The New England Patriots always seem to take the players that neither the fans nor the pundits had considered, and that trend continued with their third-round selection of Rutgers safety Duron Harmon.
Most had Harmon graded as a undrafted free agent, and his lack of an invite to the combine reinforced that. There simply isn't much information available on Harmon and thus we're left to wonder how exactly the strong safety might possibly fit in with the Patriots.
Writes Patriots draft pundit James Christensen of NEPatriotsDraft.com:
This is one of the first times that a top 100 player is someone that I haven’t studied at all, so this is going to be brief. I don’t have a scouting report for Harmon – nor does anyone else that I can find.
Here is what I know.
Harmon has good size for a safety – 6’1″ and 200 pounds. He plays for a Rutgers team that Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems infatuated with – much like the Florida teams a few years ago. The Rutgers team did have a pretty stout defense this year, so they do have some ability.
What can be expected of a player most scouts didn't think would be drafted entering a crowded depth chart at the safety position? It's safe to assume that Harmon's most direct route to a roster spot will be on special teams.
But if there's one thing we can gleam from the selection, it's that the Patriots know they must address their coverage in the middle of the field. It was one of their biggest areas of weakness over the past couple seasons, and with the emergence of more and more versatile tight ends, you can never have too many strong safeties.
It would appear that Bill Belichick believes strong safety to be one of the most important positions given where NFL offenses are headed. And he's making sure he has the depth to ensure against injuries.
Harmon immediately lands behind Tavon Wilson and Adrian Wilson as pure strong safety-types, though Harmon does have some versatility that perhaps neither of the Wilsons do. His most direct competition is with Malcolm Williams and Marquice Cole on special teams. Simply given the numbers, it will be a tough road for Harmon to make the 53-man roster, but he seems like a focused young man, who will fit in well in Foxboro off the field.
Harmon will undoubtedly enter camp and compete with everything that he's got, but his fate might lie with where the injury bug hits. He certainly provides good young insurance in the secondary and, given the right circumstances, could find himself contributing in a limited role.
But the best bet is that Harmon ends up on the practice squad, and spending a third-round pick on a player like that leaves us scratching our heads a bit.