He was as good as the twice named first team All-SEC and All-American beside him in the secondary, but Ronnie Harrison was overlooked due to the success of Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Harrison arrived in 2015 as a consensus four-star from Tallahassee, Fla.
Like Fitzpatrick, the 6-foot-3 safety earned a starting job during his freshman season, assisting the Crimson Tide to a College Football Playoff National Championship. Throughout his career, Harrison was known for his hard-hitting prowess, ball skills and passionate play on the field.
An all-conference selection in 2017, Harrison’s tenure ended with 176 total tackles – including seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He recorded 17 pass breakups, seven interceptions (three last season) and two touchdowns. After finishing his first year with 17 tackles, the 214-pounder made huge strides in accounting for 85 and a team-high 74 stops (2017) in the next two seasons.
While his emotions get the best of him at times, Harrison’s size and range helped Alabama’s defense in run support and pass coverage. He was a fixture on special teams and should he develop patience in his game, there will be a number of teams pursuing him in the draft.
Per a few draft analysts, Harrison is projected to go anywhere in the first round (Todd McShay, No. 22 overall) regardless of him getting a second-round grade prior to leaving Tuscaloosa.
In this installment of “Potential draft spots for former Tide players,” yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine lists four teams – all with first-round picks — that can use Harrison.
Washington Redskins (No. 13 overall pick)
Washington’s defense needs a high-end safety, if it wants to challenge Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and whomever the New York Giants get to replace Eli Manning in the future.
D.J. Swearinger, 26, will hit the beginning of his prime next fall, but DeAngelo Hall is 34 years old and on the back side of his career. Despite having a talented cornerback in Josh Norman and a young safety in DeShazor Everett out of Texas A&M, the Redskins’ secondary is average.
Even with having the league’s ninth-best pass defense, allowing 214 yards a game and intercepting 16 balls, Washington finished last against the run with 2,146 yards allowed.
Atlanta Falcons (No. 26 overall pick)
Dan Quinn has all the offensive firepower needed to win a Super Bowl, and with him being a defensive-minded head coach, he already knows the ideal need for Atlanta moving forward.
After seeing Keanu Neal record 116 tackles in his second season with the Falcons, the franchise anticipates pairing him with another player in the secondary. Atlanta is the market for a ball-hawking safety – especially in the NFC South with New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Although it finished 12th in pass defense, the Falcons surrendered a completion percentage of 65.5 percent and totaled just eight interceptions. Three of its picks were credited to linebacker Deion Jones and with the league becoming more pass-happy, a dynamic secondary is critical.
Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 28 overall pick)
When you constantly have Ben Roethlisberger testing retirement, it’s a good thing to start making sure your defense is intact for the future. In the aftermath of losing James Harrison to New England and Ryan Shazier to a horrific injury, getting an alpha male mentality is ideal.
Ronnie Harrison fits that mold for Pittsburgh and pairing him with Sean Davis gives the franchise a young, but explosive defensive backfield. Davis, 24, collected 92 tackles in his second season with a team-high three interceptions in 2017. The Steelers also carry Mike Mitchell on its roster, but he’s 30 and his best outing came in 2013 as a Carolina Panther.
The fact that Roethlisberger totaled 469 yards passing with five touchdowns and Pittsburgh still fell to Jacksonville, 45-42, should be all the reasoning for the “Terrible Towel” to get a safety.
New England Patriots (No. 31 overall pick)
It is perplexing to see how Matt Patricia landed a head coaching job at Detroit, especially after seeing the horrendous product he engineered last season with New England. Only two teams finished worst in pass defense than Bill Belichick’s group, as it chimed in at No. 30 overall.
Opposing quarterbacks had 4,020 yards (251 ypg) and 24 touchdowns to 12 picks.
Cornerback is the preferred need for the Patriots; however, seeing how Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are both 30 years old, getting a safety should also be the cards.
Nick Foles exploited New England’s secondary for 373 passing yards and three touchdowns in Philadelphia’s 41-33 victory in Super Bowl 52 and Malcolm Butler’s reaction following the game could determine how long he remains in Foxborough, Mass. Stephon Gilmore is an elite defender, but the Patriots need more pieces with Cyrus Jones and Eric Rowe learning.