40 YARD DASH: 4.60 seconds
3-CONE DRILL: 7.07 seconds
2014 STATISTICS AT VIRGINIA
TFL (TACKLES FOR LOSS): 14.5
SOLO TACKLES: 29
TOTAL TACKLES: 54
Cornerback. Ask most fans and even most draftniks, and this is the position you’ll hear with overwhelming consensus that is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ greatest need heading into the 2015 season. When taking a look at the secondary, it is completely understandable why this is the unanimously chosen point of view to have about the upcoming draft. I tend to disagree with this, however. I’ve previously gone in depth into why I believe the number of cornerbacks being worthy of a first round selection is a myth. While a potential argument could be made for it being a deep draft at the position, I strongly disagree with it being at all top heavy or including a surefire, can’t miss defensive back. This rings especially true at 22nd overall. Any defensive back — corner or safety alike — would be a reach and not provide the value in which the Steelers approach the draft. If they truly are abiding by the ‘best player available’ mantra, the pick will not be cornerback in the first round.
What it could and should be, however, is edge rusher. Enter the Cavalier prospect: Eli Harold.
In what is probably the deepest edge rusher draft in recent memory, Virginia’s Eli Harold has quickly begun making a name for himself. Since the combine, Harold has stood out and cemented himself as a first round edge rusher with upside as high as any other player in the draft. In reality, however, Harold should have been the talk of the town pre-combine as his tape shows an excellent edge rusher with the speed and burst off the line of scrimmage with an explosive first step and bend around the edge, all traits he shows in the following game against Louisville.
Harold is lined up at ROLB over the tackle.
Displays a very good bull rush and use of hands to disengage from the block.
Chases down the quarterback and forces the hurried throw which ends up incomplete.
Harold is lined up as a more traditional 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt.
He fights through the block, displaying a very good use of hands and forces another hurried throw.
Lined up as a down linemen.
Despite some pretty spectacular (uncalled) holding, he is still able to get free of the guard and continue his pursuit.
He finishes off this pursuit with exceptional closing speed and ends up with a sack.
Pictured as a more traditional 3-4 ROLB.
Once again using a very strong bull rush and use of hands to disengage off the block.
Finishes off the play with a disrupted throw. From the snap to the disruption, Harold is timed at 1.89 seconds. He shows impressive burst off the line.
Once again shown as a more traditional 3-4 ROLB.
Fights through both the tackle and guard to get into the backfield.
Brings the quarterback down.
Harold’s ability in rushing the passer is undeniable. While not possessing a wide array of pass rushing moves, his use of hands and bull rush are very impressive. Harold also possesses a very good first step and explosion at the line of scrimmage which can force tackles off balance and allows Harold to quickly get into the backfield. His ability to bend the edge and use his surprising speed and closing ability is also well documented. Harold also shows strong ability to disengage and fight through blockers with surprising strength and effectiveness. In the run game he shows more of this, as he is able to consistently stack and shed blockers to make tackles in the backfield. From all film reviewed on him, it looks like Harold is going to have a smooth transition to a 3-4 edge rusher with his athletic ability. It would also appear that his most explosive and disruptive plays come as a more traditional 3-4 stand-up edge rusher, something this team sorely lacks.
The knock on Harold will always be his more… svelte size. He’s not an overly large edge rusher which allows the larger, more plodding tackles to take advantage of him in the run game. Despite his speed and ability rushing the passer, it can be used against him. Harold does have the tendency to get ridden inside or allowed to over pursue in the run game. This gives bigger, stronger tackles the ability to let Harold take himself out of plays by simply running around the pocket. There are times in the run game in which he allows himself to be taken out of the play by power guards and tackles. While not often, it does happen enough to be noted here. I would like to see him try and bat balls down when unable to get to the quarterback more often than he does. He is also stiff in coverage despite his athleticism, which is concerning. Coverage ability is a coachable trait, however, and this does not provide anything more than a slight blip on his radar.
Overall, Harold possesses the ability to be an explosive, disruptive edge rusher at the next level. Reviewing his film, while he does not always get to the quarterback, his disruption at the line is felt on most passing plays. His excellent use of hands and surprising strength, coupled with his even more surprising speed and his pursuit, allow him to wreak havoc on opposing linemen. All of that said, Harold may indeed have to play in a more rotational edge rush role early in his career, especially for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His deficiencies and stiffness in coverage, added to his unfortunate tendency to get swallowed up by blockers just often enough, may force him to be a pass rush specialist in his first season with the team. However, for a team lacking edge rush ability, this might not be the worst thing. Harold would bring with him the ability to disrupt and rush the passer effectively. If lined up at left outside linebacker, Harold could use his speed and burst around the edge against bigger tackles and win with great consistency. There are a lot of things to like in Harold’s game, and a key reason why I believe if there at 22, the Steelers must take him. He may not provide much more than the ability to rush the passer on third downs, but for a team that has lacked the ability to do so consistently for the last few years, this may not be a bad thing.