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Can WR Mike Harley make the 53-man roster?

Receiver group needs dependable hands and healthy bodies

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Needless to say, the receiver room plus offensive center are the most “need” areas of this year’s team. One receiver will get hurt, then another, with another coming back from some sort of list, and then low-and-behold yet another will go down with an ailment.

The veteran Amari Cooper is this year’s Jarvis Landry with lots of experience plus Pro Bowl hardware. Hopefully, this trade is an upgrade. The Browns haven’t had an outside receiver with his talent for a while.

But since joining Cleveland, the 28-year old Cooper has had his ups-and-downs. On August 2 he injured his ankle during Red Zone drills. This isn’t hot off the press news because the receiver has a history of assorted injuries; pedal foot sprain, pedal toe dislocation, plantar fasciitis Grade 1, sprained left ankle Grade 2 (twice), concussion, pedal foot sprain, sprained ankle, knee injury, right ankle sprain, bruised rib, right hamstring, pedal ankle fracture, and a hamstring pull.

This last injury did not sideline him long, but the fact remains, Cooper gets injured quite a bit.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Donovan Peoples-Jones
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Donovan Peoples-Jones on the other hand is pretty durable. He is expected to man the WR2 role this year.

A healthy Cooper plus DPJ will play a monumental role with the offense this year.

Other receivers who have been hurt include rookie third round pick David Bell, Anthony Schwartz, Jakeem Grant, undrafted rookie Isaiah Weston plus sixth rounder Michael Woods.

Big things were expected from Bell who landed on the PUP list when he injured his foot during offseason activities. Schwartz went down with a knee injury on a non-contact drill. Grant blew out his knee and was placed on IR. Weston also had a knee issue and was subsequently waived with an injury designation. Woods had a hot start then sat out because of a left leg hamstring.

Some healthy bodies in the receiver room include Demetric Felton, Javon Wims, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Easop Winston and undrafted rookies Mike Harley, Jr. and Daylen Baldwin.

Of these, Harley is having the best training camp.


Harley grew up in the Miami area in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He attended St. Thomas Aquinas which is a Florida high school powerhouse. In addition to playing receiver Harley returned punts and kickoffs. His senior class went 12-2-0 and won the 7A State Championship where he caught three touchdown passes in the title game. After that season, Harley was ranked a four-star recruit by with 4.52 speed.

St. Thomas Aquinas High School

After his senior season he was named to the Miami Herald First Team All-Broward County Team plus the Sun-Sentinel First Team All-County. He was also invited to play in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Game.

Harley was heavily-recruited with offers from Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Kentucky, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Louisville. Being a local all his life, he chose to stay close to home and play for his childhood team.

Harley (5’-11”, 180 pounds) definitely left his mark on college football.

While at the University of Miami, he set their career receiving record. However, he played five seasons with an added year due to COVID. He had 182 receptions which bested NFL greats Reggie Wayne and Michael Irvin.

He played in 40 games and gained 2,158 yards on 182 receptions with 15 touchdowns and an 11.9 average yards per catch. Harley also returned 12 kickoffs for a 20.3 yards per return average. He was named Third Team All-ACC his real senior season.

In an interview with Pro Football Network prior to the NFL draft, Harley said:

“I’m the type of kind of guy who will come into the locker room and try my best to change it. I want to impact other people’s lives. One guy can change a village, and I feel like I can walk in a locker room and have a positive impact on people’s lives. I’m that type of athlete.”

Being a sub-six foot athlete while trying to get noticed in the NFL is not an easy task. The smaller guys usually go unnoticed without any type of recognition. The sleepers. The hidden gems.

Leading up to the draft, the receiver talent this year was very deep. Harley was confident that his combination of 4.44 speed plus his pound-per-pound strength would make GM’s notice. While at Miami he was known as a weight room guru to which he could press 365 pounds, squat 425 with a vertical jump of 37 inches. At Miami’s Pro Day he was clocked at 22.6 MPH.

That is speed that NFL teams covet. Plus, he has extensive experience on special teams.

Scouting report on NBCSportsEdge:

“Harley is Miami’s all-time receptions leader and a crafty slot receiver who has been a vital piece of the Hurricanes’ offense for the past two seasons. Over that two year span, Harley caught 114-of-162 passes for 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns while earning a strong 75.3 PFF receiving grade. He has an advanced feel for finding space against zone coverage and is pretty smooth coming out of his breaks thanks to fluid hips. However his slight frame and inability to play on the outside limits his upside from a NFL Draft perspective. Harley is shaping up as a Day 3-to-UDFA caliber prospect.”

A chance to play in the NFL

There are literally thousands of college football players who never get the chance to play pro football. In an article on, Harley explained:

“I think I am going to turn a lot of heads with how strong I am for my size. They know I can run and then I am going to run faster than they think. At that point it will be about what can’t he do?”

Harley was not invited to the Combine. The draft came and went and Harley did not hear his name called even though teams such as San Francisco and Detroit had reached out to him prior to the draft. At the Hula Bowl, he had meetings with New Orleans, Denver, Kansas City and Minnesota.

However, Harley did not ever gain 100-yards in a single game which may have hurt his ability to gain astronomical stats during ACC play. This may have contributed to his draft stock being lowered.

Then, the Browns called and he was invited to compete in a crowded receivers room.

“It is my job to get on the field any way I can,” Harley said. “If they crack the door for me, it is my job to push the door down.”

His size is perfect for the slot position. Make that “field-stretching slot receiver.” His talents work best in an offense that utilizes the RPO and use him on deep attacks.

While in Browns training camp, as mentioned before, numerous receivers have had injury issues. This has led to additional reps for Harley despite being not only a rookie, but of the undrafted variety from a Power 5 school.

In addition to the added reps, he has proven to be able to find the soft spots in zone defense. He has to be more consistent on getting open and eliminate the focus drops.

His twitter handle is @MikeHarleyjr.

In the second preseason game against Philadelphia, Harley was targeted seven times and had three catches for 30 yards. He also returned one kickoff for 19-yards.

Harley had an acobatic catch against Philly at this link:

While having a good training camp is important along with elite speed, that speed does not render to the field without the ability to get open and make plays. Schwartz is a perfect example of this.

Harley just hopes that next Tuesday when Cleveland must trim the roster from 85 players to 53, that he has shown enough to keep him around.