Mizzou DE Harris declares early for NFL Draft

Mizzou's Charles Harris hits Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen.
L.G. Patterson/AP

Charles Harris hopes to become the next great Mizzou defensive lineman to become a high NFL Draft pick. And he won’t wait around to give it a whirl.

Harris, a junior defensive end, announced Thursday he will bypass his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

"Just look at all of the great guys in front of me — Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, and the list goes on," Harris said in a press release from the Mizzou athletic department. "I just came at a great time, and I really learned a lot from those guys. They really taught me their ways."

Sam, an All-American at Mizzou, was a seventh-round draft pick, but Ray (first round in 2015), Golden (second round in 2015) and Ealy (second, 2014) were recent high picks. They followed such stellar defensive linemen as Sheldon Richardson (first round, 2013), Aldon Smith (first, 2011) and Ziggy Hood (first, 2009).

Harris would like to "carry the torch" for #DLineZou, though he made his decision, he said, without any input from the NFL beyond what he gathered a year ago.

"I feel like I got my production up, and I feel that I am better now than I was last year," he said, "so I am just taking a chance on it."

Harris was a virtually unheralded recruit who became one of the top defensive ends in the country. He had seven sacks and an SEC-high 18 1/2 tackles for loss in 2015, then produced nine sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and 61 tackles last season.

"There’s no question in my mind that he’s ready for the next level," Mizzou coach Barry Odom said in a school release. "… We’ll be beaming with pride when we turn on the TV on Sundays and see Charles out there representing Mizzou."