Malik Harrison was not the 1st round linebacker the Ravens selected in the 2019 draft. However, Harrison has an opportunity at being the most productive linebacker taken.
Malik Harrison was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens at #98 overall in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft, a full 70 picks after they selected Patrick Queen in the 1st round. He was the 8th off-ball linebacker taken in the draft and landed in a beautiful situation. The Ravens are likely to put out a starting inside linebacker group that will be manned by two rookies. Harrison may not be the most talented linebacker out of this draft but his fit with his team is seamless. He fills a team need and is the quintessential Ravens style linebacker. Let’s take a look as to why Malik Harrison can be the best rookie linebacker draft value.
Who Was Drafted Before Him
Isaiah Simmons – Selected 1st Round (8th Overall) Arizona Cardinals
Isaiah Simmons is what is known as a “unicorn” in the NFL. The man can literally line up everywhere on the field outside of interior defensive lineman. It is a tight race between Chase Young and himself for who is the best defensive player from the 2020 draft. Simmons could have been selected with any of the other top seven picks and his fantasy outlook would have been great. Unfortunately, he landed with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals currently have Jordan Hicks who had a huge year and was third in the league in total tackles with 150. They also signed De’Vondre Campbell in free agency who is coming off of a 129 tackle season himself. Throw in the fact that they have Budda Baker on the backside who had 147 tackles in 2019 and fantasy opportunity seems minimal for any newcomers. At his current ADP of 16.33, I would much rather grab one of the many wide receiver targets in this year’s draft than a linebacker who may see limited fantasy production. This makes Simmons rookie linebacker draft value quite low.
Kenneth Murray – Selected 1st Round (23rd Overall) Los Angeles Chargers
Kenneth Murray is an athletic sideline to sideline linebacker that was drafted in the 1st round by the Los Angeles Chargers. Murray can cover a lot of ground and has great length with a powerful upper body which he uses to finish tackles well. He is adequate in coverage, mostly when dropping in zone, as he understands depth. His big problem in coverage is being baited by the quarterback and his technique is lacking in man coverage. Still, the Chargers traded up in the 1st round to select Murray, so they have big plans for him.
Unfortunately, Los Angeles is not the most IDP friendly spot for linebackers as you can read more about in my depth chart article here. The Chargers run a lot of situational lineups based on what they are facing. I totally expect Murray to be the leading linebacker in snaps for the Chargers but that may not lead to more than 80% of snaps. Going in the 2nd round of rookie drafts I think I would rather hold and get better rookie linebacker draft value later.
Jordyn Brooks – Selected 1st Round (27th overall) Seattle Seahawks
IDPGUYS Rookie Draft ADP: Pick 34.67 (LB5)
The Seattle Seahawks are the kings of reaching during the NFL draft. Well…they succeeded again. Not to take anything away from Jordyn Brooks, but it is not like the Seahawks were in dire need of linebacker help. They still employ K.J. Wright, who just signed a 2-year deal through 2021, and Bobby Wagner, who signed a 3-year deal. The duo combined for 291 tackles in 2019 and will be the two off-ball linebackers for the Seahawks at least until 2021.
The Seahawks also drafted Cody Barton in the 3rd round (88th overall) of the 2019 draft and he made 4 starts to finish 2019. They also grabbed Ben Burr-Kirven in the 5th round of the 2019 draft who was coming off of a 176 tackle season at Washington. Burr-Kirven was limited to special teams duty in 2019 and now the addition of Brooks makes this even more interesting. With Brooks going in the 3rd round of rookie drafts, I am not touching his value.
Patrick Queen – Selected 1st Round (28th Overall) Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Queen landed in a beautiful spot for IDP production. The Ravens have been void of solid linebacker play for a while now. They drafted Queen in the 1st round and Malik Harrison in the 3rd to be the young starting duo for the foreseeable future. Queen is an incredibly athletic linebacker with great speed and play recognition. His landing spot has shot him straight to the LB1 in our latest rookie draft ADP.
My biggest problem with Queen, through the pre-draft process, was his play strength. Queen gets swallowed up by more powerful lineman and has a tough job shedding those blocks at the second level. In the NFL, linemen are only going to get stronger and better at that. In addition, Queen could not win the starting job at LSU at the beginning of 2019. It was his progression throughout the year that pushed him into the lineup. For a guy being drafted at the beginning of the 2nd round in rookie drafts, I am looking for more polish.
