One of the bigger questions regarding the New York Giants as we try to anticipate their needs going forward is what kind of blocking scheme will they run?
New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett have and offensive line coach Marc Colombo typically favored a power based man-gap blocking scheme. That was what he installed when he became the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2007, and it is what his Cowboys always seemed to gravitate towards. They have, at times however, used zone blocking schemes when their offensive coordinator preferred them.
The Giants have been built to favor zone blocking schemes over the last several years. But with glaring holes at the center and right tackle positions — as well as guards with scheme versatility — the opportunity exists for a schematic retooling.
How the Giants address those holes should be a clue as to their intentions for how they plan to call their blocking schemes.
Washington center Nick Harris was once considered a top offensive line prospect, but has slipped down draft boards as scouts have come to recognize his measurable and schematic limitations. That slide, however, could create the opportunity for value for a team that wants to build their offense on zone blocking schemes and are willing to overlook his less-than-ideal measurables.
Prospect: Nick Harris (C, Washington)
Games Watched: vs. Utah (2018 conference championship), vs. Ohio State (2019 Rose Bowl), vs. Cal (2019), vs. Oregon (2019)
Red Flags: none
Total Games Played (starts): 52 (42 starts)
2019 Games Played (starts): 12 (12 starts)
Best: Short-area quickness, agility, football IQ, competitive toughness, zone blocking
Worst: Size, man-gap blocking, long speed
Projection: A potential starting center, limited to a zone blocking scheme.
Washington center Nick Harris combines a stocky build and natural leverage with remarkably quick feet for intriguing upside in a zone blocking scheme. Harris plays with good knee and hip bend, as well as a wide base to maximize his natural advantage in leverage. He also has surprisingly quick feet for a player with his build. Harris shows a good understanding of angles and positioning, and uses his agility and short-area quickness well to position himself and seal defenders off from the play. He does a good job of moving laterally to mirror interior rushers as a pass protector, as well as a good sense for timing to aid his linemates to maximize the effectiveness of a double-team. Harris plays with a wide base and good balance, allowing him to stand up to, and anchor against, most defensive linemen. He is also smart about working for half-man leverage to maximize his ability to position defenders.
Harris has good hand usage, firing his punch into defenders’ chest plate to gain inside leverage and shows good grip strength to control and torque defenders once engaged. He tries to time his hands with his feet to maximize the power of his strike.
Harris uses his agility and quickness well on zone running plays, playing with good discipline and an ability to help get the defense flowing. He is quick enough to work up to the second level and keep linebackers and defensive backs from getting involved in the play. He is an efficient pulling center, pivoting, hitting his landmarks, and getting ahead of the play well.
Harris routinely shows very good competitive toughness in his desire to look for work hustle downfield to stay involved with the play, and a willingness to battle through the whistle against bigger defensive linemen.
Harris’ primary weakness will be his size. He is short with short arms, and will likely fall under size thresholds for some teams. His size also limits him schematically. He doesn’t have the mass or length to routinely play in man-gap blocking schemes which will also limit the number of teams with whom he fits. On the field, Harris’ snaps can occasionally be high (or even wild) if he has to rush to get his hands up to engage defenders. He can also labor when asked to play in space and isn’t always accurate with his blocks at the second level or on screen plays.
Overall Grade: 6.2 - Has the traits to be a potential starter in the right scheme. Should be a good back-up for most teams. A third or fourth round value. [Grading Scale]
Nick Harris has the potential to be a starting center in the NFL, but his path to a starting job will be somewhat narrow. He will have to be drafted onto a team that primarily uses a zone blocking scheme, and will also have to accept his less-than-ideal measurables. If that happens, his quickness, agility, football IQ, and competitive toughness should allow him to compete.
He also has some experience at both left and right guard and could serve as a utility interior lineman as he tries to work his way into the starting line-up.
Harris is a reliable pass protector with good field awareness, most notably on one play he recognizes a slot blitz, pulling from the center position to the D-gap to pick it up. He does a good job of using his strengths to out-angle and out-position defenders who are likely some combination of bigger, stronger, longer, or more athletic than he is. Harris is a player who is rarely impressive — particularly in one-on-one situations — but can simply get the job done as a part of a unit with the right blocking scheme.
Many of his strengths as a pass protector translate to his game as a run blocker in a zone scheme. Rather than overpowering defenders, he uses his agility, quickness, and leverage to gain position on them, and get them moving laterally to open up lanes for the running back.
Harris’ lack of ideal, or even average, measurables and his scheme limitations will give teams pause. But the right team with a plan for him could find a value in the middle rounds.