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Could TE Jacob Harris Be the X-Factor for the Rams?

Many Los Angeles Rams fans awaited Pick 141 in Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft with bated breath, hoping for some sort of interior offensive lineman to be snatched up. But most fans were stunned by the end result — tight end Jacob Harris out of UCF. Even more dumbfounding is that Harris is technically listed as a hybrid receiver/tight end. Now that enough time has passed for the inevitable head-scratching and shared puzzled looks, it’s time to analyze what the Rams were thinking when they made this surprising selection in the first place.

Why Target Another Receiver at All?

Everyone knows that once the Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford, the team’s plan was to acquire as many weapons for him to utilize as possible. Nobody wants a repeat of the stale, predictable offense the Rams trotted out repeatedly last season. That much was made clear when the team agreed to terms with DeSean Jackson in the offseason. However, nobody quite expected the Rams to indulge quite as much as they did in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The second round selection of Louisville’s Tutu Atwell in the second round caught many by surprise. With Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and DeSean Jackson, the Rams currently boast one of the most intimidating receiving corps in the league. Not to mention, at the tight end spot, they have solid playmaking and depth with Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins and Johnny Mundt. At this point, many fans may be wondering where does a player like Harris fit into the equation?

Jacob Harris rams
Credit: UCF Athletics

What Jacob Harris Could Bring to the Rams

Reportedly, Rams tight ends head coach Wes Phillips was not only enamored of Harris’ on-field athleticism, but his potential to be a big-play threat as well. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Harris perfectly fits the mold of a modern-day tight end, although he is very raw. He has only been officially playing football for five years, after transitioning from a standout soccer player in high school to football only during his senior year.

But once Harris donned a different set of cleats, he impressed from the very beginning. During his first year at UCF, Harris caught 19 passes for 448 yards and a touchdown to boot, at an average of 23.6 yards per catch. In 2020, he caught 30 passes for 539 yards and an incredible eight touchdowns, while averaging 18.0 yards per catch. And although pro day numbers don’t always translate cleanly into the league, Harris managed to run a blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash. Given his size, that should translate extremely well to the pro game under the tutelage of the Rams’ coaching staff. Although he will undoubtedly be a project, expect big things from Harris in future.

Looking Ahead for Jacob Harris

Harris probably won’t contribute much to Stafford’s purview this season, but the Rams have other plans for Harris as well, especially on special teams. After the draft, general manager Les Snead had this to say about taking Harris in the fourth round: “Jacob Harris really played wide receiver at Central Florida and was probably our number one ranked special teamer, in terms of coverage, but he’s a fast guy that we project could go to tight end and just an interesting weapon based on the special teams and things like that.” He also called him “a freak of nature” in terms of his athletic ability. Considering special teams was one of the Rams’ low points last year, the addition of Harris should help matters immensely.

We all know that the draft is ultimately a crapshoot sometimes. But the big-playmaking potential and advanced athleticism of Harris could make him one of the steals of the draft sooner rather than later. Not to mention, under the combined Sean McVay-Snead regime, the Rams have done a pretty banner job of using their limited draft capital wisely. Although many Rams’ fans still would have liked to see the team to bolster the offensive line, this move could prove to pay big dividends down the road. With one of the toughest schedules in the league on paper for 2021, the Rams will need to maximize the potential of all of their weapons, and Harris should fit in quite well in the grand scheme of things.

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