Willie Gay Jr. – Selected 2nd Round (63rd Overall) Kansas City Chiefs
If any of you have read my work or follow me on Twitter you know I love Willie Gay Jr. I wrote an article on him earlier about how he has the opportunity to be the overall rookie LB1 for 2020, check it out here. Gay had some off-field issues which limited his time on the field in college, but his game tape jumps off the screen. He is super athletic and has very good coverage skills. He just needs a little refining. That characteristic alone should land him the starting job in Kansas City.
The Chiefs were completely void of any linebacker with coverage ability on their roster prior to the addition of Willie Gay Jr. His versatility should allow him to see the field early and often and has big-play ability. Gay has good rookie draft linebacker value but is still being drafted in the 2nd round of rookie drafts. This is a draft I am looking for IDP later and capitalizing on the offensive talent.
Logan Wilson – Selected 3rd Round (65th Overall) Cincinnati Bengals
Logan Wilson is a small school linebacker that was incredibly productive in college. He has great range and is a tackle machine that’s very capable in coverage. Wilson is a downhill hammer that will make you think twice about hitting a hole. His instincts and football IQ are superb, and he does some great pre-snap processing. The problem is with the Bengals “depth” at the linebacker position. The Bengals have last year’s 3rd round pick in Germaine Pratt, veteran journeyman Josh Bynes, and also drafted two more rookies in Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey. I covered what I thought his role may be in an article you can read here. Wilson has the talent to start but with so much unknown I would rather draft a sure thing. This leaves Wilson’s ADP of the end of the 3rd round of rookie drafts too high for me.
Jacob Phillips – Selected 3rd Round (97th Overall) Cleveland Browns
Jacob Phillips was the LSU linebacker that did not receive any love from scouts. He not only started every game for LSU last season, something Patrick Queen did not do, but he also led the SEC in tackles for 2019. Phillips is a little thin for the NFL at only 221 lbs. but comes in at 6’4″ tall. The Browns selected Phillips in hopes to utilize his height in the middle of the field. I specified my thoughts on his role in an article here. If he’s going undrafted, why is Phillips not the best rookie linebacker draft value?
The Browns have two draft picks from last year in Mack Wilson (5th round 155th overall) and Sione Takitaki (3rd round 80th overall). Wilson proved to be a steal in the 5th round and ended up as the leading tackler of the linebacker group. Takitaki was limited to a special teams role but showed glimpses of life. The Browns also signed B.J. Goodson this off-season who will likely compete with Phillips for the third and final starting spot. Either way, Phillips will lose some snaps in certain sets where the Browns run more defensive backs. Phillips has draft capital and talent, though his situation is far less clear.
Malik Harrison’s Rookie Draft Linebacker Value
IDPGUYS Rookie Draft ADP: 47.33 (LB7)
I am going to admit that Malik Harrison was not my favorite linebacker prospect going into the 2020 draft. I felt that he was a one dimensional. He does not have much business in man coverage but he is adequate in zone. The Ravens run one of the highest amounts of man coverage schemes in the NFL. Luckily for Harrison, the Ravens used their 1st round pick on a linebacker who can cover. Harrison’s job will be to do what he does best. Come downhill, fill gaps, get into the backfield, and make plays.
Harrison does a great job playing through contact and is very strong. He fits that super aggressive quintessential Ravens linebacker mantra. During his senior year at Ohio St. he finished with 75 total tackles and added 16.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Harrison is going to play that disruptive role in run defense. This means that his sole job will be to hammer away on run defense and attack the backfield plugging gaps, while his running mate does most of the man coverage work. So, Harrison has a chance to actually lead the Ravens in tackles in 2020. He is being drafted at the end of the 4th round and is the 7th linebacker off the board and has the opportunity to reach the 100 tackle mark.
Is Malik Harrison the most talented linebacker from the 2020 draft? No, he definitely is not but that does not mean that he does not hold value. Of the linebackers drafted before Harrison, the only situation I may like more than Harrison is Willie Gay Jr.’s with Kansas City. With that said, Harrison still holds the best rookie linebacker draft value as you can grab him all the way in the end of the 4th round. With a draft class that is so heavy on offensive talent, waiting on selecting a linebacker until the 4th allows you to load up on the offensive skill positions without losing much production if any. If you like how Harrison played in college in run defense, you will likely enjoy his NFL play. Draft him at the end of the 4th round and enjoy.