson is. We can see that it compares to players who are the same height but weight 20 pounds less. This is important because defensive ends are rarely running straight lines, instead trying to bend around the edge of offensive lines.

Harris is a fierce leader and dogged in his pursuit of the quarterback. He's stout against the run and I believe has the jump off the line to be an NFL-caliber pass rusher. He has a variety of pass rush moves and has shown he can set up guys and then counter. Where he's struggled in the past has been with agility. When Harris first took the field in relief of Markus Golden against Indiana, we saw he struggled with chasing down pitch plays outside. The same thing happened when he came in for the ejected Shane Ray in the SECCG against Alabama. It's my opinion that he showed improvement in his agility in the 2015 season, but we'll have to see how his measurables rate to truly be sure.

Charles Harris is athletic. The question is, can he add 15-20 pounds and still test well? Is he Yannick Ngakoue or Noah Spence, or is he a first-round prospect like Lawson and Ogbah (since the Patriots lost their pick, Ogbah's selection was basically like that of a first rounder).

There's also an exterior force that could play a role in how high Harris is drafted: the competition. This year's draft was somewhat light on pass rushers but the 2017 Draft could see several big names declare early as Dan Kadar notes in here, including Bama's Tim Williams and Johnathan Allen, Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, Auburn's Carl Lawson and Tennessee's Derek Barnett.

In summary, Charles Harris needs to have a Shane Ray-like year production wise (20+ TFLs, 14+ sacks) while testing better than Ray did at the combine to basically guarantee himself a first day selection. I believe he's currently a late-second or third round pick with a huge amount of potential upside.

What others are saying:

2017 NFL mock draft: Deshaun Watson and a bunch of running backs - SBNation.com

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri James Harrison is likely entering his final season, and Jarvis Jones is a free agent. Harris is an athletic edge rusher who will likely kick out to linebacker in the NFL.

Super-early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Pass rushers, RBs and Bama rule - CBSSports.com

26. Carolina Panthers Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: With Charles Johnson on a one-year deal, pass rusher could be a need next spring and Harris jumps off the screen during his highlight reel.

Cleveland Browns headline Todd McShay's way-too-early 2017 mock draft - NFL draft

14. Denver Broncos Charles Harris, DE, Missouri* A college defensive end who could convert to outside linebacker, Harris has speed to burn off the edge. He had seven sacks and finished second in the SEC behind Myles Garrett with 18.5 tackles for loss last season.

2017 NFL Mock Draft - WalterFootball.com

12. Cleveland Browns: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

The Browns had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL this past season. Nothing that has happened this offseason prior to the draft will change that, so Cleveland could be searching for a potent edge rusher in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Fournette, Watson top our too-early top 25 list for 2017 NFL draft | Shutdown Corner - Yahoo Sports

17. Missouri DE Charles Harris — Just beginning to scratch the surface, Harris could have declared after a seven-sack redshirt sophomore year and might still have been a top-50 selection this year. Harris looks like he’s shot out of a cannon, and he stepped up when the Tigers needed him most as the best player on a good Mizzou front. Expect double-digit sacks and dozens of pressures this season.