Among the 13 undrafted rookie free agents signed by the Philadelphia Eagles was cornerback Cliff Harris, a standout at the University of Oregon before he was kicked off the squad in December for violating team rules midway through the season.
Harris has all the talent in the world, and if he can keep his head on straight, he has a chance to make an impact in the NFL. When I projected my 53-man roster for next season, I had Harris missing the cut, but the more I think about it, the more I think he has a good chance to make Andy Reid's roster.
Harris was seen as a likely top-five cornerback prospect heading into the 2011 season, but his legal issues derailed his draft stock. Harris is a dynamic player when healthy. He intercepted six passes and returned four punts for touchdowns in 2010, making his mark as a player who is a defensive and special teams force.
Harris has tremendous instincts and he is a phenomenal athlete. He is undersized at just 5’11” and around 165-170 pounds, and he’s not going to be able to match up to NFL wide receivers like Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson as such.
The Eagles will enter 2012 with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as their starting corners, and Brandon Boykin playing in the slot. Curtis Marsh was the third-round pick in 2011 and will be given every opportunity to contribute as a dime back. After that, the candidates for the fifth or even sixth cornerback spots are Trevard Lindley, Brandon Hughes, Joselio Hanson and Harris. D.J. Johnson and Phillip Thomas are long shots at this point.
I would love to see Harris make the team because I think he can have a big impact. He or Boykin should return kicks for sure, considering the Eagles haven’t had a quality kick returner in years.
Lindley and Hughes don’t offer much in terms of value to the team, and Hanson dropped off last year. I expect the 30-year-old Hanson to be a veteran cut heading into training camp. Johnson and Thomas could make the practice squad, but I don’t see either overtaking Harris, assuming Harris can stay out of trouble and that his size doesn’t completely hinder him from playing at the next level.
I like the fact that the Eagles signed Cliff Harris. He could easily get into trouble and not make the team. But then again, he could be a surprise and make a big impact as well.
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