Breakdown: 49ers Select Eli Harold

Everything you need to know about the San Francisco 49ers' third-round selection of defensive end Eli Harold out of Virginia from Scout's college and pro football experts.

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Eli Harold
Virginia / 6'4 / 235 lbs
  • OLB
  • [3] #15


This former five-star was the top rated outside linebacker in the 2012 class. He started 25 games over the last three seasons as a weak-side defensive end, recording 141 tackles, 17.5 sacks, and 36.5 tackles for a loss. It appears he will likely transition back to linebacker in the NFL as his game is suited to play on the outside as a ‘SAM’ in a 3-4 defense. Harold has terrific speed and plays with explosiveness when attacking the ball. He will have a chance to become an excellent pass rusher.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

One of the first underclassmen to declare for the 2015 draft, Eli Harold will have to undergo a crash course as a linebacker during training camp if he hopes to earn playing time next year. Tired of the losing Cavalier atmosphere, the junior recorded 54 tackles, as he ranked third on the team with seven sacks, causing a fumble on one of those QB drops that he recovered for a touchdown. He also led the defense with 14.5 stops-for-loss.

The former prep receiver continued to play out of position as a 225-pound left defensive end during his first two seasons for the Cavaliers, but he registered 8.5 sacks, 15.0 stops for loss and 51 tackles as a sophomore. He closed out his career tenth in school history with 36.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and is 11th with 17.5 sacks.

Harold added some bulk this past season, but it is not enough to remain in the trenches at the next level. As a potential outside linebacker, he shows explosive, raw upside as a speed edge rusher and could also be a very good candidate as a 3-4 strong-side pass rusher. His frame capacity lacks the capacity to add at another 20 pounds of bulk needed to play on the line, but as a ‘backer, he can dominate in his backside pursuit due to his determination and quickness coming off the edge.

The Cavalier has a lean, athletic build with long arms, broad shoulders, good bubble and leg thickness. He has the frame to add at least another twenty pounds of bulk, if he is to remain at defensive end, but I doubt if he will ever be able to develop the upper body strength to handle double teams in the trenches. He has valid foot speed and the loose hips to be effective in pass coverage and is a better prospect if he makes the possible shift to outside linebacker in a 3-4 system due to these physical attributes.

Harold stays low in his pads and generates the burst needed to slip past blocks, but is not the type than can play “Rock ‘Em-Sock ‘Em Robots” with bigger blockers working in close quarters. He does have the hip snap to redirect and flatten quickly, though. His low center of gravity and explosiveness off the snap can surprise the blocker before the opponent has a chance to react.

The junior has the initial step to reach the edge and the lateral agility to shoot the inside gaps, but if he tries to overpower on those moves he is easily absorbed by the bigger linemen. His impressive physical skills are sometimes negated by his marginal instincts, though. He is still a raw product who needs time to digest plays, especially vs. the run. He is slow to locate the ball when working through trash and is best when just allowed to pursue off the edge rather than get involved in run plays.

His upper body strength is adequate, but because of size limitations, they are not utilized on every down when playing on the line (translates better as a potential second level defender than at level-one). His ability to flatten and change direction makes him more effective playing down the line or in backside pursuit. He will get washed out vs. inside plays and does not have the bulk to shoot the gaps, especially with his marginal hands usage protecting his body from blocks. He flashes the ability to come underneath and make the play, but tends to get high in his stance and lacks the weight to hold his ground.

Another reason for Harold shifting away from a defensive end position in the NFL is that he has a marginal anchor vs. double teams because of his narrow base and relies more on his speed to defeat blocks. He has the ability to slip and avoid the slower offensive tackles, but poor hand placement gets him stymied in attempts to shed and disengage when working past in-line blockers.

Harold does demonstrate excellent lateral pursuit skills and shows a quick burst when closing. He takes good angles to the ball and does a very good job of collision-tackling when on the move. He moves well to contain the toss sweep and is very quick to change directions. He flashes above average closing speed off the edge and keeps his feet when running long distances.

There are times vs. the run where Harold is nothing more than a “pile inspector” (was fifth in the nation among active players with seventeen assisted tackles-for-loss), as he did not seem dependable enough to make the tackle in a crowd (shied away from trash). As a junior, he showed a better tackling nature, perhaps from getting more comfortable with additional reps. He has good strength behind his hits, but marginal hand usage. He keeps his arms short, leaving his chest too exposed for the reach block and fails to use them effectively to shed.

On the move, he is more effective, as Harold shows good consistency yanking ball carriers to the ground in the second level. His hand problems come at the line, where he has marginal discard quickness. As a potential linebacker, he has the hip flexibility to turn quickly and the knee bend to redirect. He shows good body control and a relentless motor in backside pursuit and consistently pressures the pocket.

Harold just does not have the bulk to push the blocker into the quarterback, but has a great forward burst of speed. He closes in a flash and explodes behind his hits when working in the short area. However, if he is blocked initially, he is usually tagged, as he does not have an array of pass rush moves or hand placement to be a threat once he is contained.

Eli Harold Scouting Combine measurables

6-3/247 (4.6 forty)
33-inch arm length
9 3/8-inch hands
35-inch vertical jump
123-inch broad jump
7.07 3 cone drill
4.16 20 yard shuttle
11.81 60 yard shuttle

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.


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