A Columbus, Ohio native playing for his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes, Malik Harrison is a true senior who plays outside linebacker in a 4-3 that best projects as a strongside linebacker at the next level.
The 6-foot-3, 246-pounder is starting for his second straight season and his production has not gotten much better despite expectations he may take a leap and become the best linebacker on the team.
Harrison has a thick frame coupled with exceptional upper-body strength. That combined with adequate arm usage is why he is a capable block shedder. He is also aggressive at the point of attack and takes on lineman well without getting overpowered often.
While Harrison shows some field awareness, his read-and-react is inconsistent, as he will bite on play fakes too often and sometimes shoot the gap instead of being patient and letting the play develop in front of him.
Harrison is a strong tackler who displays solid form, usually wrapping up. He is a violent hitter as well which makes his zero career forced fumbles rather surprising.
Harrison does not seem to be a great athlete and his lack of quickness, flexibility, and change of direction shows in his lack of coverage skills.
Harrison shows good eye discipline in zone, and can cover slower tight ends one on one, but he should not be expected to be a very good coverage backer at the next level.
At the same time, he has the potential to not be a liability in coverage either, as he mostly wasn’t at Ohio State despite it not being one of his strengths.
As of now, I have no idea where Harrison is projected as it is early, but a mid to late-round pick on him would be a decent value in my opinion as the team not only needs starters at linebacker but depth as well.
The Raiders need a linebacker who excels in coverage more than anything, but they need upgrades at every linebacker spot, including a run-stopping thumper like Harrison.
Now on to Francis Bernard, who is, in my opinion, the best linebacker of the above “potential risers.”
A former running back for BYU, Bernard is a nice athlete despite standing at 6-foot-4 and looking like more of a thumper type linebacker.
Despite only playing the linebacker position for two seasons, Bernard is already proficient in coverage. He knows when to break on the ball, can play the ball in the air well, and knows what depths to play in zone.
His eyes are always on the quarterback when dropping back into coverage while simultaneously having the awareness to also break to any receiver who comes into his zone.
As stated earlier, Bernard has only played two seasons as a linebacker, and because of that, his read-and-react can be inconsistent. This leads to sloppy plays due to biting on play fakes or taking bad pursuit angles.
That being said, his overall play against the run is good. Bernard is strong at the point of attack and can shed blocks consistently. Not often does he get overpowered and unable to disengage from an offensive-lineman.
He is also solid when it comes to shooting gaps to the inside. Because of his burst, he is a blur coming through the line often going untouched which makes him an excellent blitzer.
Because of his mix of athleticism and strength, Bernard can play any linebacker position at the next level. And with what I believe to be a high floor, he still has a lot of room to grow as he is still learning the position.