Numbers: 6036/248, 4.84 forty, 2.81 twenty, 1.68 ten, 15 reps, 28.5 vertical, 8'10 long, 4.68 shuttle, 7.05 cone
2006 stats: 58-935-12 receiving, 2-28-0 rushing, 5-110-0 kick returns, 2-(-3)-0 punt returns, 3 tackles, 1 assist
The Player: It's hard to argue with production, but with Harline, I have to — at least a little. I watched as he put up colossal numbers for his position in college, but I began too look at a few mitigating factors. Though listed as a tight end, Harline very rarely lined up close to the tackle. Far more often, he was in motion, split to the slot or even wide. There was a simple reason for this — Harline does not like contact. Not a great blocker either inline or on the move, he can easily be thrown off his route by a determined linebacker or safety. This is a problem that will get exponentially worse in the NFL as the linebackers and safeties he'll see will be bigger, faster, smarter and meaner.
So what we have here is a king-sized wideout. And at that, he does quite well. Harline is blessed with awesome hands, excellent awareness and an uncanny ability to get open. He is smart and understands the playbook and can adjust his game in complex situations to help his quarterback. He doesn't run the sharpest routes, but is generally where the quarterback expects him to be and is something of an expert at using his face, body and hands to send defenders in the wrong direction. Despite his size, Harline has not show much of an ability to make yards after the catch. While he doesn't have the straight-line speed you expect from a wide receiver or slot guy, he makes up for it (at least on short patterns) with his understanding of defenses and zones, his knack for fooling defensive backs and his ability to adjust.
Reminds me of: Joel Dreesen, a very productive hybrid tight end at Colorado State who had almost exactly the same measureables as Harline and similar college production (and liabilities). A sixth-round pick by the Jets in 2005 (most of the draft guides of the era had him as a third or fourth rounder), he contributed little (5-41-0 receiving) and was a final cut in 2006. He's since signed with the Texans, but doesn't appear to be a favorite to make the team unless they suffer injuries.
How he fits: Harline could not have landed in a better place than Indy. He's a hybrid talent and no team blurs the lines between offensive positions more than the Colts. This is the same team that lined Dallas Clark up at split end, Brandon Stokely at fullback, Ben Utecht everywhere and Dan Klecko anywhere. Offensive coordinator Tom Moore and quarterback Peyton Manning agree that keeping defenses guessing is a good idea and this leads to the Colts having a fondness not only for versatile players, but smart ones who can understand how to play a number of positions proficiently.
This is where Harline comes in. He can play wideout, slot, H-back or tight end and maybe fullback in a pinch. He's not fast and he's not strong, but he can get open and catch the ball. If used properly, he could become a weapon on third downs and red zone situations, areas the Colts are desperately looking to improve.
It looks as though the odds are stacked against him, though. The Colts have Clark, Utecht and Bryan Fletcher already at tight end, and all are talented. But Harline has one skill they don't — he always gets up after a big hit.
Still, it will be tough for Harline to stand out in Colts camp. The team has a number of talented pass-catching veterans and added Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall in the draft specifically to play the slot. Former Panthers third-round pick Mike Seidman (himself a very slick collegiate receiver) was signed as a veteran free agent tight end and small-school phenom Gijon Robinson will put up a fight as well at any position Harline hopes to claim as his own. The fact that Harline has put in significant time on BYU's special teams despite being an offensive star really helps his case.
We all know that Harline is a smart and talented football player who can get open and catch the ball in the NFL. That's not at question. What the Colts will try determine this summer is — is that enough?