Malik Harrison: Reasonable expectations vs. year 1 ceiling for Ravens

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – DECEMBER 07: Malik Harrison #39 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the Big Ten Football Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 34-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Malik Harrison was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s talk about the new member of the Ravens:

Reasonable expectations:

Malik Harrison was a first round talent that fell to the third round of the NFL Draft. Why did that happen?

Well it was a good linebacker crop in the 2020 draft. The Los Angeles Chargers jumped ahead of everybody and got Kenneth Murray. The Seattle Seahawks drafted Jordyn Brooks. The Ravens got Patrick Queen. Willie Gay Jr. and Logan Wilson got drafted ahead of Harrison.

Athleticism was clearly the most preferred trait for NFL evaluators. While they knew Harrison was a beast against the run, he got passed up for players with crazy traits and a ton of upside. Here’s the thing though, Harrison was a safe bet. He comes into the league a tackling machine, who is very good against the run.

There were only questions about Harrison’s ability to be an every down linebacker. While I find the concerns to be a case of overthinking the prospect, Harrison doesn’t need to be an every down linebacker to provide value to the purple and black.

A reasonable expectation for Harrison is to rotate into the game and be a boon for the run defense. He will get most of his action on first and second downs and in short yardage situations. The prescription for his playing time will adjust the more skill he shows.

A basic way to think about this is that the Ravens basically replaced Patrick Onwuasor with a rookie version of him. The difference is that Harrison is coming from a Big 10 powerhouse and was a third round pick. Onwuasor was an undrafted free agent who proved that he should have been a third or fourth round selection. Harrison walks in with more opportunities lined up for him than Onwuasor had on day one.

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Harrison should be a seamless transition from Onwuasor. Last year Onwuasor missed two games and he had 64 total tackles. Harrison should be able to reach a similar number. Because Harrison will be a rotational player 50 total tackles is a reasonable expectation for him.

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