Niners Live is back with our third installment of the developmental stage, and this time we will turn our attention to the defense and a young and upcoming talent in linebacker Eli Harold.
Who is Eli Harold?
Considered a steal by many draft experts as a third-round pick in 2015, drafted number 79th overall in the 3rd round out of the University of Virginia, the 6’3 and 265 lb. Harold was projected to be a premier speed-rusher known for his first step, burst, upper body strength, and fluidity using both his feet and hands simultaneously (NFL.com). In his career, since being drafted, he has appeared in 32 games and started 14 of them while only accounting for 51 total tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. As unimpressive as those stats seem, a lot of it could be attributed to poor utilization by the previous coaching staff and the fact that Harold hasn’t been 100 percent healthy after dealing with a toe injury last season as he stated via a tweet in late January (see below).
I've never been able to push off of my big toe ! This season will be the first time that I will be 100% ever in my football career📞🙏🏾
— Ⓜ️adⓂ️ax (@EliHarold_) January 29, 2017
Versatility, Athleticism and Optimistic Attitude
With the ability to not only play at the Linebacker (SAM/OTTO) position and the Defensive Line (LEO), Harold could prove to be a valuable commodity and drive up his stock this season. Harold has shown the ability to be a violent disruptor rushing the passer and setting the edge at times, either with a hand in the ground or transitioning to stand up rusher style as recently discussed by Niners Live in :Looking at Eli Harold’s role within DC Robert Saleh’s 4-3 under scheme.
Harold can be effective with his top-notch speed, bull-rushing, and fighting off blockers, not to mention he possesses good-balance, flexibility and above average agility. With the installation of a new one-gap scheme, Harold has expressed high hopes for himself this upcoming season and believes the 49ers front seven could potentially be one of the best in the league.
Recapping the Rookie Contract: In 2015, Harold signed a four-year contract worth $3.1 million with a guaranteed base salary of $634,000 for 2017. Harold has a cap hit of $823,343, and if cut, would result in a dead cap of $348,687. Harold will be eligible for a contract extension after the 2017 season.
With Harold set to embark on his third season in the league, the spotlight will be shining brightly upon him to see if he can make that jump to the next level and secure a significant role on this new 4-3 under Robert Saleh defense. Eli has yet to live up to his expectations of being a premier edge/pass-rusher coming out of college, and is in a make or break point in his career.
Thus far in the early stages of the offseason, Harold has been out shadowed by the solid play of veteran Ahmad Brooks, who has earned high praise from Saleh and Head coach Kyle Shanahan and is currently penciled in as the starting outside linebacker ahead of Harold. It could more than likely be an uphill battle for Harold to see consistent playing time once the season starts. Especially if he fails to assert himself as a difference maker on the field in the upcoming training camp and pre-season.
This year will indeed be the most important of Eli Harold’s career so far, with a chance to prove himself worthy not only to this new regime, including coach Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch, but also to the 49er fan base. Harold should undoubtedly make the 53-man roster due to his versatility and experience. However, he will need to be willing to be a blank slate in order to put his past struggles behind him and go the extra mile if he wishes to beat out the likes of rookie Pita Taumoepenu (path to the draft video) and veteran Aaron Lynch who Niners Live recently discussed. Eli must strive to earn the trust and respect of his teammates and truly be a difference maker in the 2017 season and a building block for the immediate future.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the fan and analyst.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Sequoia Sims.