The Lions moved up in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft to select safety Will Harris because GM Bob Quinn said he liked the fact that Harris was a three-year starter at Boston College, was also a team captain, and had a versatile skillset with great playing strength and terrific speed.
Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said last week that Harris is the kind of player who attacks the ball running through the ball carrier.
Harris’ short area quickness and speed shows up pretty quickly over the course of a practice.
He has the kind of skillset to potentially be a chess piece in a creative defense, but the rookie knows he has a long way to go before that becomes a reality, and for him, it all starts with the mental part of his preparation.
View photos from 2019 Detroit Lions Media Day on Monday, June 3, 2019.
“I just have to keep my head down and learn as much as possible every day. That’s my job,” Harris said after Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice. “I’ve got to learn from the older DB’s and the older guys on the defense and lock in.”
Harris has been getting some second-team reps and has worked himself onto the field in different sub packages. He’s also played a role on special teams.
It’s great to be a young and versatile player in this league, but that also comes with more responsibility and additional duties added to an already full plate for a rookie coming into the NFL. It’s not easy for rookies, and Harris is in that tough grind of adjusting to life as a professional.
The Lions value the safety position within their multiple defensive scheme, and the versatility a well-rounded group back there can provide the unit. Detroit has spent a top-three draft pick on the position in both of the last two drafts with Tracy Walker in 2018 and Harris this offseason. They extended veteran Quandre Diggs’ contract last September.
“You play against teams that have two tight ends, or multiple tight-end teams, you’re able to play three safety sets or do some of those things,” Stewart said of having talent and depth at the position.
“So, it just gives you so much versatility. I can do this. We can do that. That’s where we want to be. That’s a good thing.”
Harris’ focus right now is the playbook and learning the defense. He hopes by getting that down quickly it will allow his 4.41 speed and big frame (6-1, 207) to play the kind of instinctual football that attracted the Lions to him in the first place.
“At the end of the day, I just look forward to coming in and playing my role and playing where they tell me to play,” he said. “I’m taking a lot of pride in that and knowing the playbook as well.”
Harris said he’s just trying to get to a point where he can stop thinking and play fast again. He’s certain if he does that, it will earn him a role somewhere on this defense in the fall.