The original version of this article was published on January 30. We now have measurements from the combine to add to our assessment. How does Harrison Bryant’s combine performance change his NFL outlook?
The winner of the award for the best tight end in college football is draft-eligible in 2020. Yet some ranking services seem to be less than impressed with him. This is a grave injustice, and I will not rest until everyone knows the name of Harrison Bryant.
A native of Georgia, Bryant played baseball and basketball in addition to football at John Milledge Academy. He was originally an offensive tackle and a pass rusher, before moving to his current position as a senior. In that season, Bryant had 10 touchdowns and 11 sacks.
It would be inaccurate to say Bryant was a blue-chip college prospect. 247 Sports graded him as a two-star recruit and ranked him the 158th TE in his class. He received an offer from one college. Florida Atlantic was the school and that was where he committed in 2016.
Bryant’s production increased every year throughout his college career. His 2018 production was enough to earn him a place in the All-Conference USA team. In his senior year, he was even better. Bryant led all TEs in the country with 65 receptions and 1,004 yards. He is only the second player to have more than 1,000 yards in a season for the Owls since 2000. Bryant has the second-most yards in school history, trailing only Cortez Gent.
Bryant was once again named to the All-Conference team and was a worthy winner of the 2019 John Mackey Award. The best TE in college football receives this award. Previous winners include Hunter Henry, Mark Andrews, and TJ Hockenson. If that is not enough, Bryant was also a unanimous selection as an All-American. Bryant is the only Owl’s player in school history to achieve this feat.
Despite all of the plaudits, his play encouraged, ranking services are not overwhelmingly high on Bryant heading into the draft process. The Draft Network have him as their 134th best player in the class, and only the sixth-best TE. He is ranked as the TE5 over at CBS. The folks over at Draft Scout are much more bullish on Bryant. He is their TE3.
Trevor Sikkema’s opinion of Bryant prior to the season was that he was “more of a wide receiver – one that isn’t a great blocker or very diverse in their route tree. “
Bryant attended the Senior Bowl last week and has apparently answered some of the doubters. Blocking would seem to be an area in which Bryant has improved since September. Dane Brugler was impressed with Bryant’s blocking chops. Brugler wrote that he
dropped his hips, used his hands to strike and didn’t allow a defender to get past him.
Brugler believes that Bryant’s showing in Mobile will likely make him a day two selection in the draft. John Sheeran of Cincy Jungle was also impressed by Bryant’s blocking last week.
Whether it was from an inline position or as an H-back in an offset formation, Bryant showcased great blocking, which surely caught the eyes of the evaluators.
Given his production as a receiver, his newly found skills as a blocker makes Bryant a player that I expect to see rise up draft boards in the weeks to come.
That being said, Bryant didn’t go out of his way in wowing people at the NFL Scouting Combine. Aside from his impressive forty-yard dash time, he underwhelmed in every other measurable category. His bench press, broad jump, and three-cone performances put him in some quite disastrously bad company.
WHAT HISTORY TELLS US
In his seminal work on the NFL Scouting Combine Drills that matter for TEs, Kevin Cole produced the tree you can see below.
Bryant was close to the crucial 4.7 time in his forty-yard dash, but came in just over the required time. He managed exactly 110 in his broad jump, which places him in Node 4, a node that historically no successful TEs have emerged from. His vertical jump and bench press numbers also did not meet the required thresholds, so even if Bryant were able to shave four 100ths of a second off his forty time, his outlook would still not be favorable based on this decision tree.
Another crucial factor in predicting future fantasy success for TEs is age. Blair Andrews researched all player seasons since 2000 looking for some relationship between career fantasy production and age of rookie season, or draft age. Here we can see his findings.
This is a slight knock against Bryant. He will turn 22 in March. But it is not a death knell. There exists a host of examples of TEs not becoming fantasy relevant until well into their careers. Age is, after all, just a number.
I have a huge soft spot for Harrison Bryant. He was a player who got better and better throughout college. If we take a look at his sims, there are a host of productive players who enjoyed similar collegiate success to Bryant.
Long time readers of my work at RotoViz1 will know how much I liked Jonnu Smith coming out. I still do like Jonnu Smith, of course. Any player boasting similar numbers coming into the NFL will have my attention.
Bryant was the best at his position during his final season. They don’t just hand out the John Mackey Award willy nilly. He identified a weakness and a deficiency that could potentially keep him off the field in the NFL and made improvements in that area. It’s just a shame that his athletic testing did not go any better. Still, landing spot could prove vital for his chances of becoming the next Jonnu Smith.
- Big thanks to all four of you. (back)