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RotoViz recently released its 2013 Composite Rookie RB Rankings, and 2013 Composite Rookie WR Rankings.  More composite rankings for the other positions will be released throughout the week in anticipation of the NFL Draft.

When compiling the RB rankings, I noticed a few unheralded Big East players: Montel Harris, George Winn, and Jawan Jamison. (Note that Ray Graham went unscored by all the rankers.) Harris is the #19 composite RB and was ranked by 3 guys. Winn was #22 (ranked only by Jon Moore), and Jawan Jamison was #25 (ranked only by Davis Mattek).

Intriguingly, neither Jon nor Davis ranked Harris, choosing instead Winn and Jamison as their separate Big East RBs of choice. In this article, I want to make a case for why I prefer Montel to the other two.

Here’s the blurb I wrote about Harris in the composite RB rankings: “Zac Stacy may be our favorite sleeper, but Montel Harris may be our favorite deep sleeper. I’m talking coma deep. Ranked by Shawn, Ryan, and me, the medical-redshirt senior who transferred from Boston College to Temple finished his college career with four seasons of over 1000 scrimmage yards. That’s impressive. Neither fast nor extraordinarily agile, the 5’8” rusher still packs a punch at 208 lbs. He’s not likely to have great NFL success, but when you’re picking guys up off of waivers you could do a lot worse than snagging a rusher who produced consistently at the FBS level. In fact, I’d rather have Montel off of waivers than Montee with a second-round pick. He seems to have the same upside as Ball at a fraction of the cost. To me, he’s a straight-up Montee Ball ADP arbitrage play. As Shawn said in an email before we submitted our rankings, ‘the next running back article I have coming out is Montee Ball, and Harris’ comps are actually a little stronger.’ I’ll say it again, when you’re picking guys up off of waivers, you could do a lot worse than Montel Harris.”

Like Ball, Harris is shown best in a light that throws into relief his consistent college productivity. By some metrics, Harris is not a great athlete, but by other metrics he is an adequate one, and for a productive good-sized back available on waivers adequate athleticism is basically all you can ask for.

How does Harris compare physically to Jamison and Winn? Here’s the chart:

Player Age Ht Wt Official 40 Speed Score 20Y Shuttle 3 Cone Agility Score
Harris 23 68 208 4.68 86.72 4.18 6.95 11.13
Jamison 21 67 203 4.68 84.63 4.62 7.47 12.09
Winn 22 70 218 4.75 85.65 4.33 7.13 11.46

The greatest knock against Harris in this comparison is that he is the oldest runner. Still, he will not turn 24 until late in his rookie year, so he should still have the potential to experience NFL action while near his physical peak—and he’s actually younger than Johnathan Franklin and Kenjon Barner. Harris would likely be a more attractive prospect if he were younger, but even with his greater age he outshines Jamison and Winn physically. Harris’ Speed Score is nothing special (in fact, many would think it’s bad), but it’s the best of the group, and his Agility Score is by far the best. In fact, it’s almost good enough on its own to warrant consideration from the Lord of the Agility Score, Shawn Siegele, who has identified anything below 11.1 as a strong score. Although he is short, Harris is thickly built, and as a productive player with (at the very least) adequate agility he could do well in the NFL if given the opportunity to play.

And when he did play in college he played well. In 2008 as a freshman at Boston College, Harris compared favorably to bigger ACC backs such Jonathan Dwyer, Andre Brown, and James Davis. In 2009 as a sophomore Harris once again did well in a conference that saw stellar performances from Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, and Jonathan Dwyer. And in 2010 Harris trailed on Anthony Allen in rushing. For a span of three years, Harris was the most productive runner in the ACC.

And, then, the wheels fell off the wagon. In 2011 Harris played only two games because of a knee injury, and in the spring of 2012 he was dismissed from the BC football team for reasons unknown. Having graduated from BC, Harris transferred to Temple for his medical-redshirt fifth season and played well against Big East competition in returning from his injury. How well? Let’s see.

During the 2012 season Harris and Jamison shared seven opponents in common (the other Big East teams and Army). Here’s a table comparing their relative performances:

Montel Harris
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 15.00 115.00 7.67 1.00 - - - -
Cincinnati 8.00 9.00 1.13 - - - - -
Syracuse 21.00 106.00 5.05 - 1.00 (1.00) (1.00) -
Pittsburgh 18.00 72.00 4.00 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
Connecticut 30.00 142.00 4.73 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
South Florida 24.00 133.00 5.54 2.00 3.00 15.00 5.00 -
[Army] 36.00 351.00 9.75 7.00 - - - -
Totals 152.00 928.00 6.11 12.00 6.00 40.00 6.67 -
Per Game 21.71 132.57 6.11 1.71 0.86 5.71 6.67 -
Jawan Jamison
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 15.00 50.00 3.33 - 1.00 14.00 14.00 -
Cincinnati 4.00 37.00 9.25 - 1.00 - - -
Syracuse 28.00 64.00 2.29 1.00 2.00 16.00 8.00 -
Pittsburgh 9.00 14.00 1.56 - - - - -
Connecticut 28.00 110.00 3.93 - 2.00 19.00 9.50 -
South Florida 41.00 151.00 3.68 1.00 1.00 6.00 6.00 -
[Army] 22.00 90.00 4.09 - 2.00 9.00 4.50 -
Totals 147.00 516.00 3.51 2.00 9.00 64.00 7.11 -
Per Game 21.00 73.71 3.51 0.29 1.29 9.14 7.11 -

