Every year, the New England Patriots seem to surprise us by taking a little-known prospect a lot earlier in the draft than everyone else thought, and the Patriots did it again this year by picking Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Duron Harmon in the late third-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Harmon is an interesting prospect who can play at either safety spot, and you could tell that everyone was thoroughly surprised by this pick. The Patriots know Rutgers better than anyone, and they now have three Rutgers DBs after drafting Harmon’s teammate Logan Ryan in the third round as well.
Harmon is starting to gain a little more steam recently, and draft analysts such as Mike Mayock and Kevin Weidl have thrown a little bit of praise his way. But Harmon expected to go in the late rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft, if he would even be drafted at all. The Patriots seem to be too trigger-happy when they want to pull an underrated prospect they really like, because it seems like they could have waited until the seventh round to take him.
But therein lies the issue. Although the Patriots have several seventh-round picks, how would they know that he would have fallen down there? They probably should have used their fourth-rounder in that case, but maybe there are other teams that are high on Harmon as well. That probably doesn’t justify reaching Harmon, but all will be forgiven if Harmon ends up being the player Bill Belichick and the Patriots think he will be.
The Patriots decide to go with two DBs (from the same school, no less) in the third round, and Harmon will fortify the depth at safety. But safety was already a crowded position with Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Tavon Wilson, Steve Gregory, and Nate Ebner. Harmon is a sixth body at the position, and it makes me wonder if the Patriots want to get rid of Gregory. He showed up well on special teams and made some plays in run defense, but Gregory is a huge liability in coverage and is a third safety at best- he isn’t even better than last year’s second-round pick Tavon Wilson (I’d give Wilson a significant edge, too).
Harmon was a two-time All-Big East selection at Rutgers, and he has excellent intangibles. Some scouts have praised Harmon’s size, and he is known for his hard-hitting ability. Could he develop into an imposer at the back end? Harmon’s versatility to play both free safety and strong safety is an added plus, but there isn’t much out there to adequately evaluate Harmon. It’s telling that there weren’t even clips up for him when he was drafted.
I don’t mind the Patriots decision to pick Duron Harmon, especially since I trust in the Patriots judgement. They know far more about Harmon than we do, and they could be vindicated if Harmon has enough success. But the Patriots passed up on two quality receivers in Quinton Patton and Stedman Bailey, and they could have easily had Harmon in a later round. Unless, of course, they truly felt that another team would have snapped him up shortly after. I don’t get that feeling myself, and this pick is the odd one out in this draft for the Patriots. Time will certainly tell if the Patriots were justified in selecting Harmon in the third round, but right now it looks like the Patriots went a little too far in trying to secure an unheralded prospect that they like. I do love Harmon personally, as he seems incredibly humble and has excellent intangibles, especially when it comes to leadership.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.