The Dolphins identified Charles Harris as their guy a month ago — in March.
That, by the way, is really, really early in the draft process, particularly when a team is picking in the last third of the NFL Draft’s first round.
And yet, Harris was the Dolphins’ guy. They met him once at the NFL Scouting Combine in March and that, plus the tape of him chasing quarterbacks and running backs and making 12 tackles for loss and collecting nine sacks as a junior, sold them on their first-round selection Thursday.
No predraft visit.
No other contact to speak of.
The Dolphins were sold on Harris and one other player they targeted at No. 22 overall, according to general manager Chris Grier. Grier declined to say who the other player was, but I reported days ago it was Derek Barnett. Barnett went Philadelphia pn Thursday night before the Dolphins had a chance to make a choice on him or Harris.
But when they were on the clock, the Dolphins didn’t hesitate.
It was Harris over Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, or Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley or University of Miami tight end David Njoku.
No question. No equivocation.
“He was our guy,” Grier said.
The Dolphins were so, so convinced they actually tried to hide their interest in Harris by kind of ignoring him. They didn’t talk to his agent much. They didn’t let some people within the organization know Harris was the guy.
As if a Southeastern Conference player who made plays against Tennessee and LSU and Florida was going to be some sort of secret to everyone.
But secret or not, the Dolphins get a player who apparently has a wildly colorful excitement about the game and his new team.
“I ain’t never been to Miami, but I’ll make that move,” Harris said late Thursday evening. “Let’s do it!”
The Dolphins will welcome Harris to their facility for the first time in the next day or so. And pretty soon they’ll be asking him to join the defensive end rotation that includes Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and William Hayes.
Davis says he’ll play standing up. Or with his hands in the dirt. In the Wide Nine. Or whatever the Dolphins dream up for him.
“Tell me what to do and I will do it,” he said. “I’m going to ball. I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to ball. No doubt about that.”
That’s great because, well, that’s what he’s supposed to do.
That’s what a first-round pick is supposed to do.
Sure, Grier can set the bar low right now, but this kid — all of 22 years old when the football season begins — has a pretty heavy burden on his shoulders now.
He’s got to be the guy to succeed Cameron Wake.
And Jason Taylor.
And Kim Bokamper.
And Doug Betters.
And Bill Stanfill.
He has to be the guy who makes us forget there ever was a Dion Jordan.
Because he is the first-round pick, he can surely be a rotational guy to take snaps from Branch and even Wake this season. But long-term, he has to be the guy that helps ease the sting of the 35-year-old Wake eventually retiring.
“We love the pass rush he gives us, it’s a position you can never have enough in this league,” Grier said.
The GM then used terms such as “Gym rat,” and “passionate” and “loves football,” to describe Harris.
All that is excellent. It’s exciting and comes with the added bonus that it is all true.
But this is also true:
At 6-3 and about 255 pounds, Harris is undersized. So he comes with some questions about his run defense and ability to set and anchor on the edge — an issue the Dolphins had trouble resolving when they ranked 30th overall in run defense last season.
This is how NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein summarizes Harris:
“High-cut pass rusher with good athleticism but concerns regarding his ability to drop anchor against the run. Ironically, Harris might be best suited as a perpetrator, which is something he fought against this season. His hands can be improved as pass-rush weapons, but he has agility and footwork that can’t be taught. Harris can play on the edge in a 4-3 or 3-4 front and should be the next in a line of early contributing defensive ends coming out of Missouri.”
The Dolphins don’t mind this. Grier said the Dolphins are “comfortable” with Harris as a run defender.
“We are,” he said. “He’ll be in the rotation. We envision him being in the top four. Quickness, speed, explosiveness off the edge are what we see in him. He can be a disruptive player.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero