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Cliff Harris: Underrated Signing by New York Jets Could Pay Off

February 9th, 2013 at 4:53 PM
By Donald Lappe

At Oregon, Cliff Harris was seen as a future NFL cornerback. He was an All-American after the 2010 season, which saw his Ducks fall to Cam Newton and Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game. Cliff Harris finished that season with eight interceptions and led the nation in pass break ups. He picked off Cam Newton in that National Championship game and also recovered a crucial Cam Newton fumble late. Off the field issues led to Cliff Harris going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft and he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of training camp. The New York Jets signed him to a reserve/future contract on January 4.

There's no question that cornerback Cliff Harris has immense talent. But why did the Philadelphia Eagles cut him last year? Word is the Cliff Harris got off to a good start, but struggled after suffering an ankle injury. He was outplayed by the other cornerbacks in training camp and needs to work on his strength. Plus, he needs to realize that he can't skate by on just his talent anymore. That's the task ahead of the New York Jets in helping Cliff Harris reclaim his football career.

It looked like it was going to be easy for Cliff Harris. At Oregon, he wasn't just arguably the best cornerback in the country, he was also one of the most dangerous return men. On a team with plenty of burners, such as LaMichael James, Cliff Harris was Oregon's punt and kick returner of choice, taking four back for touchdowns to lead the FBS (another one was called back due to a penalty). He was a unanimous selection as a First Team All-American as a returner/all-purpose player.

It all went downhill quickly for Cliff Harris. He was caught driving 118 miles per hour in June of 2011 and had to sit out the season opener. Harris was then caught driving with a suspended license, without proper insurance and without a seatbelt. That led to him being suspended for the last seven games of the year. After being caught with marijuana, Cliff Harris was kicked off the team.

That all killed his draft stock. It's not a sob story, because Cliff Harris inflicted that harm on himself. It sounds eerily similar to the situations of Janoris Jenkins and Tyrann Mathieu. With so many excited about the opportunity for a team to get Tyrann Mathieu as a steal in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Jets have already acquired a similar talent without giving up a draft pick.

The Jets are hardly gambling on Cliff Harris. They have nothing to lose and Harris has every reason to be motivated to do well. If he can realize that he needs to take advantage of this opportunity with the Jets and works on fixing some of the holes in his game, the Jets can get a big reward from simply taking a shot on him.

We all know Rex Ryan can never have enough cornerbacks.


Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, cliff harris, Football, New York, New York Jets, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan, Tyrann Mathieu

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