Eli Harold, the junior EDGE defender from the Virginia Cavaliers, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after a productive season in each of the last two years. In 2014, Harold was named Second Team All-ACC after a year that totaled 54 tackles, 7 sacks and 14.5 TFL. He started all 12 games and he ranked third in TFL for the conference. In 2013, Harold again started all 12 games and had a team-leading 8.5 sacks along with 51 tackles and 15 TFL. He appeared in all 12 games in 2012. For his career, Harold had 141 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 36.5 TFL. Physically, Harold is a tall and lean 235 lbs; He has long arms and legs, but lacks mass/weight in his lower half. He’ll have to bulk up if he intends on playing with his hand in the dirt. His best fit at this point is at OLB in a 34 front simple because he lacks the kind of mass needed to consistently win from a 3-point stance. Athletically, Harold has good straight-line burst with some violent movements, but he possesses only average flexibility and COD. He’s a choppy guy in that he takes a lot of steps to change directions, and he struggles to really bend the edge when rushing the quarterback. He’s too often ridden past the throwing point and doesn’t make enough of a disruptive impact even when he gets a decent first step to the corner. Harold has a little bit of a hitch in his get off which takes away from his initial burst at the snap. He possesses pretty good hands, and in the moments when he was able to get into the lineman’s chest plate, he displayed a powerful pop and grip and was able to shed in impressive fashion. He’s just inconsistent at this point, and was neutralized far too often at the POA because of his lacking overall, functional strength; if he loses the hands battle at the LOS, he’s not much of a threat. His pass rush arsenal is a tad underdeveloped right now, as he relies heavily on speed and outside/inside moves. Harold flashed an effective spin move, but he didn’t use it nearly enough. In the running game, Harold has the ability to chase in pursuit and make a play from behind. He has good range as his speed and overall length keeps him in the action. He holds his own when run at, although (again) he has problems getting off blocks at times. Harold needs to work on his overall awareness, too, as there were several moments where he torpedoed toward the running back during a read option or play action fake. While some of that may be by design, there were moments where he simply seemed to lack an overall feel for the play.
BOTTOM LINE: Eli Harold is a project at this point who will require time for growth in the weight room. He has an appealing frame that can be built upon, and he flashed enough of a baseline set of skills (hand play, especially) to get excited about his potential as an NFL pass rusher. That said, he appears to be a few seasons away from making a significant contribution to an NFL defense. He will provide a nice value as a depth player with growth potential, and should come off the board somewhere in the early portion of Day 3.
GRADE: 6.5 (4th Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)