Atlanta Falcons 2023 rookie review & grades: Zach Harrison

The Atlanta Falcons found a steal in the third round with Ohio State's DL Zach Harrison

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Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals / Mike Christy/GettyImages
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With pick 75 in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons decided to take a talented defensive lineman in Zach Harrison.

As a former top recruit, Harrison had all the talent in the world but he underperformed during his time at Ohio State. While he excelled as a run defender, his pass-rush potential never showed itself. But the Falcons might have finally unlocked his potential as he turned into a dominant player late in the 2023 season.

Atlanta Falcons DL Zach Harrison's rookie review

Zach Harrison found himself with a team that was looking to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball. While Harrison didn't have much of an impact early in the year, he grew as a player through each game and eventually showed that he has the potential to be a superstar.

In his final few games as a rookie, he found himself getting to the quarterback for the first time. This late success should help propel him going into his second season.

Stats:

  • 16 games played, 343/1,141 defensive snaps (30%)
  • 106 special teams snaps (23 kick return, 63 punt return, 20 FG block)
  • 33 tackles
  • 3 sacks
  • 5 QB hits
  • 4 tackles for loss
  • 1 pass defended

The good:

The best thing about Zach Harrison's first season in the NFL was his growth. We all know that rookies often struggle in their rookie year on the defensive line. The strength and agility of the game are a whole different beast compared to college. Watching a defensive lineman start racking up stats late in his rookie season is exactly what you want to see.

Harrison turned things on in his final three games. He registered his first sack in week 15 against Carolina then quickly got his second. He followed that up with another sack the week after and while he didn't get one in what ended up being his final game in week 17, he still made a big impact.

All three of his sacks, all four of his tackles for loss, and 11 of his 33 tackles came in his final three games.

When I say he looked dominant late in the year, I mean it. Zach Harrison is a player everyone should be excited about.

The bad:

All of the bad looms in the first portion of his rookie season. There is no way around it, he didn't make a huge impact during his first 13 games. The only stats he managed to tally were tackles and one quarterback hit the week before his breakout performance against Carolina.

Is this cause for concern? Probably not since it is difficult to get adjusted to this league but we cannot sit here and act like he had a perfect rookie season.

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Overview:

The keyword for Zach Harrison's rookie season was development. You have to think that the similarly-built Calais Campbell had a huge impact on Harrison's growth and hopefully, Harrison can turn into half the player that Campbell has been.

With a late-season surge, expect Harrison to start his second season strong—assuming he can get comfortable in a new scheme.

I can easily see Harrison push for eight sacks (or possibly more) during his sophomore season. He should also continue being a strong run defender.

Harrison is a difficult one to nail down a grade for. Do you evaluate his rookie season with each game having equal value? Or do you factor in the growth that we saw? I elected to do a mix of both and landed on a 'B' grade.

Grade: B

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