Harris destroyed Jamison. Granted, one could say that Harris’ relative performance is skewed by his fantastic game against Army, but that’s kind of like saying Doug Martin wasn’t that great as a rookie if you take out his game last year against the Raiders. The game still counts. But, OK, let’s say I play along. What happens if we take out the games against Army? Here’s the table:

Montel Harris
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 15.00 115.00 7.67 1.00 - - - -
Cincinnati 8.00 9.00 1.13 - - - - -
Syracuse 21.00 106.00 5.05 - 1.00 (1.00) (1.00) -
Pittsburgh 18.00 72.00 4.00 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
Connecticut 30.00 142.00 4.73 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
South Florida 24.00 133.00 5.54 2.00 3.00 15.00 5.00 -
Totals 116.00 577.00 4.97 5.00 6.00 40.00 6.67 -
Per Game 19.33 96.17 4.97 0.83 1.00 6.67 6.67 -
Jawan Jamison
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 15.00 50.00 3.33 - 1.00 14.00 14.00 -
Cincinnati 4.00 37.00 9.25 - 1.00 - - -
Syracuse 28.00 64.00 2.29 1.00 2.00 16.00 8.00 -
Pittsburgh 9.00 14.00 1.56 - - - - -
Connecticut 28.00 110.00 3.93 - 2.00 19.00 9.50 -
South Florida 41.00 151.00 3.68 1.00 1.00 6.00 6.00 -
Totals 125.00 426.00 3.41 2.00 7.00 55.00 7.86 -
Per Game 20.83 71.00 3.41 0.33 1.17 9.17 7.86 -

Harris still outdoes Jamison. So, for those keeping track, Harris—who tore up the ACC for three years—not only outplayed Jamison in the Big East in 2012 (while returning from an injury that sidelined him the year before), but he also proved, through his Speed and Agility Scores, to be a better athlete. If one prefers Jamison to Harris because he’s younger and didn’t miss a season of football because a knee injury, I understand. But if Harris’ 2012 performance removes worries about his knee, and if his age doesn’t strike one as being all that important, then Harris, out of the two, is the better prospect.

And how does Harris compare to Winn? In 2012 they shared six opponents in common (the other Big East teams). Here’s a table comparing their relative performances:

Montel Harris
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 15.00 115.00 7.67 1.00 - - - -
Rutgers 19.00 81.00 4.26 - - - - -
Syracuse 21.00 106.00 5.05 - 1.00 (1.00) (1.00) -
Pittsburgh 18.00 72.00 4.00 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
Connecticut 30.00 142.00 4.73 1.00 1.00 13.00 13.00 -
South Florida 24.00 133.00 5.54 2.00 3.00 15.00 5.00 -
Totals 127.00 649.00 5.11 5.00 6.00 40.00 6.67 -
Per Game 21.17 108.17 5.11 0.83 1.00 6.67 6.67 -
Jawan Jamison
Opponent Att RuYds RuAvg RuTDs Rec ReYds ReAvg ReTDs
Louisville 26.00 125.00 4.80 - 1.00 (1.00) (1.00) -
Rutgers 11.00 35.00 3.20 - 1.00 30.00 30.00 -
Syracuse 30.00 165.00 5.50 3.00 1.00 9.00 9.00 -
Pittsburgh 11.00 95.00 8.60 2.00 - - - -
Connecticut 22.00 70.00 3.20 1.00 3.00 55.00 18.30 -
South Florida 21.00 119.00 5.70 2.00 2.00 7.00 3.50 -
Totals 121.00 609.00 5.03 8.00 8.00 100.00 12.50 -
Per Game 20.17 101.50 5.03 1.33 1.33 16.67 12.50 -

The two seem about even. Harris has a higher rushing average, but Winn scored more TDs. Still, on the basis of what Harris did in his game against Army (and against the ACC), the Temple RB can clearly score TDs. And when one considers the clear edge in athleticism that Harris possesses he appears to be the better prospect. Granted, Winn is bigger, one year younger, and untouched by a major collegiate injury. Nevertheless, as I said in the composite rookie rankings, “for his size, he wasn’t quite fast enough or productive enough for my taste. If I’m going to roster a guy who barely makes an NFL team and who has, in addition to only one year of college production, suspect speed, then I want that guy to be huge—like LaGarrette Blount—and Winn isn’t huge. He’s merely big.”

Winn is big, but at 218 lbs. he’s not that much bigger than Harris, who (with 10 fewer pounds and 2 fewer inches of height) is every bit as thick as Winn. And Harris was way more productive throughout his college career—with most of that production coming in a much tougher conference. If I’ve just finished a rookie draft and I’m looking to add an RB off of waivers, I’m much likelier to pick up Harris if those two guys are my only options.

As I said earlier, he’s not likely to have great NFL success, but when you’re picking guys up off of waivers you could do a lot worse than snagging a rusher who, at a fraction of the cost, is awfully similar to Montee Ball. In fact you could do a lot worse than passing on Montee in the first round and instead grabbing Montel (not Jamison or Winn!) on waivers. It’s ADP arbitrage at its finest.

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