Scouts look for safeties who can read the eyes and minds of quarterbacks.
As a former high school quarterback, himself, Harrison can do precisely that - while providing the speed and bone-crunching collision power to take full advantage of this awareness.
Harrison's combination of instincts, size, athleticism and explosiveness has drawn plenty of comparisons to the man he replaced as the Tide's star strong safety, Landon Collins, now a standout with the New York Giants after getting selected No. 33 overall in 2015.
Like Collins, Harrison's made an immediate impression on observers with his penchant for big hits and big plays to spark turnovers. With Collins playing ahead of him in 2015, opportunities were limited for Harrison as a true freshman and he "only" recorded 17 tackles on the year. He provided more of an impact than these numbers suggest, however, immediately emerging as one of Alabama's most feared defenders on special teams and showing a knack for creating turnovers, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble in his limited duty while recording a sack in his only start (Texas A&M).
Harrison broke out in a big way as a sophomore, starting all 15 games and finishing second on the team (behind only 2017 Butkus Award-winning linebacker Reuben Foster) with 86 tackles while also recording two interceptions and two fumble recoveries - one of each of which he returned for a touchdown. In addition to his 56 solo stops, he deflected nine passes and blocked a first quarter field goal attempt by LSU in the rivalry game Alabama would eventually win 10-0.
It will not go unnoticed by scouts that Harrison's interceptions came against future NFL draft picks Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) and Mike White (Western Kentucky). Dobbs was drafted in the fourth round last spring by Pittsburgh. White, who like Dobbs was invited to the Senior Bowl, is expected to earn a similar grade this year.
Asked to attack the line of scrimmage more often in 2017, Harrison emerged as Alabama's leading tackler over the regular season, pacing the team with 68 stops, overall, including a team-leading 38 solos. The more aggressive role put Harrison in position to bump his tackles for loss (3.5) and sacks (2.5) in 2017 but his awareness of passing lanes did not suffer, as he still tied for the team lead with three interceptions - including an impressive pick against LSU - in earning Second Team All-SEC honors from conference coaches.
Like most of the starters at Alabama, Harrison signed with the Tide as a highly regarded prep prospect, turning down the likes of Florida, Georgia, LSU and Texas, among others, to join the NFL pipeline Nick Saban has created in the secondary at Tuscaloosa. A consensus four-star safety prospect who enrolled early to get a head start in 2015 spring practice ... a two-way player who also played quarterback for Florida State University School. Recorded 39 tackles with five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries on defense as a senior in 2014 while throwing for 2,076 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception and rushing for 1,015 yards and 16 scores on the ground.
Looks the part of a modern day NFL safety with a tall athletic and well-distributed musculature which includes broad shoulders, a tapered middle and long limbs. A very instinctive player, often racing towards the line of scrimmage in run support or cutting just inside intended receivers to make a play on the ball in which he initially seemed out of position. Understands passing angles and anticipates routes, maintaining position between receivers and the quarterback. Complements his football I.Q. with athleticism, showing the ability to mirror receivers with light feet and a fluid change of direction.
Generally a reliable open-field tackler who shows the ability to knock defenders to the ground in a variety of ways, extending his arms to "catch" elusive ball-carriers in space, wrapping his arms securely for the textbook stop and delivering stone-shouldered collisions to be an intimidator across the middle and down the sidelines. Good timing and hand-eye coordination when competing for jump balls, as well as soft hands for the interception.
Looks natural with the ball in his hands, showing the vision to set up blocks as well as elusiveness and pull-away speed. Times his blitzes well, accelerating as he approaches the line of scrimmage and showing very good agility and balance to elude, leaving would-be blockers in tough position to get a hand on him. Characterized as a passionate player who expects greatness from himself and his teammates. - Rob Rang 12/19/2017
At his best in a straight-line, losing a step when changing directions and raising questions about his ability to drop down and handle one-on-one coverage duties consistently. May not possess elite range to handle true centerfield duties as a single-high safety in the NFL. Can get a little out of control as an open-field tackler, relying too often on simply dropping his shoulder into ball-carriers and must do a better job of wrapping up securely. For a player with his reputation as a big hitter, Harrison forced just one fumble over his career (back in 2015) and he needs to develop stronger hands to rip the ball free. -- Rob Rang 12/19/2017
COMPARES TO: Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, 49ers - Like Harrison, Lott developed a reputation as one of the most intimidating hitters of his time. Neither, however, often gets enough credit for their instincts, athleticism and ball-skills - attributes which helped each play multiple positions as well as create turnovers and scores of their own, including five TDs on 63 career interceptions for Lott, a 6-0, 205 pounder selected in the first round in 1981 who earned Pro Bowl nods as a cornerback, free safety and strong safety.
IN OUR VIEW: Harrison may not possess the elite change of direction and range teams would prefer in a modern day centerfielder but in terms of size, physicality and awareness, there may not be a better, all-around safety in this class. Athletic, instinctive and an explosive hitter with plenty of experience at both safety spots, Harrison is an intimidating big play presence who deserves first round consideration.