Being an undrafted free agent in the NFL is a tough life. Nothing is guaranteed and everything is earned. You are not only battling fellow UDFA's also trying to make the team, but you are battling preconceived notions of others, those who did not even think you were good enough to be on their team in the first place. To say it is an uphill climb is an understatement.
This offseason, the Saints brought in 20 undrafted free agents, all who face that same uphill climb. But, none are more equipped, both talent and personality wise, to make that climb than former-Texas A&M Aggie De'Vante Allen.
Allen's name is not a household one. After all, he is an undrafted rookie, meaning they do not get a lot of love from the media. He may not be a known player, but make no mistake, he is highly talented. Just by looking at him, you may not see much. He is only 5’11 and 180 pounds, but, watch the tape and watch him play, you see a highly confident player on the field, one who plays much bigger than his stature.
The biggest knock on smaller defenders is that they can be exposed by much larger receivers when matched up one-on-one. The knock does not apply to Harris, however. Going up against receivers 6’3 and up was not an issue for him this past season, as he only conceded 15 catches on 28 attempts for a net total of 213. Throw in the fact he has not allowed a touchdown to be thrown against him in 2 years to a receiver 6'3 or taller and you can quickly see why he would be a hot commodity once he hit the free agent pool.
Harris' field IQ is off the charts, as well. When breaking down the tape on him, you can quickly see that vision at work. Before the snap, he locks in on the QB, watching his every move, the mark of a truly great DB. He plays instinctively, letting those instincts guide him into making big plays. He is comfortable enough to play away from his area of the field and go after the ball.
Despite not being listed on many team's boards, scouts were high on Harris. However, all the positives notwithstanding, Harris does have his weaknesses.
His days as an Aggie may have done De'Vante Harris a disservice. As NFL Scouts pointed out in his official scouting report, 2015 saw the DB "play more bail and off coverage" coming on the heels of a 2014 campaign that saw him get pushed around by the aforementioned taller receivers.
While his confidence gets him positive marks from scouts, it also has gained him a few negatives, too. As ProFootballFocus points out, he is reckless at times. He has such a high motor and is so ready to make a play that he can over-commit or over-read a play in an effort to make the big hit or the flashy interception. You can see below, Harris circled in yellow, an example of the poor tackling attempts seen a handful of times from the former-Aggie. It did not happen often, but it happened nonetheless, something that will need to be corrected if he hopes to stick around in the NFL.
Speed is a great tool for a defensive back to have in his arsenal. In fact, it is nearly a necessity. Unfortunately for Harris, he does not posses the blazing speed that some may want out of a corner. He ran a 4.56 at the 2016 Combine, following that up with a 4.48 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day back on the 6th of April. Those numbers are good, not great. His speed should not be an issue, as he was still able to keep up with some of the faster wideouts in the college ranks last year, but the pros are a different ball game. His speed, or lack-thereof, could be Harris' only glaring weakness.
Pro Day and Combine Numbers
* = combine top performer
|40-Yard Dash||4.56 sec|
|Bench Press||1 rep. @ 175|
|Pro Day Results Results|
|40-Yard Dash||4.48 sec|
|Bench Press||5 reps. @ 225|
Overall, Harris may not have the size and the look of an NFL DB, but he definitely has the skill to make an NFL roster. He lives for big moments and produces under pressure. Does he have his weaknesses? Yes, but they are not areas that cannot be fixed by the right coaches. If he does make the Saints' roster, it could be a huge addition to the backside of the defense, an area you can never have too much help.
Despite being a leaner, underweight corner I'm impressed with how well Harris sheds blocks. https://t.co/R2QpGJ6hPU— John Sigler ☭ (@JohnSiglerNFL) May 3, 2016
Janoris Jenkins (DB - NY Giants), Kendall Fuller (DB - Washington)
Much like Jenkins and Fuller, Harris is smaller in stature but does not let that deter him from going after it. Jenkins can really get in and mix it up with the taller guys, being a thorn in their side when they try to go up for the deep ball. Fuller is almost exactly like Harris. Both can be descried as gamblers who lack speed.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
Harris has the talent to make the roster. He also has the pedigree, being the son of Rod Harris (drafted in the 4th round of the NFL Draft in 1989). Harris holds the Texas A&M career kick-return yards record, meaning he is versatile, adding to the ways he can benefit New Orleans. His 2015 stats were off the charts, yielded just one TD all year, holding QB's to a rating of 59.7 against him. While health was an issue heading into last year, he stayed uninjured his senior year, picking off 2 passes and breaking up 8 others.
He does not shy away from contact and he has a nose for the ball, all traits you want in a cornerback. He has tangled with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. during his days in Aggieland and come out on top on a number of occasions. He has that confidence and swagger you want from a player. He's good and he knows it, a sentiment shared by many, including one unnamed AFC scout.
"He believes he's the best player on the field at all times. I love that [...]" - AFC local scout
My prediction is that he makes the roster this offseason, making an impact in some form or fashion this coming 2016 season.
WATCH: De'Vante Harris 2015 Season Highlights