The Demetrius Harris Project & my reservations about it

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The excitement surrounding the physically-gifted Harris seems to hinge entirely upon the idea that with his athleticism, he can pose real problems for opposing defenses. The fatal flaw in that premise seems obvious from my vantage point. Harris still has to become a functional route-runner and a reliable target for his athletic ability to matter. He’s highly capable as a pure athlete, but without a grasp of the finer points of the position, currently lacking in his on-field performance, Harris is little more than unrealized potential, and the gap between “potential” and “productive” is big and wide in the National Football League.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

His staunchest supporters point to Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates as triumphant examples of tight ends who made the jump from collegiate basketball, but just how fair are those comparisons? Those two players, future first-ballot hall of famers, are among the absolute best at their position in NFL history. What are the odds, honestly, that he’ll have a quarter of the career success either of them enjoyed? Marcus Pollard might be a more realistic bar to set for Harris. Pollard was a Seward County Community College power forward-turned-tight end who went on to have a 14-year NFL career. It took three seasons, but Pollard finally made good on the Colts’ faith in him during the 1998 season.

It’s my hope, for all parties involved, that Harris eventually makes an utter fool out of me. Last season in the weeks leading up to the final roster cut down, I tweeted (made a post on social media site Twitter for the uninitiated) a critique of Harris that called his place on the team into question. Harris later re-tweeted the post, presumably as a motivational reminder to ‘silence his critics.’ To his credit, he subsequently made the 53-man roster in 2014. What he didn’t do was establish his worth as a TE3 on the squad. To date, Harris has only three career catches in the NFL. That’s another area where he’s nothing like his perennial Pro Bowl predecessors (Gonzalez and Gates). Both of them quickly turned athleticism into tangible results on the football field.

Next: What's the future hold for Harris?