When you don't have the high profile interception totals at cornerback and your measurables aren't seen as ideal you tend to slip in the draft, but USC cornerback Cary Harris is a tough, instinctive player that is very good in run support. Those are important qualities for Perry Fewell's defensive scheme, which is why the Bills saw him as a solid value in round six with the 183rd pick.
"He's an ultra competitive kid. He really paid his dues playing in a big time conference," said Bills scout Rashaan Curry. "He started over 30 games and is a really competitive kid. He's probably average size, but he's of a tougher brand"
"I'm good friends with Keith Ellison," said Harris who played with Ellison's brother Kevin as USC. "I'm really excited to get up there and start learning the playbook."
A three-year starter, Harris had just four interceptions in his college career, but three of those came in his senior campaign as he led the Trojans in picks. Harris also contributed six pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles as a senior.
His greatest asset is his ability to fill in run support. Known as an aggressive tackler, Harris is a steady takedown artist in the open field.
"You have to evaluate the whole picture, so typically when you get into the position where you really breakdown what a kid does in each of the aspects specific to his position," said Curry. "You talk about ball skills, you talk about tackling, you talk about man to man coverage - whether it's off or press, you talk about zone play and this is a kid that checked out in every aspect we think."
What also appeals to the Bills is the fact that Harris has played in big time games with high stakes.
"You want kids who've been in big time programs and who've had a lot of success and this is a team who as we think about it, they competed for national championships every year, have been in the running down the stretch every year, so this kid is not going to be new to the big time, big lights shining on him and is going to get some pretty good players in practice as well," said Curry. "The USC practices are among the most competitive in the country watching these programs."
"We had a lot of competition every day in practice," said Harris. "We had a lot of different pro schemes that we run so that's definitely going to prepare me for the next level."
What hurt Harris' draft stock were durability concerns. In his college career Harris has had finger surgery, shoulder surgery and surgery on both ankles. He was also injured when he ran his 40 time at the combine clocking in at 4.58 at the combine.
"I think he's okay," said Curry. "He's a kid who started over 30 games in his career there, so he does have some durability. I feel like his speed is good enough. Here's a kid that we talk about compensating factors, intelligence, instincts, just like (Jairus) Byrd who we took earlier in the draft. This kid has some of those attributes and played on a very successful team I might add."
And Harris is already excited about helping the Bills become a more successful team at the NFL level.
"I know it's a good team," said Harris of the Bills. "They've been at the brink of getting to the playoffs the last three years and I think this is the year we can finally get into the playoffs and try to make something happen."