Matt Waldman shares his NFL Draft scouting report on Cleveland Browns rookie tight end Harrison Bryant from his 2020 Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication.
Harrison Bryant has shown in Cleveland Browns’ training camp that he is all business, cathing everything in sight. Many are speculating that not only is veteran David Njoku expendable, but Austin Hooper might not be the marquee name at the top of the depth chart.
I’m not going there, although it seemed pretty clear after the NFL Draft that Bryant’s future in Cleveland was brighter than Njoku’s. The Browns will be using a lot of sets with two and three tight ends and Bryant has the game of an excellent H-Back.
Njoku will be expendable at some point and it’s likely that he’ll be used in a much different capacity in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. But the real story is Bryant, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s top-rated tight end in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The RSP grades tight ends with a higher value on receiving than blocking. It doesn’t ignore the trench work by any stretch of the imagination but follows the logic that Bill Belichick laid out for his staff in Cleveland when explaining how he wanted personnel to grade the position.
I didn’t know about Belichick’s directive when I created my grading criteria for the position so it was nice to see that he felt the same way about how to scout it.
Bryant earned a Depth of Talent Score equivalent to an immediate contributor on offense in a role that fits his talents. If you enjoyed this sample, you should check out the 2020 Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication. There’s info on how to get it at the end of this sample.
1. Harrison Bryant, FAU (6-5, 240)
Depth of Talent Score: 82.95 = Contributor: Starter execution in a limited role; diminishing returns beyond that scope.
Bryant is the most acrobatic pass catcher in this class. If he can become a better runner after the catch, he’ll earn playing time—perhaps even a starting job if he also continues his development as a blocker. Although the RSP values blocking as a significant part of tight end play, it gives greater weight to receiving skills for tight ends. In a year such as this where there’s little separation among the first seven players on the board, it’s worth noting that some of the players with greater upside as blockers or all-around options will slide further down the overall board in favor of some prospects that lack the same degree of versatility.
When tight ends are selected in the early rounds of the NFL Draft they are usually versatile options, but the league as a whole places greater value on receiving skills at the position. In this era of the game, if a team selects a tight end in the early rounds that lacks a balanced game, you’ll see greater value given to high-end receiving than blocking.
Bryant has the potential to become the best all-around tight end in this class because he has starter-caliber skills at the line of scrimmage in addition to his upside as a receiver. However, his receiving skills alone are enough to place him in the conversation as one of the top 5-6 players with the potential to start for an NFL team within a year or two.
In contrast, Albert Okwuegbunam and Cole Kmet have the physical dimensions and promise to develop into the most well-balanced tight ends of this class who can do most everything well and could easily leapfrog 5-7 of the players ranked below Bryant if blocking had equal weight to receiving in the RSP’s grading system.
Although the rankings might look a lot different if receiving and blocking were weighted equally or in favor of blocking, the fact that Bryant still has enough skill as a blocker to remain among the top tier of prospects is one of several indications of his promise to become a well-rounded NFL starter.
Bryant worked at a variety of spots in FAU’s offense: inline, the slot, split wide, H-Back, and the inside man on the three-receiver side of 1×3 personnel sets where the staff hoped he’d earn man-to-man with a linebacker or work into an open zone. Bryant did a lot of damage from the slot against zone coverage where he ran over routes, slants, crossing routes, flat routes, and seam routes.
He didn’t face a lot of press coverage. Still, there are elements of releasing against press that his game shows on film that offer a promising indication of how he can become a capable producer against tight, man-to-man coverage.
Bryant had success with hesitation moves paired with a swim, a wiper, or a chop. He also used a rip or a wiper at the top of his stems against off-coverage.
Bryant is quick off the line of scrimmage and has no problem beating linebackers and safeties on corner routes. FAU liked to send Bryant into the middle of the line on the ruse of him lead blocking for a run play and as the quarterback delivered the play-action fake, Bryant leaked into the middle of the field on a seam route—often wide-open and able to dip outside a safety or two for even more after the catch.
FAU also placed Bryan outside and used the ruse of a stalk block to set up the slant. The offense would build off that trick and run the slant enough to setup the Sluggo route (slant-and-go).
Bryant also sold the seam route with a three-step release pattern working inside-out and chopped through the defender’s reach to earn separation down the field. He sells the out with a strong stem that baits his coverage into thinking a go route and then works the defender’s inside shoulder towards the safety sitting over the top of coverage. He finishes with a strong stick inside, selling the post or the seam before breaking outside.
Bryant would improve the snap of his speed breaks with a Carioca turn. Currently, he takes two transition steps that take more time to execute and won’t ever be as sharp as the snap turn from flipping the hips.
The suddenness of his routes also varies by whether he thinks he’ll be targeted. When thinking he will be, he snaps the target with greater suddenness; when not, he turns much slower. This isn’t a negative about effort as much as it creates the potential for Bryant to tip off the intentions of the play to opponents.
