Finally, it's NFL Draft Week. Continuing the 6-pack series today, up next we have Virginia DE/OLB Eli Harold. Streaking the Lawn's Matt Ellis (@MEllis815) answered my questions, so let us know what you think in the comments!
1. His name has seemingly been one shooting up draft boards. Why do you think that is the case?
Simply put, Harold's an athletic marvel and the NFL Combine was made for guys like him to show off. His speed especially shone through as he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash (the 2nd fastest among DEs and 6th fastest among LBs) as well as top-10 finishes among all LBs in the 3-cone drill and both of the shuttles. He's not just straight line fast but he's incredibly quick at changing directions, and once scouts saw that the buzz around him really picked up.
2. Judging by his size and his game, he's pretty much a lock for a 3-4 OLB at the next level, right? Or do you think he could work into a 4-3 as well?
Harold definitely profiles best as a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB because of his quickness, and teams running that scheme tend to be the ones linked to him in the draft. His body type is virtually identical to that of Barkevious Mingo when he was coming into the league, they're both prototypical 3-4 pass rushers with great speed and a muscular but slight build (I don't think Mingo's struggles last season should be held against Harold in this regard, though). Harold does have experience through UVa's scheme playing the 4-3 DE with a hand in the dirt but this probably isn't his ideal position at the next level.
3. He is a tremendous athlete, and explodes out of his stance (with a hand in the dirt, or standing). Is this his greatest attribute?
At this point in his development it is, though he also uses his hands really well. Harold uses his explosion to get a step on OTs but then is able to prevent them from re-engaging their block using his hands as he makes the turn to get to the QB and a small thing like that is an underrated aspect of his game. Additionally, he had some success last season of recognizing when he wasn't going to be able to get to the QB and getting his hands up to disrupt throwing lanes.
4. He's listed at 6'3" 247 lbs, and some scouts say he needs to bulk up. Do you see him being able to do so, or is his frame 'maxed out'?
Harold is definitely someone who could potentially bulk up if the scheme demanded it though there’s a limit. Coming out of HS he was really thin, only 215 lbs, so he already put on about 30 lbs of muscle while at UVa and could probably add another 10-15 once he gets into an NFL strength program, but anything beyond that could negatively impact his speed and take away his best attribute.
5. Furthermore regarding his weight and strength, do you see him struggling at the next level against the run?
Initially the NFL run game will likely pose some problems for him. Harold isn't going to be the kind of player who you really rely on to set the edge and his tackling was a little inconsistent at times during college. That being said, he has the athleticism and ability to make plays in space or chase down backs in the open field, the question is if he'll be able to disengage from a lineman and make the tackle on a sweep or counter type play.
6. Ultimately, where do yous see him getting drafted, and what sort of immediate impact do you expect?
Harold will probably hear his name called in the Late First or Early Second rounds. Teams such as the Cardinals or Colts seem to be great fits at the end of the First, and if he manages to slide past them the Redskins or Giants appear to be logical choices in the Second. In terms of immediate impact, Harold can come in and serve as an effective situational pass-rusher from Day 1 in the right scheme, but he may be someone who plays primarily on third downs early until he proves he can hold up against the run.