The Ravens used the 98th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Malik Harrison, a linebacker from Ohio State University. Harrison was the second linebacker selected by Baltimore, following Patrick Queen, who the Ravens selected 70 picks prior.
Doubling down at linebacker was necessary. Heading into the draft, the Ravens had one of, if not the weakest linebacker rooms in football. As sound as L.J. Fort was in 2019, he’s never played more than 31% of total defensive snaps in a season. Adding both Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison turned a potential Achilles Heel into another muscle to flex.
Malik Harrison is a big, strong, physical linebacker who plays through blockers as well as, if not better, than any linebacker in the 2020 class. A former option quarterback in high school, Harrison is has good lateral agility and footwork, especially considering his 6-foot-3, 250 pound frame. Harrison is one of only five linebackers (Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser) to measure 6-foot-three or taller, 245 pounds or heavier, jump 36 inches high, post a 4.65 40 time and a 6.85 three cone shuttle.
He’s built like a defensive end, but is a natural off-ball linebacker with strong instincts and good movement skills. Harrison’s greatest asset is his physicality. In particular, he stacks and sheds blockers with explosive pop in his pads. He strikes ball carriers with textbook form, always the lower man at the time of contact. Coiling himself extremely well, the former Buckeye explodes through contact.
Malik Harrison filled a pillow case with bars of soap and beat Wisconsin’s OL with it for four quarters.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Absolutely MANHANDLED the LG here. pic.twitter.com/DXuWL27EqT
Wisconsin put a guard in at FB on third and short.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Malik Harrison meets him in the hole and drops him to one knee, completely stonewalling him.
Harrison is a brick shithouse. pic.twitter.com/8eQvCBsygP
Harrison just works through trash so well in tight quarters... takes direct path to the ball and blockers can’t knock him off that path.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Something CJ Mosley always did so well for the Ravens. Harrison and Mosley fit a similar profile. pic.twitter.com/eElIu1piW2
Malik Harrison (39) is just a solid linebacker. Third and short...— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Textbook tackling form, square, big, gets low and tackles through ball carriers.
Johnathan Taylor does run through him later in this game. pic.twitter.com/efmwlLxO4b
The tenacity which Harrison brings against inside run concepts is as if every play is third and short, regardless of the situation. His explosive stacking of blockers is unwavering, regardless of opponent, time, place or situation. Harrison will fill the void that C.J. Mosley left behind as a literal linebacker. One that backs the line. He handled high quality offensive linemen with ease on a regular basis. A menace between the tackles, Harrison also always has enough speed to force ballcarriers to the sideline.
As far as sideline-sideline range, Harrison always seems to have *enough* to force back to the sideline.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Haven’t seen him get his angle beat yet, still looking.
He could open up his stride length even more, which would unlock more long speed, but again, doesn’t get beat. pic.twitter.com/3nL2NHscaf
I had a borderline first round grade on Harrison ahead of the draft. In my pre-draft first round options article, I mentioned that I couldn’t in good faith include Kenneth Murray and not include Harrison. While Harrison doesn’t quite have the explosive range or twitchy movement skills as Murray or his new teammate Patrick Queen, they don’t play through contact the way he does.
Harrison can over-pursue against elite athletes like Travis Etienne, but the narrative that he’s a lethargic, plodding mover is pure hyperbole.
This play is a thing of beauty...— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 3, 2020
Harrison doesn’t bite on the play action, gets right into his drop
Stays square with a SOLID lateral shuffle to follow QBs eyes... that’s why his 6.85 three cone didn’t surprise me
Comes downhill under control and ABUSES the QB pic.twitter.com/jG41ESR7le
Harrison has a great lateral shuffle. He keeps his movement tight and under control, a smooth mover who can flip his hips and change direction surprisingly well for a big dude.
His role in coverage was often more complex than his fellow 2020 linebacker classmates. Harrison displayed strong technique against RPO concepts, using his shuffle technique to stay with the running back, then sliding back into route concepts behind him.
