The Cincinnati Bengals have made it know to be looking for a versatile strong safety this offseason. Could Ronnie Harrison be a day two pick?
The Cincinnati Bengals were looking at safeties in free agency as they made a strong push for Kurt Coleman and brought in Eric Reid. While the team has two safeties that should not be looked over, they are both better suited at the free safety position. The Bengals are in need of a player at strong safety that is versatile and a playmaker.
Between Cincinnati’s two starting safeties, Shawn Williams and George Iloka, the pair only brought in a combined two interceptions last season. This coming after a season in 2016 where they each hauled in three a piece. The entire defense combined for a total of only 14 turnovers last season which tied with the Oakland Raiders for 30th in the league.
Finding someone that can be a versatile piece in the Bengals defense and play from any spot is the absolute key to Cincinnati becoming more aggressive in 2018. Head coach Marvin Lewis has already talked about the defense making big changes with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. He also discussed a couple players like linebacker Carl Lawson who will be expanding their roles in 2018 to become more versatile.
Finding a safety in the draft that can play a versatile role and line up anywhere on the defensive side would be a major grab for the Bengals. There is a possibility that they could find that player in the second round with how many top safeties there are coming in with this draft class. His name, Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison.
It is unclear whether the team met with Harrison for a top 30 pre-draft visit, but it looks like they have met with him at some point in the process. Still one of the best safeties in this class, Harrison would be a great pick if they could snatch him in the second round of the draft. He is a player that is being overlooked by many because of another safety coming out of Alabama in Minkah Fitzpatrick. Another safety that could be selected before Harrison and push him down the boards is Florida State Derwin James.
Harrison should not be overlooked and would normally be a first round pick in most drafts. He can play anywhere on the defense whether it’s single high, hybrid linebacker, slot corner, and even edge rusher. This is a player that loves to make a play on the ball and is a punisher when coming down for a tackle.
In 2017, Harrison logged 74 tackles (4.5 tackles for loss), three interceptions and four pass deflections in 14 games. In 2016, he hauled in 83 tackles, two interceptions including one pick-six, and seven pass deflections. These are not the type of numbers that find a player making players round two of the draft. Fitzpatrick and Harrison were asked to step it up in 2017 after some secondary players left in last year’s draft and they showed that they were the highlight of the secondary at Alabama.
Harrison’s run defense was exceptional at Alabama no matter where he lined up. His speed and athleticism combined with his awareness made him a great run defender. Even when lining up high, he had the ability to come down and make a tackle at the line of scrimmage. He brought the punishing tackles just about every time he made contact with running backs.
When in coverage, the Alabama product has an excellent feel for zone coverages and also has the size to match up well against tight ends and big body receivers in man coverage. Bringing him down inside the box can help not only in the run game which he excelled with flying colors but in coverage well which is something Cincinnati has been looking for in their linebackers. The Bengals have yet to find another linebacker that can play well in coverage consistently and Harrison could be a part of the three safety sets that they are wanting to instill in the defense this year to help with that.
With veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict facing a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season once again, it would make a lot of sense for the Bengals to draft Harrison to help cover that void in the middle of the defense. His best work comes closer to the line of scrimmage where he can make an impact on the run game and get into backfields while also matching up against tight ends and bigger receivers from the line of scrimmage.
If the Bengals can grab a great offensive line talent in the first round and snatch Harrison in the second it would be an excellent start to the draft. Taking care of a big need on both sides of the ball with their first two picks. While many don’t see safety as a “big need” for Cincinnati, they are in desperate need of playmakers and versatile players. Harrison fits both of those profiles and being able to plug him anywhere along the defense makes the linebacker need a much lesser need.