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90-in-90 Bengals Roster Breakdown: Darien Harris facing long odds at deep LB position

The Bengals are no strangers to undrafted free agent linebackers breaking through to make it in the NFL. However, Darien Harris is facing some stiff odds to make Cincinnati's roster with so many other backers fighting for spots.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Right after the 2016 NFL Draft ended, Darien Harris was among the first players that the Bengals signed via undrafted free agency.

A stud linebacker on a defense among the nation's best over his career, Harris was a two-year starter and captain for the Spartans. In 2015, Harris helped lead Michigan State to a berth in the College Football Playoff and finish with a 12-2 record overall.

"I'm ready to win and came in from a winning environment in college," Harris told Cincy Jungle. "I know what it takes to be successful as a team. I was a team captain at MSU last year. So I'm going to come in from day one and do anything I can to help the team win and be a positive influence on the team."

Harris now looks to become the latest undrafted linebacker to break into the NFL with the Bengals after Vontaze Burfict, Vinny Rey and the recently-departed Emmanuel Lamur were able to do the same.

Player Info

Position: Linebacker
Age: 23
Experience: Rookie 
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 220 pounds
College: Michigan State
Pro Day: 40-yard dash: 4.79 seconds; Bench Press: 25 Reps; Vertical: 33.5"; Broad jump: 9'8"; 3-Cone Drill: 7.25


2016 Stock

Over his career, Harris recorded 154 tackles (13 for a loss), one sack, one interception and four passes defended in 33 total games played from 2013-2015 for the Spartans. He also played in every game in 2012 and seven in 2013 on special teams after redshirting the 2011 season.

This past season, Harris racked up 90 tackles and nine tackles for loss for a Spartans defense ranked among the best in college football.  According to's Lance Zierlein, Harris was projected a late-round pick or priority free agent that will likely be a WILL linebacker in the NFL.

Harris' stock is already low in that he plays a position at which the Bengals are fairly deep. You have to assume Rey Maualuga, Vinny Rey, Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil are locks to making the roster, and Karlos Dansby is close to being a lock as well. P.J. Dawson also looks almost certainly make it as a Round 3 pick in 2015, which means there are six spots solidified before we even mention Marquis Flowers, Trevor Roach and Jayson DiManche, all of whom have spent time on the Bengals' 53-man roster. (Though for Roach, it was only for one game and he didn't actually play.)

The truth is, there will either need to be several major injuries at linebacker for Harris to make the roster, or he'll end up proving to the Bengals that he's a great player who the team simply can't cut.

Odds of making the roster

Like most UDFAs, Harris is most likely going to end up on a practice squad this year if he's going to latch onto an NFL team, but never count out these guys to make the Bengals' 53-man roster. That's especially true at linebacker with guys like Burfict, Lamur, Rey and DiManche going undrafted and making the roster as rookies.

Still, it's going to be a big surprise if any undrafted backer make the 53-man roster and lasts there for the entire season. One linebacker who makes the 53-man roster figures to be cut once Burfict and safety/linebacker hybrid Taylor Mays return from suspensions in Weeks 4 and 5 respectively.

In other words, if Harris is on an NFL team this year, it is likely going to be either via the Bengals' practice squad, or with another club.