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Pro Scouting Series: Demetrius Harris

Yes, Demetrius Harris has the hands you think he does. How does the rest of his game stack up?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Off the top, this is a Demetrius Harris film review, so take a second to get your best Harris joke or hawt taek out in the comment section. It’s hard, I understand, given all the heartbreak we’ve suffered at the hands of Harris (get it?).

A common theme for Harris is consistency, or a lack thereof, and as the film rolled on down in the lab, it became apparent that the bones for a high-quality tight end are present in him. It’s the lack of consistency that shows up in nearly every aspect of Harris’ game that has limited him to a backup TE role in the NFL.

As you read, keep in mind Harris is the second TE on the Kansas City Chiefs. Expecting any backup player to consistently perform at his best in all aspects of their game would be pure sabotage from the get go.

Demetrius Harris: Tight End

6’7” | 230 lbs. | Exp: 5 Years

Key Skills/Traits

Route Running

Harris shows some real savviness in certain route stems that are a little surprising for such a developmental prospect. When working vertical stems, Harris does a good job leaning away from his final break direction, getting into the defender’s feet and keeping his shoulders over his toes to sell the vertical element.

It starts with staying low off the line of scrimmage (LoS) and avoiding any players looking to get a jam off on him, then using his blend of size and athleticism in the proper situations. Harris gets physical with smaller defenders and uses hard cuts and his agility to beat bigger defenders.

Showcasing all of the skills with this one straight off the LoS, he has to avoid a defensive lineman before attacking the defender in coverage. To gain leverage on the defender playing near off-coverage, he short strides leading up to the defender, maintaining his balance as he sells the outside release before using a two-hand swipe to fully gain inside leverage. Harris then uses a square cut with an exaggerated head fake to the outside to get the defensive back to fall off a step.

All is well and good for Harris when working vertically, but some quicker-developing routes lack polish and urgency for him. When Harris has to work on press coverage or isn’t working to get vertical leverage, his routes end up rounded and very contested. Harris has the pure athleticism to pull away and generate separation if working across the field, but he lacks the foot speed to be highly effective on underneath timing routes that don’t require a contested catch.

Raw Score: 65 - Average Starter

Catch-Point

Harris is very adept at using his large frame and general strength to box defenders out from the ball and open a good throwing window despite the tight coverage. His basketball background clearly shows up in these situations, as he’s very good at keeping players on his hips while opening up for the ball. He maintains his balance through contact whether initiated by himself or the opponent and does a good job hand fighting for leverage at the top of his route stems. As well as playing physical through his route break and the catch process, Harris is able to elevate and separate from a defender vertically while still securing the ball.

With the defender trying to jam Harris on the release, he just attacks the DB’s feet while engaging in the jam to control the leverage. As he reaches his breakpoint, Harris uses his inside arm to position the defender outside, which allows him to retake inside leverage. Harris turns through his outside hip to open up his entire chest for the ball as he works back into the middle of the field. Harris knows he’s about to be hit, so he lets the ball get all the way into his body to secure the catch.

Raw Score: 78 - Pro Bowler

Versatility

Tight end is arguably the most important position to an offensive scheme because of their ability to play in such a wide variety of roles. Part of evaluating TEs is finding out how many different ways they can be used by the coaching staff. This is extremely important when evaluating Harris, who isn’t elite or even great at a single aspect of playing TE, but rather competent in every aspect.

As a blocker, Harris can be effective in line, out in space or on a wham or pull-block across the LoS. As a receiver, he has the athleticism to stretch the field, the size to post up defenders, can be used underneath as a YAC weapon and can be utilized split out wide, in the slot or as a traditional in-line TE.

The ability to keep Harris on the field in any situation is a major benefit when trying to maintain the schematic advantage over defenses.

While not the weapon Travis Kelce is, he is able to provide the same mismatch in terms of being too big for a nickel defender to handle him as a blocker or a receiver and being too athletic for base packages to not be at a disadvantage too often.

Harris’ main issue is dealing with inconsistency in all of these different roles and maximizing the advantage his body provides. Too often, Harris can’t be relied on winning against these matchups on a play-by-play basis, which makes it hard to draw up too many different plays designed specifically for him.

Raw Score: 61.75 - Below Average Starter

Hands & Catch Radius

Everyone’s favorite topic in regards to Harris is that he has a very large catch radius in which he shows good hand-eye extending his hands out and meeting the ball. What haunts him is the inability to consistently make not only these types of catches, but also routine catches that any player should pull down.

It’s the strangest form of inconsistency from a player, as there is no trend to what types of passes he drops. For instance, he doesn’t start running/looking for defenders before securing the catch like Kelce, he doesn’t struggle to reach outside of his frame like Albert Wilson and he doesn’t let all passes eat him up and get into his chest like Dwayne Bowe used to.

He simply drops passes that he has no business dropping.

On this TE screen, Harris plays it perfectly up until the ball’s arrival.

Harris shoved the rusher inside, opened up to the quarterback and set to the outside expecting the pass outside. Due to the pass rusher’s angle on Smith, the ball had to come inside of Harris, forcing him into a small, very executable adjustment, which Harris properly makes. He just drops the pass without looking away from the ball, without it bouncing off his hands or any other common explanation. For this particular play, Harris appears torn on if he should attack the ball with his hands or let into his body and the indecision may have been his ultimate undoing.

Then we have this seam route in which Harris explodes downfield, bends around the coverage and separates vertically while adjusting mid-air, then meeting the ball with his hands at it’s highest point.

This is a phenomenal catch by Harris, and it’s not too crazy to see him come up with a highlight catch or two throughout the year, showcasing strong hands and a large catch radius.

