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Draft Darlings: Zach Harrison can instantly make an impact

The Ohio State pass rusher has the physical traits Steve Spagnuolo likes in Kansas City.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Like most NFL teams, the Kansas City Chiefs could use another defensive end.

After releasing Frank Clark and allowing Carlos Dunlap to walk, there will be plenty of snaps available. Besides... teams typically need plenty of bodies on the defensive line over the course of the season; it’s important to have as many players as possible.

While Kansas City’s needs at tackle, wide receiver and defensive tackle might be greater, the team shouldn’t wait too long for a defensive end in the draft. The team might have to wait until Round 3 — where Ohio State’s Zach Harrison might make sense.

Here’s what you need to know:


Out of high school, Harrison was a five-star recruit who was ranked 12th nationally. He had offers from Penn State, Alabama, USC, Michigan and Notre Dame, but ultimately decided on Ohio State. After two seasons in the Buckeye’s deep defensive end room, Harrison started 25 games over the last two seasons. He was voted to three All-Big 10 teams. In 2022, he was a first-team media selection and a second-team coaches’ selection. Over his last two years, Harrison produced 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Harrison measured 6 feet 5 1/2 and 274 pounds, with startling 36 1/4-inch arms (98th percentile) and an 85 1/2-inch wingspan (97th percentile). He didn’t work out until his Pro Day, where had a 34 1/2-inch vertical jump and a 10 feet 3 broad jump. His agility drills, however, weren’t great. He posting a 7.33-second 3-cone drill and a 4.66-seocnd short shuttle, which were 9th percentile.

Film Review

The first thing that stands out in Harrison’s film is his size. His length and frame give him advantages in the running game, where he’s able to set the edge with extension and power. His length allows him to pull through an offensive lineman’s chest to get tackles for loss. Running directly at him is a challenge, but he’s also fast enough to chase running backs from the back side.

As a pass rusher, Harrison’s isn’t overly productive. He lacks the agility to threaten around the corner, which limits his ceiling.

Still, Harrison finds ways to make some plays. He utilizes his length and power well, combining a bull rush with a rip move to give tackles fits. On this play, he uses that combination to give fits to Maryland left tackle Jaelyn Duncan — another Chiefs prospect. He was able to generate multiple sacks in that game.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Of all the defensive ends in this class, none might fit the Chiefs better than Harrison. At Ohio State, he played as a strong side defensive end in a 4-3 scheme; he could instantly step into that role in Kansas City. Against the run, he’s already a good enough to play on early downs.

His length and size also fit what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes. Harrison has been compared to former New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was a part of Spagnuolo’s defenses there. While Pierre-Paul was more talented than Harrison, the size comparison is valid.

While Harrison hasn’t often played on the interior, he could develop into that kind of player. The Chiefs value that skill set in their new acquisition Charles Omenihu and could be looking for another similar player. Harrison has the length, get-off and power to give NFL guards problems. If he wants to reach his full potential, he’ll need to add that skill set to his game — and in Kansas City, he’d be in an ideal spot to do so.

The bottom line

While Harrison may be unspectacular, he is still a capable player. His ceiling is rather low. His lack of productivity (and elite athletic traits) don’t indicate he’ll reach the ceiling his recruiting profile might have suggested. Still, his overwhelming length and power will give offensive tackles difficulty — and he could improve any team’s run defense. As a third or fourth defensive end, he’ll be a useful NFL player.

In Kansas City, he’d fit right in. He has every trait the Chiefs seek in defensive ends — and could play right away. 4-3 schemes are now uncommon at the collegiate level, which makes it harder for defensive ends to contribute immediately. Harrison will be ready to go.

If Kansas City waits until Round 3 to get an EDGE, Harrison would be a good choice.

Grade: Round 3 or Round 4

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