The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

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Jonathan Bales

When I completed my scouting report on Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, I had yet to grade the Cowboys’ cornerbacks for their 2010 play.  Now, the grades are in:

1.  Orlando Scandrick:  B- (83.4)
2.  Terence Newman:  C+ (77.0)
3.  Mike Jenkins: D (64.6)

To say the Cowboys need help in the secondary would be an understatement.  While I do think all three cornerbacks above will improve in 2011 (particularly Jenkins), the future of the position is uncertain. 

Newman will turn 33 during the upcoming season and really struggled in 2010.  He seems to have trouble locating the football while still maintaining position to make a play on it.

Jenkins appeared to lose confidence this year.  I do think he’ll regain his swagger in 2011, but he has a long way to go.

Orlando Scandrick actually played quite well over the final 10 games or so, but I think his skill set is best suited for the slot.  If he moved outside, his lack of strength and size could hurt him.

My grade on Amukamara wasn’t incredible–I’m not as high on him as others.  I still think he’s a top 15-20 talent, but I actually like today’s feature quite a bit more. . .

Scouting Report

Brandon Harris is a versatile cornerback.  He excels in man coverage, displaying the athleticism, hips, and speed to thrive at the next level.  He’s only 5’11”, 195 pounds, but he’s a very willing tackler.  Take a look at the first play below, as Harris flies across the field to make a hit.  When I first watched the play, I thought it was a linebacker. 

Harris shows no hesitancy to throw his body around, and I think 90 percent of being a good tackler is attitude. 

While some claim that Harris isn’t adept in zone coverage, I disagree.  Take a look at the 1:17 mark above.  Harris is initially in man coverage but reads the quarterback, drops his guy, and makes a tremendous break on the football for the interception.  His awareness and football IQ are elite.  He understands defensive concepts and plays very intelligently, showing me no reason he wouldn’t excel in zone coverage nearly just as much as man.

Harris also exhibits the ball skills which the Cowboys’ cornerbacks have traditionally lacked.  He’s a playmaker–a receiver playing cornerback.  At the 1:47 mark above, Harris gets beat immediately but uses his athleticism and ball skills to get in position to swat the football away from the receiver.  These sort of plays are littered throughout his tape. 

The worst game I found is below.  At the 21-second mark, Harris fails to properly break down and takes a poor angle to the ball-carrier.  His biggest weakness is open-field tackling, but he has the proper attitude and work ethic to correct it.  For more evidence of his willingness to tackle, check out the 1:03 mark below.

Overall, I love Harris.  He has it all–man coverage ability, zone coverage ability, an upbeat attitude, and a willingness to improve.  He’s the most instinctual player I’ve assessed thus far.  Put simply, he’s not only a great athlete, he’s a football player.

Projection

Harris figures to go anywhere from the mid-first to early second-round.  I personally believe he’s a top 10 talent, and I will have him rated ahead of Amukamara on my big board. 

If the ‘Boys want Harris, they should probably trade down from their No. 9 selection or move up from the second-round.  I don’t think there’s any chance Harris drops to No. 41.

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28 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

  1. Rick says:

    I also love Harris. I don’t see him in Dallas, though, unless they want to trade up from the 2nd into the 1st. I maintain my opinion that, unless Minnesota/Miami falls in love with Newton, this team will struggle to trade down.

  2. willis says:

    You said it, this guy is a football player. You can tell his attitude is great by the way he flies around the football. IMO he will be gone in the first round and I think the team that takes him is going to be happy with their investment.

  3. Rick says:

    “To say the Cowboys need help in the secondary would be an understatement. While I do think all three cornerbacks above will improve in 2011 (particularly Jenkins), the future of the position is uncertain.”

    What about Newman leads you to believe he’ll be better next year?

  4. Mark Watkins says:

    I read one article where the sportswriter said that Jenkins ‘should never be allowed to wear an NFL jersey again after his performance this year.” While I think that view is extreme, I wonder how well he can bounce back, if he can. I’d love to see them get Harris, since there aren’t likely to be many players of his ability on the board at #9.

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    The easiest/cheapest/surest way to improve the secondary is simple – IMPROVE THE DEFENSIVE LINE.

    While Harris is a player, I really think the true weakness in the secondary is free safety. Alan Ball was afraid to let anyone get behind him after the Bears game (even though oftentimes it wasn’t his fault that receivers caught deep passes over the middle) because he was afraid he’d be blamed for it. And he was right. After that, he rarely got burned deep but he was rarely around the ball on shorter routes.

