Los Angeles Rams: Jacob Harris Should Keep A Close Eye on Darren Waller

by Blaine Grisak
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Have you ever gone out and seen a doppelgänger of someone you knew? Someone that looks so similar to the person you know that they’re nearly identical without being twins. The same can be said in the realm of football in terms of play styles. It’s why during the NFL Draft, analysts typically have player comparisons. Well, the Los Angeles Rams might have a doppelgänger of their own with rookie tight end Jacob Harris.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams selected wide receiver Jacob Harris out of the University of Florida. However, it was quickly determined that Harris would not be playing wide receiver, but the Rams would be switching him to tight end.

Looking for a Receiving Tight End

The Rams have been trying to acquire a “tweener” wide receiver tight end ever since the move to Los Angeles. In 2016, they drafted Temarrick Hemingway in the sixth round. Unfortunately, he never fully developed. In 2017, with Sean McVay’s very first draft pick, the team took Gerald Everett.

With Tyler Higbee as the more traditional tight end,  McVay was looking for a more receiving tight end that could provide mismatches on offense for the defense. While Everett had him moments, such as the unforgettable catch against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Everett was plagued with inconsistency and this past offseason, the Rams allowed him to walk in free agency.

Drafting Jacob Harris

By drafting Harris, the Rams are hoping that he can be everything that they expected Everett to be and more. It’s pretty clear, when the Rams saw Harris, they saw someone with insane athleticism who was capable of making the position change, especially with how McVay would use him.

McVay wouldn’t have to look far to find a player very similar to Harris. In fact, he would have to look no further than his own doppelgänger. A short trek down I-15 to Las Vegas and look at Jon Gruden’s offense with the Raiders would give McVay a perfect example on how to use a player like Harris.

Finding Jacob Harris’ Doppelgänger

Drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens, Darren Waller struggled in the first two years of his career. Most of it wasn’t issues on the field, but rather off of it. Waller dealt with substance abuse which resulted in a four game suspension in 2016 and full season suspension in 2017.

Waller made the roster as a sixth wide receiver on the Ravens depth chart. However, entering his sophomore year, the Ravens decided to convert Waller to tight end. “We just feel like a 250-pound wide receiver who can run like he can has a chance to maybe grow into a tight end,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s embraced it and he’s working on that in the offseason.”

In Gruden’s first season with the Raiders in 2018, the team signed Waller off of the Ravens practice squad. It didn’t take long for him to break out. As a tight end, Waller had 90 receptions for 1145 yards during the 2019 season. He then followed it up with 107 receptions last season with 1196 yards.

After struggling early in his career, Waller has become one of the premier receiving tight ends in the NFL behind only Travis Kelce.

It’s pretty easy to see why the Rams saw someone like Darren Waller when they drafted Jacob Harris. The two players had almost identical measurements pre-draft.

Harris will also need to make the position switch from wide receiver. However, McVay and the Rams will hope that he’s able to make the switch quicker as Waller’s first two years were hampered by the aforementioned substance abuse.

Jacob Harris’ Insane Athleticism

Some draft analysts thought Harris projected as a tight end in the NFL because he has the size and speed. He ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.43 seconds. Tat time would’ve been the fastest for a tight end. Waller also had the fastest 40-time for a tight end at his combine.

Quite simply, Harris’ athleticism is off the charts. The Atlanta Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts inside the top-10. However, the Rams found a player with Kyle Pitts’ athleticism in the fourth round.

Enough credit can’t be given to the Rams scouting department. Over the last few years, they’ve consistently been able to find gems like Harris on day three of the draft. It should also be noted that the Rams likely wouldn’t be able to take a talent like Harris and move him to tight end if not for great position coaches and and an offensive play caller like McVay who will know how to scheme up plays for him.

Sean McVay’s Plan For Jacob Harris

As mentioned, it’s pretty clear when the Rams drafted Jacob Harris, they saw someone with the same sort of trajectory  as a Darren Waller.

This week, the Los Angeles Rams are having joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders. Therefore, Jacob Harris will be getting an up close look at a player with very similar measurables, ability, and play style. While it’s unlikely that Waller will be going out of his way to give Harris pointers during practice, Harris can still get a lot of benefit by being able to get a close look at an elite player that’s very similar to him.

Jon Gruden and Sean McVay also have a history together. Again, while Gruden might not give McVay specific pointers, he can see how the Raiders are able to use Waller successfully.

The Raider and Rams will be practicing together all week before playing each other on Saturday. Until then, hopefully Harris can keep a close eye on Waller and be able to get some beneficial takeaways just by watching. After all, he might just be watching his doppelgänger.

 

 

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