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2015 NFL Draft Profile: Virginia's SS Anthony Harris

Anthony Harris developed quite a bit over his 4 years of college. Initially a CB in High School, he came in with good cover skills. He developed those skills and became a solid all-around safety. As a junior, he led the nation with 8 INTs. He also didn't miss a single game in his college career.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Of the 3 UVA players most likely to get drafted, Anthony Harris is the only one who's exhausted his college eligibility. Harris played all 4 years without a redshirt, and played in every single game of his career. He started 34 games over his career.

Harris is a safety, but played CB in HS. He has pretty good cover skills for a SS, and could potentially slide back to CB in the NFL. He'll certainly start out at S. But depending on how he develops, a switch is not out of the question.




Tackles (Solo)









14 (6)









87 (48)









80 (42)









108 (49)







The first number that jumps out to you is the 8 INTs in 2013. As a junior, Harris led the nation in INTs. As a senior, his INTs dropped to just 2. With a true freshman playing next to him at safety, he was likely to see less passes thrown to his side of the field. However, with 10 passes defensed, his overall play did not drop. (INTs, as a ratio to passes defensed, generally involve  a great deal of luck.) Harris's tackle numbers also went up significantly, showing his increased ability to get involved in plays outside of his zone.

Combine/Pro Day Results

Anthony is recovering from offseason shoulder injury and did not fully participate in either the NFL Draft Combine or the UVA Pro Day. However, he was measured and he ran at the Combine. Below are his numbers. (By all accounts, Harris's injury should not prevent him from being ready for his first NFL season.)





183 lbs

4.56 sec

His 40 time was solid for a SS, not amazing but certainly not bad. At 6'1" he has good height, but he's lean and undersized.



Coach London and Tenuta run a complex, NFL style defense. Harris' 4 years in that defense have greatly helped him develop his reads and anticipation. The past 2 years, Harris has been one of the on-field leaders of the defense. He's been charged with aligning the secondary and calling out coverages.

Zone Coverage

Harris excels when he can play in a deep zone and read the play in front of him. That was his role on most plays during his college career. Even in the complex Jon Tenuta defense, Harris was rarely asked to play man coverage. Obviously, NFL teams play a lot of Cover-2 and that is where Harris's skills fit in best.


As evidences by his 11 career INTs, Harris has pretty good hands. He played WR (and some QB) in high school and those skills are still present. When the ball is in the air, Harris is always trying to go get it, and when he gets his hands on it, he brings it in.



At just 185 pounds, Harris is going to be giving up a lot of size to almost anybody he covers. The average NFL TE is 250 pounds, RBs are 215. Harris is even going to be giving up size to half of NFL WRs (the average NFL WR is about the same size as Harris). This will hurt him on running plays (or any underneath play) when he is being blocked by bigger WRs and TEs. And obviously it will also hurt him when trying to tackle bigger players.


This is largely related to the section above. Because Harris is giving up so much size to most players, he's going to have some trouble bringing them down. This is a problem for many DBs entering the NFL, and some never get passed it. Harris, even for his size, isn't the most physical of players. His tackling technique isn't bad, but will have to become more consistent. Harris also isn't a big hitter, which teams often look for in strong-safeties.

Man Coverage

Once again, this is largely related to his lack of size. Harris isn't big enough to cover a lot of NFL TEs or RBs. And, though he has pretty decent cover skills, but he isn't really capable of staying with NFL slot receivers in man coverage. He simply isn't quick enough. He may not be a detriment in man coverage, but zone schemes are going to be his best fit.

Possible NFL Fits

Oakland Raiders - The Raiders run a lot of 2-deep defenses, and generally do not have a ton of differentiation between the two players at Safety. Furthermore, with 39 year old Charles Woodson at one spot, they have a need for a safety to replace him. Woodson, who began his career as a CB, has similar skills to Harris. (Please note, I am not comparing the two. Woodson is bigger than Harris and is a likely Hall of Famer.) Harris could learn from Woodson and Nate Allen, and step into a starting role in another year or two when Woodson retires.

New York Giants - Like the Raiders, the Giants run a lot of cover-2. The Giants also have a HUGE need at S, after losing both of their starting safeties, including Antrel Rolle. The Giants may not wait until the 3rd round (when Harris is likely drafted) to draft a safety. Then again, they may draft two safeties. If Harris were picked up the Giants, he'd be expected to contribute as a rookie.

Pittsburgh Steelers - With the retirement of Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have a big need at SS. Obviously, Harris isn't going to replicate what Polamalu brought to the Steelers defense, but nobody else is either. Polamalu wasn't much bigger than Harris, but was much more physical and athletic. Harris has the intelligence to become the "QB of the defense", much like Troy was. Combined with Harris' solid cover skills and good range and he at least begins to approximate what Polamalu had.

Bottom Line

Harris has a lot of the skills the NFL teams covet in DBs. He covers ground well, he's capable of being effective against both the pass and the run, and he's good enough in zone coverage to handle most plays.

His lack of size limits his ceiling, and also limits the teams that could draft him. Ideally, a team would pair him with a bigger safety who is more capable of stepping up against the run. Harris also fits best in a team that runs a lot of zone, because he will struggle to man up against NFL WRs.

Prediction: Anthony is drafted in the 3rd round by the Steelers, with the 87th overall pick.