Reception Perception: The Overlooked Kelvin Harmon Brings Substance over Flash to the 2019 WR Class
Note: Since I no longer have access to the necessary college film to chart prospects and their Reception Perception samples, I’ll be taking RP data from the NFL level and using it to frame what we can expect from these incoming rookies and their best role as pro receivers. You can get access to Reception Perception data on the Top 50 NFL receivers in the 2019 Ultimate Draft Kit.
I don’t eat quinoa because it tastes great. Not that it’s offensive in flavor. It’s just…it’s fine.
The taste of quinoa isn’t the selling point, to begin with. The good carbs and portions of protein you get from it are why we’re doing it. It provides something necessary for your body. It is not a flashy food by any means. The value in the food comes from the substance it provides, even if it isn’t the most ostentatious complex carb.
In a wide receiver class full of players who bring highlight reel moments, Kelvin Harmon’s reel does not stand out. However, the N.C. State product does bring a litany of solid, desirable and needed NFL traits for the position.
He well may be the quinoa of the class, something we don’t outright crave based on peak plays others in the group provide. Don’t let that cause you to overlook the outright necessary substance he can bring to offenses that need a starting-caliber X-receiver in the 11-personnel driven NFL.
A 22-year old prospect with solid production, clearing 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons with 11 total touchdowns, Kelvin Harmon has a nice on-field profile. He’s been a solidly productive player on an offense with decidedly mixed returns in the AAC.
The issues in his draft profile crop up when we look at what he did at the NFL Scouting Combine. A 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash was just the beginning of his struggles. Harmon flopped in all of the agility drills and only cleared the 50th percentile in size measurements and the bench press.
Overall, Harmon tested as a 19th percentile SPARQ NFL athlete, per 3 Sigma Athlete. You’re treading into dangerous territory with a score that low. Remember, however, that we aren’t intrigued with Harmon because of the flash or a dripping of athletic traits. We can’t ignore concerning data points but we must also examine some of his play to determine whether he can be a successful player in the NFL while carrying that burden.
We shouldn’t always assume that a receiver who finds himself in plenty of contested situations is a poor route runner. Perhaps it’s a product of the type of downfield targets they receive. It could even be a positive indicator, a consequence of the faith they’ve earned from their quarterback. The passer they’ve long played with trust them to win the ball in difficult situations few others are qualified to operate in. Lastly, their quarterback may not be a smart anticipatory or accurate thrower and leads them into contested situations with poor placement.
We get plenty of exposures to Kelvin Harmon in 50/50 ball situations. And let’s be real, it’s a strength of his game. He has no reservations extending for off-target passes. Whether it’s too low, too high or arrives too late, he’s quite adept at winning the ball from every possible unideal angle.
Timing often goes underrated when it comes to being a strong contested catch receiver. Just like route breaks, extending the arms and executing hand technique at the right moment are crucial timing based skill for pristine execution. Harmon has it all down. He’ll earn his next quarterback’s trust soon.
However, as mentioned earlier, just because we see Harmon in a positive light as a contested catch receiver, don’t let your mind fill in the gaps to call him a poor route runner. To the contrary, Harmon shines in several areas.
He’s at his best releasing from the line of scrimmage. Whether it’s using his hands to reroute and swat a defender away in press or using multiple steps in footwork, Harmon is a tough receiver to jam. His long speed may stop him from being a downfield threat but he has enough quickness to get off the line at the X-receiver position.
While he may not be a natural separator on vertical routes, he can get loose underneath. Harmon impressed on snap-back routes like the curl, which is highly targeted NFL passing pattern. If he can cleanly separate on curls and slants, he’ll become a trusty target. If he also bails out his quarterback when he’s too late on curl routes with his skills at the catch point, he’ll become a crucial one.
Harmon can clean up some of his work on out-breaking routes that require sharp cuts, especially those down the field. However, he wouldn’t be the first receiver to create a good base of usage on a handful of intermediate in-breaking routes. Combine that with his various release moves and thrilling work at the catch point, we have a player who can develop into a solid starter in time.
With Kelvin Harmon’s size and ability to cleanly get off the line, we should feel confident his next team can try him out at X-receiver first. Given his route strengths and lack of pure quick-twitch athleticism, outside routes will likely be his strength as it is.
When looking at the long list of X-receivers who have faced press coverage the most in Reception Perception’s database, one player stands out among the crop of star receivers in the 40-plus percent range. Marvin Jones.
While not the typical X-receiver from a size/speed standpoint, Jones has been productive in a high-degree of difficulty role because of his solid route technique and downright dominance in all contested situations. That sounds familiar.
Harmon may not be the typical vertically inclined athletic No. 1 wide receiver, but just like Jones, nuance and strength at the catch point can make him a strong option as a complementary X-receiver. For a team like the Giants, who have other talented receivers that thrive inside and can play flanker, Harmon would make sense as the finishing piece in 11-personnel. He’s unlikely to grow into a true alpha. We’re only looking for a player here that can see 70 to 80 targets in a season and help out the passing game. Jones played in this exact setup with Detroit in the last few years.
If Harmon can’t hack it at X-receiver because his poor athletic testing becomes an on-field reality, his strong route releases and breakpoints should find him a home as a flanker/slot hybrid. Looking back in the library of Reception Perception, Stevie Johnson once showed us what a player of this ilk can do. When he moved to a complementary role after leaving Buffalo, Johnson thumped inferior corners on his way to posting all-time great success rate vs. coverage scores.
The most random absolutely fantastic season in #ReceptionPerception's database? One Stevie Johnson.
Success rate vs. man coverage – 92nd percentile
Success rate vs. press coverage – 100th percentile pic.twitter.com/U5wyAQtqyx
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) April 12, 2019
The way Harmon gets off the line and shakes loose on curls and slants brought Johnson’s work back to mind. A secondary path to success if he somehow falters as an X-receiver only brings another layer of appeal to his safe profile.
Kelvin Harmon goes overlooked but provides the type of solid traits we are all looking for in starting receivers. He has the ability to excel in contested situations with high-leverage and the route releases of a pro-level player. As a player who has the needed skills to play X-receiver, he’ll be coveted by teams needing a player they can trust to win against press coverage on over 40 percent of their reps.
The quinoa of this draft class, Harmon may not bring the flash and sizzle of other wideouts in the 2019 crop. However, he brings substantive strengths that every wide receiver corps needs to round out a solid starting trio. Just like you shouldn’t forget to sprinkle your complex carbs on your salad or veggie bowl, don’t overlook Harmon in this draft class.