When Bryant works against zone coverage, he’s skilled at creating an open target for his quarterback, especially when the designed play breaks down. Bryant presents an open target after sliding away from linebackers in zone or finding space behind them up the sideline or working back to the passer. He also understands when to slow down through an open zone but not necessarily settle to a stop.
Bryant’s flat breaks have enough hip sink to do the job, but he has to work on getting the most bend he can from
the maneuver so his breaks are sudden for the NFL game. He gets his head around quickly as he executes his breaks.
Bryant uses the optimal positions for his hands to frame the target based on its trajectory. Chest-level targets don’t confuse him into using an underhand position as they do for many receivers and tight ends. Bryant has no problem making catches where the route and the ball led him into direct contact with a defender as he’s securing the ball. Bryant takes hard shots to his chest and holds onto the football, wraps to his waist, and hits to the back. He wins targets above his head and digs out low throws—with or without contact from coverage.
When Bryant drops passes, there’s usually a flash of contact or actual contact made and the target required an adjustment to a pass that wasn’t pinpoint accurate. Bryant has proven that the contact isn’t the problem as much as a diversion of focus when he sees the contact arriving late in the process.
Bryant’s quickness, toughness, and hand-eye coordination make him an excellent athlete for the position. His route running, technique at the catch point, and the ability to track targets and drag at the boundary make him one of the best receiving options of the tight ends on the board.
Bryant has the acceleration and long speed to beat safeties up the sideline when earning the ball on routes breaking across the middle. He also dips away from pursuit arriving from over the top.
He bounces off indirect contact from safeties, and he has a stiff-arm that’s effective at warding off contact to his frame. When he is hit and wrapped, Bryant runs through reaches, wraps, and glancing hits to his legs.
He runs a little too upright at times, but he runs through multiple wraps during the same carry and he can swat or swipe away more reaches with the stiff-arm while breaking tackles. He’ll spin from contact after dropping his pads into contact and extend his frame to finish with as much as he can gain.
Bryant’s ball security is high and tight when he sees traffic ahead, but the elbow can come loose as he changes direction and fights for extra yardage through contact. He has lapses with using the arm that isn’t in the path of the most dangerous pursuit.
Because he has a tendency to run upright and his carriage has lapses, Bryant can get stripped by pursuit. Bryant wins a variety of assignments against safeties and linebackers in the run game. He has the quick lateral movement to ride linebackers outside the play on blocks that began in the middle of the field. He can wall-off a middle linebacker, getting chest-to-chest or chest-to-shoulder to engulf the opponent and driving or turning them away from the path of the ball.
Savvier linebackers shed Bryant fast because Bryant overextends. He leads with his head too often, losing sight of what he’s hitting and minimizing the location and power of a punch.
When stalk blocking, Bryant has success using several light punches in succession while moving his feet with the
opponent. When lead blocking, he approaches linebackers with intensity and delivers an excellent uppercut with a roll through the hips to generate maximum power.
Against larger defenders, Bryant will leave his feet to maximize his punch because he’s not big enough to win interactions with many down linemen or larger linebackers. Although Bryant has the technique to turn a defensive end, he lacks the strength to anchor long enough to do anything more than generate creases for quick-hitting plays. When facing defensive ends on pass plays, he won’t anchor but he’ll turn the opponent enough to force an outside path rather than a bull-rush.
His lateral movement is quick enough to stay with linebackers working the edge. He also has the quickness to cut block opponents at the edge and do so with the shot aimed at the correct leg of the defender so he can work his body across the frame of his opponents.
Bryant handles his portion of double-team assignments well. He can chip defensive ends and fan out to safeties and linebackers and earn an accurate position on them.
When working to the edge, Bryant’s footwork is good enough for him to remain square with the outside linebacker, and it helps him seal the defender at the corner. Once tied up with a defender, Bryant will stay with the man and push him several yards downfield and deposit him on the turf. He has the technique to transition from a punch to a one-arm move on reach blocks that maintains leverage that seals the outside.
Bryant’s work in FAU’s offense was versatile and productive. Expect the same from him in the NFL within a year or two. Because of his receiving game and what he can offer right away as a blocker, don’t be surprised if he earns playing time sometime this year. Expect passing production to come his way early and often it does.
Long-term, Bryant could become this era’s Dallas Clark— a prolific receiver and underrated blocker—if paired with
an offense that gives him significant snaps detached from the line.
Pre-Draft Fantasy Advice: Bryant is a third-round option in most leagues if you’re hell-bent on taking a tight end in a class filled with so much receiver and running back talent as well as 2-3 compelling quarterbacks. In leagues that offer a 1.5 PPR bonus for the tight end position, Bryant’s value jumps to the late first round in larger leagues (14-16 teams) and early-to-middle of the second in smaller formats.
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