NFL Draft player spotlight: Oklahoma left tackle Anton Harrison – The pouncing giant

Oklahoma Offensive Tackle Anton Harrison (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Oklahoma Offensive Tackle Anton Harrison (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

Oklahoma Football has long been synonymous with gridiron success. When college football fans think about the Sooner program, they often get images of Baker planting the flag in Columbus or Roy Williams ‘super manning’ over the 2001 Texas offensive line. However, OU has recently received recognition as the nation’s premier offensive line factory, evidenced by their 7-foot long, 800-pound Joe Moore Award trophy in the Switzer Center. The 2023 NFL Draft prospect and Sooner offensive tackle Anton Harrison is the next addition to the list of names that make Oklahoma synonymous with O-line greatness.

Harrison is a 6-foot-4-inch, 315-pound offensive tackle from Washington, D.C. (Archbishop Carrol). Coming out of high school, Harrison was rated as a consensus 4-star prospect in the class of 2020 by 247Sports. Interestingly enough, Harrison was recruited to Norman as an offensive guard. However, his athleticism proved quickly to be one of his most noticeable attributes, eventually earning him 22 starts at left tackle and a 2022 First Team All-Big 12 selection.

Film Study: The first thing I noticed when I watched Harrison’s tape was his athletic footwork. He has quick feet even for a left tackle, traditionally the most athletic offensive lineman on the field. Harrison has a decisive first step in the run game, a quick initial kick in pass protection, and he takes excellent angles when he goes to the second level (blocking linebackers). Harrison excels at zone run-scheme blocking and places his hands on defenders violently and accurately. Like most Coach Bill Bedenbaugh products, Harrison displays excellent technique through patience and accuracy. Harrison rarely, if ever, allows defensive linemen to gain an inside advantage on him, and he punishes defenders who need to be more careful with their technique. It’s odd, but this giant is great at pouncing on his defenders when they fail to execute against him. Another valuable trait possessed by Harrison is his aggression. Harrison plays with a high-level of violence and aggression, a trait constantly sought by coaches from all levels of football. His strength and speed numbers register on the upper-end of the chart as well (Combine 40-yard dash: 4.98, and Pro-Day Benchpress Reps: 24)

Draft Day: I see Harrison as a 1st round draft pick for two reasons. The first reason is that his tape proves his ability to play tackle. Traditionally, NFL teams place a premium on tackle selections in the draft as they are typically the ones most responsible for a quarterback’s safety. Often, tackles are tasked with blocking elite pass-rushers on the edge alone. The second reason is his versatility and history. Harrison has the natural size of a guard in the NFL, and he comes from Oklahoma, a school known for producing some of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Scouts know Sooner offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s ability to coach offensive linemen and the quality of coaching his linemen receive during their time in Norman. Harrison would naturally fit in as a guard and quickly grasp any mental challenges the position would present. NFL franchises give higher grades to offensive linemen when they aren’t one-dimensional in the same way they do any other position. You would want to avoid drafting a running back who only runs zone or a receiver who only goes for the deep ball. NFL general managers and coaches value versatility, and Harrison possesses much of it.

Best Fit(s): The Las Vegas Raiders hold the 7th-pick in the draft and desperately need an offensive tackle. Vegas recently added long-time San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppollo to the roster, so it would make sense to protect him. If Vegas decides to pass on Harrison, he may only have to wait for two more picks for the Chicago Bears. Bears quarterback Justin Fields has been dying for some protection. In 2022, the Bears gave up 58 sacks, according to StatMuse, ranking them as the 4th worst in that category. With the off-season addition of guard Nate Davis, I could see the Bears drafting Harrison at pick 9 and pairing those two up on a solid left side. Another interesting spot is at pick 11, where the Tennessee Titans sit. The Titans let go of perennial all-pro left tackle Taylor Lewan this offseason, leaving a massive hole in their left side. Tennessee has several needs but none more important than the left tackle. The final spot, and the lowest I could see Harrison falling, would be the Cincinnati Bengals at pick 28. The Bengals have expressed interest in moving on from two of their 2022 starting offensive linemen, and they have an enormous asset as their starting quarterback in Joe Burrow. With the recent signing of former Sooner legend Orlando Brown, I could see a pairing up of former Sooners occurring with the 28th pick. Harrison could team up with Brown on one side of the line as a guard or play as his opposite at the other tackle. This would be a massive steal for Cincinnati and a huge sigh of relief for rising star Joe Burrow.

Overall, Harrison will make a great addition to any team. His mix of athleticism, size, and playing experience will allow him to transition quickly to the NFL’s pace. ‘O-line-U’ continues to produce elite-level protectors. It’ll be exciting to discover who Team 129 has in store next.