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Why Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison is a perfect fit for the 49ers

You can’t go wrong betting on a former 5* athlete

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Everybody has a type. You do, I do, even John Lynch and Adam Peters do. For the 49ers front office, the apple of their eye continues to be athletic edge rushers who fall into the upper percentile of arm length and wingspan at the position.

With no first or second round pick in this year's draft, the 49ers aren’t scheduled to make a pick until the 99th overall selection. Based on current projections, they should still have an opportunity to select a high upside edge rusher who falls into that blueprint which they covet.

That player is Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison, who was a five-star recruit coming out of high school before spending the last few seasons refining his craft with renowned defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

Harrison is coming off a productive senior season in Columbus that saw him post a 13 percent pressure rate while recording multiple pressures in 11 of the 13 games he appeared in. He was a team captain in 2021 and has recorded 11 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, and 4 forced fumbles during his collegiate career.

At 6’ 5½” 274 pounds, Harrison’s size that would place him in the 88th percentile for height and the 75th percentile for weight at the position. However, what really jumps off the page with Harrison’s and what would endear him so much to the 49ers, are his arm length and wingspan.

Harrison has 36¼” arms, which would place him in the 98th percentile among edge defenders. His wingspan measured in at 85½” placing him in the 97th percentile at the position.

Those numbers compare extremely favorably to an impact defensive lineman the 49ers just lost in free agency. Here are Charles Omenihu’s measurements side by side with Harrison’s:

Height - 6’ 5⅜”

Weight - 280 lbs

Arm length - 36 inches

Wingspan - 85½”


Height - 6’ 5½”

Weight - 274 lbs

Arm length - 36¼”

Wingspan - 85½”

The measurements are almost identical. During his stint with the 49ers, Omenihu showed first hand just how valuable that extra bit of reach can be when you have a defensive lineman who has abnormally long arms like that.

The turning point in a playoff win vs. Seattle came when Omenihu was able to use his impressively large wingspan to his advantage and poke the ball free out of the hands of Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith for a 49ers turnover that ended any hope of a major upset at the hands of their division rival.

Harrison showed a similar ability to utilize his arm length at Ohio State, with this forced fumble against Rutgers being a fantastic example of just how lethal it can be. With the quarterback flushed from the pocket, Harrison can get his arm across the quarterbacks entire body to the opposite arm, while being stiff armed, and without even fully extending his own arm, is able to poke the football free for a forced fumble.

While the similarities between Harrison and Omenihu are noteworthy, he is not the only player with 49ers ties that Harrison has drawn strong comparisons to.

When looking at Harrison’s measurements on Mockdraftable, there is a comparison section that highlights the players whose athletic profiles most closely resemble his own. Two of the players on that list are currently on the 49ers roster, and both were acquired within the past month by the team. Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell.

This follows the blueprint the 49ers have laid out when pursuing edge rushers, as Bryant ranks in the 86th percentile of arm length, while Ferrell’s wingspan falls into the 82nd percentile at the position.

Back to Harrison, who is an intriguing all around prospect beyond just the athletic numbers that compare favorably to what the 49ers look for. After working for years with one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the sport, the pass rushing prowess Harrison possesses is evident when breaking down his game film.

Here are a few reps from his dominant performance against Iowa, which showcased his ability to be an impact player on all three downs against the run and the pass.

The first is an excellent use of the “side-scissors” move, a variation of the double swipe taught at Ohio State, and a move Nick Bosa has had tremendous success with during his time in the NFL.

After winning that rep on the edge, Harrison showed an ability to counter and win inside as well. He sells the stem of his rush to the outside shoulder of the right tackle before violently exploding inside with a rip move through the inside shoulder:

Harrison also showed the ability to be a plus run defender, blowing up this jet sweep in the backfield for a tackle for loss:

Over the years, the 49ers have left us with a clear pattern of roster moves that indicate what they are looking for in their edge rushers. These clues have given us a road map of where they will go moving forward as they continue to address one of the most important positions in the game.

Right now, all signs point to that map leading to Harrison.