by Ryan Myers
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Notre Dame, Safety, Thomas Harper
Name - Thomas Harper
Pos - S
Team - Notre Dame
HT/WT - 5’11”, 195 lbs.
Home - Knoxville, TN
Thomas Harper is a safety out of Knoxville, Tennessee. He played his high school football at Karns High School where he played on both sides of the ball. In his senior season, he set a record for receiving yards on offense, and had 92 total tackles, including 67 solo stops, added seven pass break ups, two forced fumbles, one interception and one blocked field goal on defense. Over his entire career, he totaled 155 total tackles, 114 of which were solo stops, 16 passes defended and three interceptions, which earned him 3-star ratings from 247Sports and ESPN, and a 2-star rating from Rivals.com. Harper’s only power 5 offer out of high school was Oklahoma State, where he chose to continue his football career.
In his freshman season, Harper saw action in 12 games. He played mostly on special teams, but saw some limited defensive snaps as well. He totaled 13 total tackles and 1 TFL. He saw increased snaps on defense as a sophomore off the bench. He played in 11 games making 1 start. He made 31 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery. He played a similar role in his Junior season, playing in 12 games, all off the bench at safety. He collected 20 total tackles, 1.5 TFL, and 1 forced fumble.
In his senior season with Oklahoma State, he played 7 games, starting in all of them. His season was cut short by a shoulder injury, but before this, he made 30 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 pass breakups, and an interception. With his injury, his draft stock fell last year, so Harper chose to remain in college football as he entered the transfer portal and headed to Notre Dame. This season with the Irish, he played 11 games, making 10 starts. He recorded 39 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, and 3 pass breakups.
Harper’s length, quickness and feel for coverage is what will intrigue teams at the next level. He possesses a nice wingspan, which he uses well in coverage, making it extremely tough for receivers with 50/50 balls. He has a great feel for routes and defensive schemes, and shows off his quickness in mirroring receivers.
The downsides of Harper’s game are his hesitancy to make plays downhill and in the backfield, and his tendency to draw flags. He shows sparks of being a physical player and has improved his skills playing downhill in the past year, but he is still not quite as effective as desired for some safeties. This season, he had a career high 6 TFL and 2 sacks, which are promising signs he can improve. Harper also uses his length well in coverage most of the time, but his overuse of his hands can lead to penalties in coverage. These are coachable issues as he transitions into the NFL.
Harper has quickness and straight line speed to mirror receivers well, and uses his length and body positioning well in coverage to bat passes away and create turnovers despite his below average height for the safety position in the NFL. He creates problems for offenses in 50/50 ball situations as he understands the mechanics and angles of pass coverage as well as anyone in the draft class. He’s a day three prospect with coachable upside.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 5th round or 6th round