For the second consecutive NFL draft, the Cowboys double-dipped at the linebacker position. In the fifth round, they took Damone Clark out of LSU, a predicted Day 2 pick that fell due to spinal fusion surgery in March.
Clark will certainly be heavily involved in what the Cowboys do defensively once he hits the field. However, the Cowboys’ sixth-round pick, Devin Harper, will have to make a way for himself on special teams to see playing time at first, and he’s more than ok with that.
“I love special teams. …I played them all”, Harper said after he was selected. “I love kickoff. I love punt. I just love to make tackles. A lot of tackles. And big plays.”
Harper has the athleticism and upside to be a solid addition to a Cowboys linebacker group that is loaded with talent. Much like the Cowboys’ fifth-round pick cornerback DaRon Bland out of Fresno State, Harper is raw but has traits that can turn him into a solid pro.
Harper’s speed is one of his best attributes, and he showed that by running a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash. Also, he posted an insane 40.5-inch vertical jump.
Although he has speed he’ll need to get better in coverage. His pursuit angles can be an issue at times which can lead to missed tackles and ball carriers getting big plays in the open field. However, Harper can pursue sideline to sideline with his speed and has a high motor, and doesn’t give up on plays.
Harper displayed a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage during his days at Oklahoma State with 26.5 tackles for loss (11 in 2021). Getting to the quarterback is something Harper was pretty good at as well with 13.5 sacks in college (six last season).
Although there are things Harper has to work at, he has a good foundation to build on. With defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and special teams coordinator John Fassel providing their wisdom, Harper should see the field as a rookie on special teams while he progresses to get defensive snaps.
Feature image via Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports