After some off-the-field issues during the spring, Oregon's Chip Kelly suspended Harris indefinitely, and he never fully made his way out of the doghouse after returning to the field this year.
He played sparingly in six games and never started, and he will have to do a lot throughout the pre-draft process to convince teams that he's the athlete and dynamic playmaker he was as a sophomore.
He is able to anticipate throws into his zone and breaks on the ball well. He has a thin frame at around 170 pounds, but he is a scrappy player around the ball and makes his presence felt by keeping his hands active and working to maul receivers at the beginning of their route.
He doesn't employ a traditional backpedal, but he uses a shuffle step and is unconventional in how he flips his hips and stays with receivers. His shining trait is the ability to break on the ball and jump routes, and he is very keen on being able to watch the ball and react without being a risk to get beat.
He is a talented, quicker-than-fast athlete who could be the best option at returner on most NFL teams.
He is willing as a tackler but struggles to really thump and could have trouble there in the NFL. He is much more of a zone corner than man, and he could have technique issues if asked to play cover-zero."
Though a highly touted prep prospect, Harris was initially expected to redshirt as a true freshman in 2009.
Injuries forced the Ducks to play Harris early, however, and he responded with several big plays in the second half of the season, including an interception in the end zone against Washington, a 42-yard kick-return against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and leading the team with eight passes broken up despite only starting two games on the year.
Still, no one could have predicted what would come in Harris' breakout sophomore season.
Harris led the country with 23 passes defended and led the Pac-10 with six interceptions, including two impressive interceptions against Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal.
His second came in the closing minutes in the end zone, essentially sealing Oregon's win and Stanford's only loss of the season. He also returned four punts for touchdowns, leading the country in that category, as well.
He was a consensus All-American, joining teammate LaMichael James and former Ducks Mel Renfro and Haloti Ngata as the only Oregon players to have ever been so celebrated.
Harris' on-field exploits are only matched by his poor decisions off of it. Harris, 20, has racked up several thousand dollars in fines for traffic tickets in the states of California and Oregon over the past three years.
His actions led to head coach Chip Kelly indefinitely suspending his star on June 15. At minimum, Harris will miss Oregon's season-opener against LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on September 3.
Harris' talent is undeniable. NFL teams are always in search of cover corners with big play ability.
To earn the early round pick that equates to his ball and return skills, however, Harris will have to prove that he has the maturity to handle himself off the field.
Man Coverage: Rarely asked to play at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, though he appears to have the quick feet and loose hips to perform well in this scheme. Very experienced in off-man coverage, demonstrating a low, tight back pedal, fluid turning motion and straight-line speed to stick with any receiver in the country. Possesses a legitimate second gear when the ball is in flight and competes for every pass.
Zone Coverage: Excellent anticipatory skills. Sneaks a peek back at the quarterback when he can and will vacate his assignment to break on underneath routes. Possessing an explosive burst downhill to close on the ball. Isn't a physical hitter who is going to intimidate anyone but has very good lateral agility to break down in space and is a reliable open field tackler.
Ball Skills: Possesses very good hands and body control for the position. Times his leaps well, has a very good vertical jump and high-points passes, showing the hand-eye-coordination normally associated with wideouts. Very good vision, agility and straight line speed for the return. To nitpick, Harris carries the ball too loosely when he has it. Muffs the occasional punt and has had the ball ripped out of his hands on returns, as well (Stanford). This would appear to be mainly a concentration issue, however, while he focusing more on making a big play rather than ball security.
Run Support: A bit inconsistent in supporting the run. More than willing to take on the back in space - including bigger ball-carriers - but is okay with his teammates doing the dirty work, as well. Good quickness, agility and aggression in slipping past receiver blocks, but can get tied up by bigger, stronger wideouts. Inconsistent effort in pursuit, though he picks it up a notch when he sees the ball-carrier has a chance for a big play. Takes good angles in pursuit when necessary.
Tackling: A surprisingly effective tackler considering that he often relies on taking the knees out from the ball-carrier. Very good body control and accuracy to strike at the legs of the ball-carrier and does a nice job of wrapping his arms to stop the bigger man. Willing to lower his shoulder and play with physicality, but isn't going to scare anyone with his hitting ability.