Malik Harrison for Ohio State just blessed another Florida Atlantic player!!! This is how you form tackle!!! pic.twitter.com/ouUz8DBj3b— JaiHawkFLY (@JaiHawkFly) August 31, 2019
Nice play in coverage by LB Malik Harrison...— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 4, 2020
Those long arms are so damn annoying! Can take a bad step and still impact the catch point pic.twitter.com/WD8XWuLBQr
Malik Harrison— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) March 1, 2020
Nice work vs pulling guards, think a lot of college LBs struggle with that ... then does a good job to roll-and-run to find the crosser in coverage pic.twitter.com/YAPRdIjE3y
Ohio State also asked Harrison to turn and run with routes that entered his zone, which is match coverage. Harrison was often quick to identify crossers working behind him, turn, and run. While Harrison had his lapses in coverage at times, he had much more responsibility than most linebackers in college football, which will make his transition to the next level easier. He keeps a nice wide base and shuffles like a boxer, light on his feet. His time spent on cone footwork drills is evident in his drops.
Malik Harrison career at Ohio State— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 26, 2020
942 Coverage snaps
3 TDs allowed pic.twitter.com/MuwLbEXgZn
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: Sr. Ohio State, LB Malik Harrison 6’3 245 lbs— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) February 25, 2020
One of the best tacklers and block shedders at the position with a strong football IQ. Plays with some swagger that can consistently get downhill and disrupts things. #NFLDraftpic.twitter.com/mn7sThDvhj
While I wouldn’t rely on Harrison to be the cover linebacker, he’s proven he can hold his own enough to be a factor on third down. Pairing that with his success when blitzing, Harrison provides a versatile threat for Wink Martindale’s creeper blitzes. He will get beat in coverage when matched up in man, but he won’t be the weak link too often. Harrison does a great job getting his hands on receivers and rerouting them. However, if they can survive that, he often finds himself flat footed at the stem of the route, where receivers quickly separate on hard breaks.
Now we see Harrison matched up in man coverage on the boundary with Travis Etienne on the bottom of the screen.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 4, 2020
Harrison shows the good and the bad of what he does in man coverage
Good— he consistently jams and reroutes receivers
Bad— he stops moving his feet at their stem pic.twitter.com/fbtRz9CP9E
Harrison is also dynamic when blitzing, coming downhill with bad intentions, but rarely out of control. The way he strikes ball carriers is consistent. He coils, strikes through the hips and legs, puts his head to the side and wraps up on nearly every attempt. Consistency is the name of Harrison’s game.
Malik Harrison gets the sack off a well executed Zone Blitz as Tyquan Lewis drops into coverage. pic.twitter.com/bThlA5Bw5A— Kyle Morgan (@KyleMorgan_ASU) November 12, 2017
The Ravens love to blitz their linebackers, and Malik Harrison had 38 pressures on 168 rushes over the past two seasons, per @PFF, a damn fine 22.6% rate.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) April 25, 2020
Overall, Harrison is my favorite pick in this Ravens draft class. I fail to see why he was barely a top-100 selection. He wasn’t necessarily a game breaker, rather a consistent player who did his job and made plays when his assignment led him there. While Harrison can overrun his assignments occasionally, so do all linebackers. He excels as a pass rusher and against the run, with consistently sound coverage ability.
His struggles may come against the smaller, shiftier backs in the league, which happened at OSU from time to time. However, he has Patrick Queen, who is built more like a running back, to roam sideline to sideline with those types. Harrison brings the heavy hands back to the Ravens linebacker room. With Calais Campbell and company figuring to make life difficult on opposing offensive lines, Harrison will explode into late combo blocks and wreck runs.
Harrison and Queen are both listed as starters on the Ravens official depth chart, and they have the potential to give Baltimore what they thought they were getting when Zach Orr and C.J. Mosley formed a promising young duo.
The former Buckeye may never become the flashy All-Pro who receives acclaim, but he is a damn good football player who will restore tone setting physicality to the Ravens linebacker room. He is willing to do the dirty work required to make plays, and if any city appreciates dirty work, it’s Baltimore.
Harrison will play his best games against downhill running offenses, becoming a staple on early downs and rotating in on third down. He will have his ups and downs in coverage, but if he keeps his patient, fluid feet working, he will continue to improve.
70 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and three passes defended.
Harrison becomes a fan favorite by year two, where he becomes a three down player and cog in the Ravens defense alongside Patrick Queen.
Malik Harrison had an up and down game against Clemson.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) May 4, 2020
Here, he defeats 2021 probable first round LT Jackson Carmen when he tries to reach Harrison and seal him inside.
Harrison resets, comes downhill and THUMPS Travis Etienne. pic.twitter.com/Ol7RaAvFkw