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Making the Leap, Nos. 23, 22: Chris Harris, DRC

Around The League will profile the top 40 players we see Making the Leap in 2013. No. 23 and 22 on the list: Denver Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Why Harris and Rodgers-Cromartie are on the list

You can't have enough cornerbacks in today's NFL. In a league increasingly obsessed with the vertical passing game, the Denver Broncos went out and signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a secondary already anchored by Champ Bailey and the ascendant Chris Harris.

Bailey's achievements are well-known, but Harris and DRC get my vote for Making the Leap for one simple reason: If they get it done this season, this might be the best corner trio in the NFL.

Let's start with the undrafted Harris. I dialed up Game Rewind to watch his work from last season, in which he graded out as the league's fifth-best corner, per In just his second campaign, Harris thrived in the slot, but he showed enough versatility to play outside when asked. Denver used him all over the formation. Harris was disguised in blitz packages and unafraid to roll the dice. End result: He was the only corner to record multiple sacks (2.5) and interceptions (three) in 2012.

Harris does the small things well. In a critical Week 15 win over the Baltimore Ravens, he held Anquan Boldin without a catch, the wideout's first shutout since 2005. If that handiwork went unnoticed, Harris' back-breaking pick of Joe Flacco did not.

Rodgers-Cromartie is more of an enigma. His first three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals suggested a Pro Bowl-caliber player with the potential to outdo his cousin, Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets. But DRC's past two campaigns with the Philadelphia Eagles were a strange ride. After 13 interceptions in 48 appearances in Arizona, Rodgers-Cromartie picked off just three passes in 29 games in Philly. Still, at just 26 years old, Rodgers-Cromartie has the size (6-foot-2) and speed to be a No. 1 corner, if he feels up to it.

With a fresh start in Denver, we need to see less uneven play and more of the disruptive coverage he showed in this Week 1 pick of Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.


Harris didn't wave many red flags last season. The All-22 revealed the occasional missed tackle, but he graded out well against the run, and I saw Harris chase down ball-carriers from across the field. With more talent in-house, the risk is Harris being drowned out or losing that drive he showed from week to week.

I'm more concerned with Rodgers-Cromartie. His career is an enigma. Coach John Fox believes he can be a top-flight corner -- following in his cousin's footsteps -- but DRC struggled in Philly to jell with Nnamdi Asomugha and, initially, Asante Samuel, another trio that sounded great on paper. He's impressed Demaryius Thomas with his "fast" hips, but Rodgers-Cromartie's raw talent isn't the issue. Larry Fitzgerald called him the "best athlete I've gone against," which makes the past two campaigns even more disappointing.

2013 expectations

In a crushing playoff loss to the Ravens, the Broncos were exposed deep by Baltimore's wideouts. If he returns to form, Rodgers-Cromartie's field speed will solve that issue.

Harris, meanwhile, is just getting started, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him improve on his interception and sack totals from 2012. He showed promise as a disruptive pass-rusher and he'll be used creatively from wire to wire.

Back to DRC: On his third team already, how will he respond to a fresh start? Now part of a Broncos franchise hell-bent on reaching the Super Bowl, if Rodgers-Cromartie can flip the switch, Denver's defensive backfield will be a beast.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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