The hard part is finding the disconnect between the screen play and the seam route. The two types of drops observed most by Harris through the years are similar to the screen play above in which he isn’t sure how he wants to attack the ball. This causes an awkward catch attempt that often has the ball carry past him or into his body to ricochet off. The second is Harris extending his arms to meet the ball but doing so with rigid hands, causing a harder surface for the ball to bounce off of. Harris has strong hands but doesn’t play as relaxed and autonomous as NFL players do at this important, but basic, fundamental.

Raw Score: 45.5 - Back-Up/Special Teamer

Accessory Skills and Traits

Blocking

As a blocker, Harris has definitely been a developing player, but he’s come along further and to a more consistent place than he has as a receiver. This is where Harris’ versatility I alluded to above really comes in to play, as he’s able to play from any variety of TE technique and execute any block type asked of him.

Whether asked to lead block on a wide receiver screen from the traditional X-WR alignment, motion across the formation from the slot and wham/clearout block the play-side EDGE defender or combo with another player as an in-line TE, Harris can be successful in any of these roles.

He’s not matchup specific in his usage either; he was often asked to make these one-on-one blocks against top-end players and average starters.

As a blocker, Harris struggles the most generating power or even anchoring and holding his ground when he doesn’t get his base underneath him. When he is unable to bring his hips with him into contact, he doesn’t generate much power and can be moved as seen on this play.

Harris opts for a jump set, which, to cover that distance was smart, but when the EDGE player is patient and reads the play while leaning into Harris, he’s able to overpower him. This happened a few times while blocking in-line last year, Harris wouldn’t get his base completely set and would be taken on a ride by stronger EDGE players.

Oddly enough, Harris is still a better blocker on the LoS than he is out in space despite his athletic background and size. He’s not bad in space but has the same base issue, which often results in him leaning or lunging for a block that doesn’t always lead to quality contact. In line, especially when drive or combo blocking, Harris gets out of stance fast and low and can generate solid movement. His hand placement gets a little wild at times but still shows up more on the move with the unbalanced base.

Raw Score: 68.25 - Average Starter

Explosion

Whether leaping in the air, accelerating from a stand still, or rolling his hips into contact, Harris is capable of generating a lot of speed in a short period of time. He gets good movement and distance off the LoS, which often puts him ahead of the play whether a run or pass play.

Harris has the ability to get down the field, stretching the defense thin or to cash in on a big play. It’s this explosion off the line and ability to get up to a top speed that allows him to be effective if split up out wide. This explosion and power also makes him useful as a lead blocker on the play side, as well as a guy to cover ground and get out in space on zone blocks.

Raw Score: 74.75 - Above Average Starter

Yards After Catch (YAC) Ability

As a runner after the catch, Harris can be quite effective and a weapon when used in the right way. He’s not a player that is a threat to take the ball for huge chunk plays after a short pass, but churning out double-digit gains off of short-yard passes is something Harris excels at and does so in a few different ways.

He has the athletic ability to maximize yards in space by simply outrunning bigger defenders. He isn’t especially elusive but has enough burst to manipulate his speed to get corners or turn players around. Harris can also run with a good amount of power, breaking free of arm tackles and consistently falling forward with his big frame. Finally, he rounds out his ability to gain yards after the catch with good contact balance, making defenders attack him fundamentally sound.

Harris wins inside leverage with his release and two-step break but has to slow down for the ball. Upon the gather, Harris is able to get fully turned around, square up the defender and put enough of a stutter on him to win the outside again. Not only does he beat the LB to the outside for an extra five yards after the catch, but he’s also able to take the contact from multiple defenders and fall forward an extra five yards after first contact.

While Harris can put moves on players in the open field and run to space, he’s more effective running through tackles and should focus on lowering his shoulder like he does to finish runs rather than always looking to finesse his way downfield.

Raw Score: 65 - Average Starter

Lateral Agility

Playing a major role in Harris’ limited route tree success is his general lateral agility. Working linearly, Harris is a great athlete, but when directional changes are implemented, he becomes a bit more methodical and labored. He’s not completely incapable of working laterally quickly, but more often than not, it requires a full stop from him to get his hips flipped around and work in a straight line again. When working from a standstill, such as a set in-line, he can quickly gather step and turn his hips to get moving but rarely works in a true lateral fashion. The same weakness shows up as a run blocker as well, specifically in regards to reach blocking.

Raw Score: 55.25 - Rotational Player

Bonus Points: 0

Overall Score: 63.85

Grade: Below Average Starter

Quick Outlook Going Into 2018:

Harris is suspended for the first game of the 2018 NFL season and once he returns he’ll be coming back to the same role he’s had the last few years. That is the unfortunate truth for any TE in the NFL playing on the same team as Travis Kelce.

In this backup TE role, Harris should have more chances to show what he is fully capable of doing. Now playing with a quarterback more willing to throw the ball to the intermediate areas of the field, into tight windows and into the end zone, Harris’ best traits should be allowed to shine more often.

This is a big year for Harris. If he can’t build on his lone game with the shiny new QB and keeps up the inconsistency, then this could the final year with the Chiefs.

PSS Grading Scale

Score Range Grade
Score Range Grade
84.51+ All Pro Caliber
78 - 84.5 Pro Bowl Caliber
71.63 - 77.99 Above Average Starter
65 - 71.62 Average Starter
58.63 - 64.99 Below Average Starter
52 - 58.62 Rotational Player
45.63 - 51.99 Good Back-Up
39 - 45.62 Back-Up/Special Teams
32.63 - 38.99 Depth Player
26 - 32.62 Practice Squad
19.5 - 25.99 Camp Player

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