Intangibles: Of his seven career interceptions, four have come against Luck (two), Matt Barkley (one) and Jake Locker (one).
Legitimate character red-flags. Has reportedly racked up more than $5,000 in traffic fines over the past three years stemming from various arrests for speeding, driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance, failing to stop at a stop sign and minor in possession of alchohol, among other things.
Fresno County court records indicate that Harris has not held a valid driver's license for more than two years. His latest brush with the law came in a car originally rented by a University of Oregon employee.
Harris and a teammate were stopped in the early morning hours of July 12 driving 118 miles per hour along Interstate 5 in the rented Nissan Altima."
Still has a tendency to give up too many plays, but should take that next big step this year as a junior."
There are also growing character issues with Harris. He's currently suspended indefinitely by Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and will miss at least the season opener against LSU. In June, Harris was cited for speeding and driving a rental car with a suspended license. While speeding may not be a serious character flaw, plenty is mounting against Harris. He's missed court dates, busted twice for driving without a license, possessing alcohol as a minor and piling fines that are reportedly in excess of $8,500.
As trite as it may sound, Harris' draft position could also depend heavily on how he measures and times. As a prospect, Harris compares to Houston Texans rookie Brandon Harris. Widely considered a first round player much of the 2010 season, Harris slipped to the 60th overall pick after coming in at 5'9 1/2 and not having the best timing numbers. That's also considering that Brandon Harris is a much stronger player than Cliff Harris appears to be.
Where the Oregon senior is superior, though, is his natural instincts and playmaking ability. In one of the nation's best passing conferences, Harris routinely made a play on the ball, finishing with 23 pass deflections as a junior. He's also one of the country's best return men.
Games Viewed: (All 2010) Auburn, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, Washington
Bold Statement: If Harris comes out following his junior season, teams drafting in the top 20 won't touch him based on character concern alone.
• When Harris gets to run in stride up the field with a receiver, there may be no better cornerback in college football. He has fluid hips to turn and stick on the receiver's hip.
• With the ball in the air, Harris a weapon for the defense. Getting the most out of his frame, Harris uses his body control to position himself to make a play on the ball. His conference-leading six interceptions and 23 passes defended may have been a breakthrough, but not a a fluke.
• Still, big power receivers will always give Harris fits as they're able to push him out of the way, especially in the jam. Has a slight frame (currently listed at 165 pounds) and can be overmatched by physical receivers, both at the line and as a route develops.
• Tends to play too far off the receiver on third and short plays. While Harris has the quickness to close the gap, he's not quick enough to stop a four-yard completion when playing off.
• Plays faster than his 40 time will suggest. Still, if Harris happens to run the 40 in a true 4.5-second range, his stock my suffer. Oregon lists Harris' 40 time as 4.75 seconds. Even if you adjust .2 seconds due to electronic timing, 4.5 seconds isn't spectacular for a cornerback who isn't physical.
• As a punt returner, Harris is a sensation. He was second in the nation with an 18.8-yard punt return average and had four touchdowns."
But was suspended indefinitely for after being charged with excessive speeding while driving with a suspended license this summer; for the record, it was not his first such violation and there are also questions as to how the rental car in question was acquired; also skipped some summer workouts;
Has bulked up to close to 180 pounds, but still is still somewhat frail and is something of an indifferent tackler in run support; also not that physical in coverage, but is a quick-twitch athlete with great anticipation and instincts;
Also very fluid and can change direction of a dime, can turn and run without missing a step, and breaks crisply out of back-peddle; also has the timing and ball skills of an all-star receiver; has the speed to outrun some mistakes, but will gamble at times and give up the big play."
His high risk and high reward style of play just won't work for some GMs and coaches.
Harris doesn't have elite straight-line speed but he's very quick in and out of his cuts. When he remains patient, he has a nice bend in his lower half. He's a bit undersized but plays big at times as a willing, but unremarkable tackler. Harris tends to watch the quarterback too often and can be beat by double moves or a well-timed pump fake."