    Get a FS in free agency (like Atogwe) along w/ a pass rushing every down DE who can rush AND stop the run and watch the secondary as a unit improved dramatically.

  6. Rick says:

    Just realized that Harris isn’t in Scouts’ Inc.’s Top 32. Are they on crack?

  7. Vince_Grey says:

    TJ – The easiest/cheapest/surest way to improve the secondary is simple – IMPROVE THE DEFENSIVE LINE.

    I don’t know about the cheapest, but otherwise I absolutely agree with your statement.

  8. Vince_Grey says:

    Oops! Let’s try that again:

    TJ – The easiest/cheapest/surest way to improve the secondary is simple – IMPROVE THE DEFENSIVE LINE.

    I don’t know about the cheapest, but otherwise I absolutely agree with your statement. You can’t have Larry, Moe, and Curly back there, but you can get by with fairly average cover guys if you can rush the passer and stop the run.

  9. Rick says:

    I just don’t like the argument that the pass rush was at fault for the poor cornerback play. Jonathan’s grades for the Front 7 were overall better than his grades for the corners. Also, their ranking in sacks (15th) was much better than their ranking in pass defense (29th). And the safety play has consistently sucked- it wasn’t really any worse this year than years past. Jenkins and Newman were terrible, there’s really no denying it.

    You can’t just say “Well, if they had Wilfork and Ngata to compliment Ratliff, and Matthews across from Ware, and Polamalu and Reed at safety, the corners would play better.” It’s a lot easier to simply upgrade the corners as opposed to upgrading everyone else.

  10. Yeah..I’d call Harris a longshot to be in Dallas, but I do love him and how he’d fit in. BTW Rick, the reason I think Newman will improve next year is just regression to the mean. Even though I don’t think his skill set is improving, I do think he underperformed quite a bit in 2010. Even if his skill set decreases a bit, random variance should result in a better year, IMO.

    Tyrone–I do think the pass-rush is a bigger need than the CBs right now. What do you think of the proposal I made today of trading up for PP if he drops to six? I know it isn’t likely but that could potentially solve two position problems with CB/FS. Would you prefer a DE like Clayborn or Watt to Harris?

  11. As I read all of your comments, I think the CB problem is a combination. They played horribly in 2010, but the pass rush didn’t help them much. The question is to what extent a pass-rushing DE would aid the secondary–is it more than a new CB or a CB/FS (I think FS is a bigger need than either CB spot right now, by far). Perhaps I could do some sort of study on this to determine which unit (secondary or DL) is the main culprit…any interest in that?

  12. Rick says:

    @ Jonathan- Yeah, that’d be great. The thing is, both need upgrading. Real question is, which is easier to upgrade? I’d like to think that getting a “real” nose tackle and moving Ratliff to end solidifies the line for the most part. The secondary? Well… they need a new free safety and at least one corner, if you ask me.

  13. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Rick, what you propose on defense would be nice, but, of course, impossible to pull off. That’s a pro bowl defense. What I suggest is much simpler and cheaper.

    But first, quick – name the starting DBs for the Giants the year they beat the Patriots in the Superbowl…Anyone?

    Ross, Madison, Butler and Wilson.

    All OK players in their own right but by no means stellar. That year, they gave up 3300 yds passing, 24 passing TDs and obtained 15 INTs – compare their #s to those Jonathan showed in his secondary grades of this years Boys’ starting 4 DBs. Total team defense, the Giants ranked 17th overall. Corey Webster, who didn’t start, and Ross were the only DBs to register pick 6s – outside of Ross and Webstar, most of us probably don’t know the others’ 1st names. However, the D line registered 52 sacks and were among the leauge leaders in pressures, QB knockdowns and hurries. I bet many of us remember the 1st names of Strahan, Pierce, Mitchell, Kiwanuka and Umenyiora.

    An upgrade to the Dallas D line isn’t difficult to do – there are numerous free agent pickups available. Paul Soliai of Miami tops my list as he filled in for the injured Jared Odrick and did well (Miami already has 2 huge contracts w/ Starks and Odrick on D line). Daniel Muir of the Colts could be serviceable at NT. Frank Okam of the Bucs or Ogemdi Nwagbuo of the Chargers might also do. Anthony Adams (Bears) and Derek Landri (Panthers, who may pick Fairley) are somewhat small for NT but might fill in as possible backups for Brent if Ratliff is moved to DE. Either way, D linemen are usually cheaper than D backs and it seems like we only really need one decent one (read that someone who can start 16 games and produce 35 tackles, register 2-3 sacks and force 2 fumbles); which more than a few NTs within the league last year surpassed.

