Can NC State's Kelvin Harmon Be WR1 for 2019 NFL Draft?

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the members of The Draft Network were fans of Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf would be an understatement. Not only did Metcalf appear on our consensus rankings as the top wide receiver prospect, he was the early favorite for “WR1” for many of us. When the news hit that Metcalf will be out for the season with a neck injury, we entered a debate on whether or not he will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Truthfully, whether or not Metcalf decides to return to school is truly irrelevant, we just want the young man to get healthy. However, it naturally popped into our heads immediately: Who could replace Metcalf as the potential top wide receiver prospect?

For many who have seen him play, the quick answer would be NC State junior Kelvin Harmon. I decided to see for myself if Harmon could be a legitimate threat at WR1 and a potential first round pick.

At first glance, it’s easy to notice Harmon’s physical profile. Though just 20 years old, Harmon is already 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds with prototypical wide receiver size for the NFL. Additionally, Harmon has quality thickness in his upper body and a muscular build. It’s easy to say Harmon looks the part, but the real question is whether or not he utilizes those physical gifts on the field.

Harmon already has coveted body control to match his size. While some wide receiver prospects with similar size lack the ability to position their frame to create desirable downfield catchpoints, this is where Harmon thrives.

While he is able to adjust to passes, his strength is what allows him to make grabs through contact or between defenders. His vertical receiving ability is what has allowed him to average nearly 16 yards per catch in his college career, and is something that could be utilized right away at the next level.

Another impressive aspect of Harmon’s game is the strength in his lower half and his balance. He is a nightmare for defensive backs to get on the ground, mixing his size with elusiveness. Wide receivers who have the physical profile of Harmon generally struggle staying upright against low tacklers, but Harmon’s ability to avoid and accelerate is incredible. Even when stood up, Harmon does a good job of shaking tacklers away or driving his feet through them.

Paramount for wide receivers who project to the outside at the next level is the ability to beat press or bump and run coverage. With Harmon, you can already see some refinement in his hand usage. He anticipates well, and is able to remain patient while closing down space on the defensive back. With his length and physical stature, he is difficult for cornerbacks to jam and slow down his stem.

Harmon is unquestionably an aware football player, with the ability to find voids and windows in zone coverage. Normally seen in slot receivers who do most of their work over the middle, Harmon has shown this trait on film on numerous occasions. Additionally, he has picked up first downs by running his routes right at the sticks or extending for the extra yardage along the sideline. There were even instances of film where Harmon beat defensive backs on double moves, manipulating their space and leverage and separating as a result.

Something that always stands out to me as an evaluator of the wide receiver position is whether or not their team relies on them in must-have passing situations. With the game on the line against Clemson last season, NC State continually targeted Harmon. Not only does this show reliance and trust from his team in big moments, but Harmon showed some “clutch gene” and made consecutive plays on their final drive.

While Harmon doesn’t qualify as an inconsistent player, there are areas of his game that have yet to progress to NFL standards.

Though he does an excellent job with his body control and positioning, he will rarely extend his hands to the catchpoint down the field. With his size, Harmon should be a high point animal, but he isn’t quite there yet. Too often, he has attempted to cradle the football and allow passes come into his chest. While in many of these situations Harmon was making the reception, the NFL won’t be as kind. When windows are smaller and the game becomes faster, using your hands and limiting the amount of time the ball is in the air is top priority.

Harmon also dealt with some tracking issues in the intermediate parts of the field. Too often, Harmon was leaving his feet when not necessary to do so, or having slight bobbles and not seeing the ball all the way into his hands.

As a route runner, Harmon has a unique ability to win inside, but can struggle with intermediate breaks or holding his line vertically. He isn’t the most sudden receiver, and will show inefficiencies in start-stop situations or horizontal breaks. Additionally, he will too often take himself towards the sideline or get ridden in that direction, forcing his quarterback to have perfect ball placement rather than a margin for error.

There some slight technique issues for Harmon, but minor ones that seem easily fixable. For example, Harmon will raise his shoulders in his stem instead of keeping them level or take extra stutter steps to snap off a route. An important note about these are that they do not seem of the physical nature, and the clean up job could come easily with NFL coaching.

With Harmon’s combination of collegiate production, youth and size, he will be a sought after prospect during draft season. While there are questions about whether or not Harmon is an elite athlete for the position, he should at least be average in his athletic testing.

Small technique fixes and a high propensity to attack the football in the air would elevate Harmon’s prospects. Right now, Harmon’s early projection is a bigger bodied wide receiver who can threaten defenses vertically as well as pick up yardage post-catch. Progressing his intermediate game should come with time and experience. Additionally, it’s important to note that when Harmon high points a football with late hands, his potential ceiling becomes obvious. However, consistency in that area could be the first step to reaching that level upon entering the NFL.

Harmon is safely in the conversation among those wide receivers vying for WR1 status, and he already has some traits to suggest that he’s primed to elevate his game in the second half of the season. While there are plenty of quality wide receiver prospects, Harmon’s path to vaulting himself into the top spot is possibly the most clear.