In order for the Lions to find success in 2020, the younger players must improve and take the proverbial next step.
There are a few names that are often floated around when discussing the Lions' younger talent.
Perhaps the forgotten man is last year’s third-round selection, safety Will Harris -- who Detroit general manager Bob Quinn traded up seven spots to grab.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pounder provides 4.41-second speed, coupled with great length and quickness.
Much like with 2018 third-round pick Tracy Walker, Quinn may have envisioned slowly bringing Harris along his rookie season with the veterans in front of him -- which didn’t end up being the case.
Harris saw plenty of playing time after the midseason trade of safety Quandre Diggs and with Walker missing some games due to injury.
In a rather unexpected placement, Harris lined up predominantly as a deep free safety (61 percent of his snaps), when his strengths in college were more so playing towards the line of scrimmage in a big slot or box safety role.
In 2018 -- his senior year at Boston College -- he lined up as a deep safety only 38.1 percent of his snaps, compared to 30.9 percent in the slot and 27.4 percent in the box.
Despite receiving plenty of snaps his rookie season, there were some games where Harris almost seemed invisible.
Very rarely did he make any impact plays and he didn’t have a single interception or pass defensed -- which was a common complaint of his college film.
Instincts and that playmaker gene just don’t stand out.
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In four years of seeing significant playing time at Boston College, he only broke up eight passes, and accumulated five interceptions on 118 total targets. His forced incompletion rate in 2018 was one of the lowest of the safeties drafted in the same class.
Now, with the addition of ex-Patriots safety Duron Harmon, it is likely that Duron will man the primary free safety position, which will allow for Harris to play more naturally in the vacated Tavon Wilson hang-defender role.
By just simply using Harris to his strengths, there could be a nice uptick in the amount of plays he makes.
In Week 17 of last season, Harris saw the most snaps as a big-slot cover man than he did in any other week.
He also had a heavier-than-usual percentage of plays close to the line of scrimmage. Coincidentally, the final game was his highest-graded Pro Football Focus-graded game of the season.
With his ability to match up with bigger and quicker tight ends, Harris’ skill set should be put to good use and allow him to do what he does best, as long as the Lions decide to limit his time as a deep safety.
A good coach always deploys his players to their strengths to get the most out of their respective pools of talent.