    Even w/o a free agency upgrade, does anyone really expect any DB the Boys pick at #9 is going to come in a be that much of a difference maker in the secondary (w/ the exception of Peterson – who won’t be available that late)? BJ Raji was a #9 pick 2 years ago – we’ll all be watching him this Sunday.

    Let’s face it. Last year, Jerry took a risk on Alan Ball. With the way Newman, Jenkins and Scandrick played in 09-10, Ball was destined to be the 4th CB at best. Why not try him out at FS and see if he can get a starter back there for cheap. Experiment failed and here we are…

    You insist on upgrading the secondary – Ok, here’s how. Sign Champ Bailey and move him to FS and draft Rahim Moore in the 3rd (if available). Either that or trade up to within the top 2 or 3 for Peterson.

  14. Vince_Grey says:

    Some of you seem to be forgetting that upgrading the defensive line means you’ll almost assuredly upgrade the run defense as well, if nothing else than by tying up more blockers and keeping them off our LB’s.

    Tyrone – Awesome point about the Giants that season. No one could even slow down Brady and Co. until the Giants D-line destroyed their O-line in the SB. Suddenly Terrific Tom looked very, very mortal.

  15. Tyrone–Of the guys you named, Soliai and Okam interest me most. I’d still like to find that long-term NT, but unless it is Marcell Dareus, I don’t think it will come in this year’s draft.

  16. john coleman says:

    I like this guy as well and would see him as worthy of a 1st rd(twenties) pick. As far as my big board, It doesn’t exists. There simply are not enough high quality players to make a top 15. I mean I could make a 1 thru 5, then skip to 16th thru 25th, then to 33rd.
    If we get a peek a the Cowboys draft board again, I’ll bet only 10 guys maximum are 1st rd rated.

    Harris would be a great value as he possesses the skills to become elite. Trade down at least once, maybe twice and grab him. Then move Newman to FS. Forget he is not a good tackler. I see him as being just as good as anyone else we have. He also has the experience to be the QB of the D. I think he would benefit by being able to face the play in most every situation and make more plays because of it. Newman seems to be better in zone, more instinctual, playing the ball. At FS he could diagnose and react, without having to turn his back and run. When he turns and runs, bad things happen.

    TJ- I like the sign Champ and move him to FS idea. No WR would have an advantage on him running in coverage.

  17. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JC – I would agree. This is just a weak class. I think someone else made a point in another post about Rahim Moore is being considered as 1st rd this year and he probably would’ve been late 2nd or later in last years draft (somewhere after Nate Allen).

    Question is, what is a teams strategy when that happens? Trade down sure, but with who? What team would trade up given they have the same assessment of the class? I would love it for Dallas to trade down into the 20s but I think the best course of action will end up having to draft a need and try and develop them into 1st rd talent as quickly as possible (pray they don’t get injured during training camp).

    JC, you and JB both seem to like the Newman to FS move. I don’t but will defer to both of you. If it happens, and it just might, then I will honestly hope you’re both right.

  18. JC–You know I’m in support of moving Newman to FS, and that move should only be made more likely by drafting a CB. In a way, drafting Harris “solves” two problems if the ‘Boys move Newman just acquiring a space-eating NT solves two problems since Ratliff could move to end.

  19. john coleman says:

    TJ-You are right on other teams seeing the same things we do. What I’m hoping is that teams that need QBs, WRs, and RBs will get crazy and allow some players slip.
    JB-The things you posted are a big reason that I don’t see this team as others do. Get the CB, move Newman. Get the NT move Rat. Now we have solidly addressed two big needs and have five picks left.

    A great majority of the nucleus of our current team played very well, just one season ago. We were riddled with injuries. Take Spears who was/is our most solid run stuffing linemen. How many times were we hit with gashing runs especially late in games? Spears healthy and in the rotation would have helped for sure.

    As mentioned above FS is a huge need and we all agree on it. NT is the 2nd most important piece in a 3-4, with rush OLBs being #1. Now the NT things is what I see and I’m not sure what the consensus would be. After that we must have a RT. Then we need a OG and a ILB. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that is only 4 bodies. With 7 picks and free agency we should be able to adequately fill the wholes.

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