Monday, March 17, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Derrick Harvey

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. I've tried to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agents Bernard Berrian and Donte Stallworth, and taken a detour to look at a safety the Vikings might sign, Madieu Williams. While detouring, I figured that it might be worth it to look at another QB the Vikings might end up with, Sage Rosenfels. Now that free agency is all but over, it's time to look at some of the Vikings' draft options, starting with Derrick Harvey, a junior end from Florida.]

Derrick Harvey, a redshirt junior out of Florida, is perhaps the best defensive end that could be available to the Vikings (I've yet to see a mock draft where Chris Long or Vernon Gholston drops out of the top ten). He's almost 6'5, weighs about 271 lbs and is cat quick, something he demonstrated in his last two years at Florida, where he racked up 11 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss his sophomore year and 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss his junior year. His junior year production was enough to lead the Gators in both sacks and tackles, and both totals were fifth in the SEC, despite being the main focus of opposing teams pass protection schemes. He has a reputation as a good run stopper as well, as can be seen by how many tackles he made in the backfield.

Harvey isn't perfect, however. 271 is undersized for a defensive end (though not undersized for the Vikings, where he would be the third heaviest end, behind Keneci Udeze and Jayme Mitchell) and his 4.83 forty time isn't great. Neither his weight, nor his forty time are worth worrying about. While he was overpowered by larger tackles at times, he was still very productive despite facing tackles that weighed an average of 311 pounds. And he's shown that he can put on weight, as he entered college weighing only 235 pounds. Of course, if he adds too much weight, he'll lose the main reason for his success: his quickness. His forty time doesn't stick out, but that doesn't matter as much as his initial first step, something scouts are raving about.

Harvey has the quickness, the production and the upside that you want in your first round pick. He would also help address a position of need for the Purple, and could have an impact in his rookie year, just like another speed demon who left Florida early after winning a national title in his redshirt sophomore year.

[If you're looking for draft information, I recommend NFL Draft Countdown and NFL Draft Scout, both of which are also linked on the sidebar.]


Anonymous said...

Linemen generally don't run even close to 40 yards on any given play, so that's a pointless statistic as far as DE's are concerned.

Harvey ran the 10-yard split in 1.64 sec, top 5 for the position. However, his 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill times were among the slowest (4.36 and 7.27). Both test quickness and change of direction as opposed to raw speed. Judging by combine profiles the results of those agility drills make glaring his known weaknesses (problems with bigger, more powerful blockers / pays dearly if he can't beat O-linemen with his quickness; concerns over his agility and direction-changing ability; unable to consistently take advantage of his superior wingspan).

On the plus side, he's fairly strong and his 82" wingspan makes the bench press difference between him and Vernon Gholston (31 to Gholston's 37) less significant. With time, the knowledge of multiple pass rush moves and how to apply them will make him a dangerous DE down the road.

If you want to talk immediate impact, maybe Leslie Frazier can make something of UGA's Marcus Howard if he can be had in the 3rd or 4th... (think Colts DE Robert Mathis)

Chris said...

Whoah...whoever this "anonymous" guy is, he knows his stuff! Thanks for posting your comment; very interesting read, indeed.

While good to keep in mind, combine stats are (IMO) all but insignificant in terms of how a guy plays on Sundays. If Harvey has the passion it takes to become one of the best DEs in the NFL one day, draft him. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I predominantly heaped criticism in my previous post, so I should reinforce Harvey's positives in this one.

Of course hustle and desire can't be overlooked (if anything, they should be emphasized). Harvey doesn't seem to have that problem, though (no character marks, solid upbringing). He's also been one of the two or three reliable defenders on UF's '06 and '07 squads.

It seems like his best efforts came in bowl games. Obviously there's the performance against Ohio State in the 2006 title game, but he was also solid against Jake Long in the Capital One Bowl this year. I don't know if he got one of the two sacks Long gave up in his career, though.

Honestly, I think the team should load up on pass rushers, if possible. Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones should at least be considered in the 4th (maybe 3rd) round. For starters, his build is similar to Derrick Harvey's (slightly taller -- above 6'5, slightly longer arms), although Jones played around 275-280 in college and slimmed down in anticipation of a move to DE in the pros after playing @ DT his senior year.

There are concerns about his production. He got 19 sacks in 4 years as a starter, and had no double-digit pressures/hurries in a season until '07. Without having seen EMU's games it's hard to determine if those numbers should be taken at face value, or if other factors come into play. However, he's always able to make tackles and take guys down in the backfield.

In the Senior Bowl he returned to playing @ DE and manhandled the tackle lined up against him (Kirk Barton, Ohio State) during practice. In the game itself he was able to collapse the pocket and force mistakes. He showed quickness, athleticism, the skill to utilize a variety of pass rush moves, and the ability to use his wingspan to his advantage. At the Combine he got 18 reps in the bench press; either he isn't a workout fiend, or Harvey's 30 reps means he's far stronger than he looks. Inconsistent agility tests -- great 3-cone drill time, average shuttle, poor vertical -- mean little considering what he showed during Senior Bowl Week, leading back to the point you made in your post.

Given his ability to improve (in terms of conditioning/shape as well as skill) I could see him becoming a surprise down the road, like Justin Tuck. He's able to line up in various spots and continue to be a threat regardless of where he is. It's funny how the Tampa Two's success starts with your front four; yet it's Coughlin/Spagnuolo's Giants who embraced that more than anyone by employing versatile DEs they can rely on to produce in an unorthodox manner, e.g. Tuck lined up @ DT, Umenyiora/Kiwanuka @ OLB., I just proofread that. Sorry to hijack the Harvey discussion to talk about a day two prospect.

Brett said...

I like what Anon was saying about the rotation in NY and the effectiveness of the usage of the players. I think the Vikes should seriously look at Q Groves with their first pick. He will not fall past Jax at 23--and with good reason! A 4.52-4.57 40 and 31-32 bench reps at the combine show that this kid has the power and explosiveness to be an impact player. I have heard he is too small at 250 (pro day weight) to 260 (combine) but what did Strahan, Osi, and Tuck play at lat year? 262 was Strahan's weight in the playoffs and Osi and Tuck just slightly more. I think this kid will be special as he matures and continues to grow and could develop into an elite speed rusher off the corner. Skol Vikings!