FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons selected defensive end Zach Harrison of Ohio State in the third round (75th overall) of the NFL draft Friday.

He was the second linemen the Falcons took on the second day of the draft. The Falcons traded up to draft guard Matthew Bergeron from Syracuse with the 38th overall pick.

“We clearly value the lines of scrimmage,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “That’s where games are won and lost. To get two players with Matt and Zach, we got bigger. We added size strength and power up front.”

Harrison described himself as someone who holds up well in both facets of playing defensive line.

“As far as stopping the run, that’s just ‘want to’ really,” Harrison said. “I feel like I can do that. Rushing the passer, I feel I’m just really hitting my stride. I’m excited for what’s coming next.”

Harrison had a private workout for the Falcons in Columbus.

“I feel like I can do it all,” Harrison said. “I can play all down the line of scrimmage. I’m fast enough to play on the edge, and I’m big enough to play inside or wherever the Falcons want me to play is where I’m going to give it my all.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Harrison never had more than 3.5 sacks in a season for the Buckeyes.

“Everybody is on a different journey,” said Harrison, who was a highly touted national recruit coming out of high school. “My process was just a little different. I feel like I hit my stride last season. I plan to carry it on to the next level.”

Harrison had some family and friends over to watch the draft.

“I’ve been watching the draft for the past six years, but now with it being an option, it’s a little bit different,” Harrison said. “Just had to watch. We were downstairs playing cards. Just trying to get my mind off of it. Just looking at the TV, staring at it.”

There was a break in the card action when the phone rang.

“We were playing UNO,” Harrison said. “We were playing spoons for a couple of rounds, and then we went to UNO. It was in between games. We were sitting around a chatting. The phone ringed, and I answered it. I never answered the phone so fast in my life.”

It was the Falcons.

“They are going to get everything that I’ve got in me,” Harrison said. “The Falcons took a chance on me, so they are going to get everything that I’ve got.”

The Columbus, Ohio, workout was conducted by Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.

“I was just getting to see how he coaches and seeing how he likes to operate on the field,” Harrison said. “He’s definitely a get-to-the-point type of guy. He’s going to tell you what he wants, and he expects it to happen. That’s perfect for me. Tell me what the corrections are, and I’ll fix them. I think it’s a good merger of personalities.”

Harrison is familiar with the city after spending a week here with the Buckeyes before last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal against Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I’m excited to live in Atlanta,” Harrison said. “We were down there for the last bowl game. It’s a beautiful city. I love the culture and the things that Atlanta has to offer.”

Harrison had 11 career sacks for the Buckeyes.

In 2019, he played in 14 games for the Buckeyes and had 24 tackles, five for loss and 3.5 sacks.

In 2020, he played in seven games as a reserve and missed the CFP semifinal victory because of COVID-19 protocols. He returned for the title game.

In 2021, Harrison was named third-team All-Big Ten. Last season, Harrison earned second-team all-conference honors.

Overall, he played in 46 games for the Buckeyes and made 27 starts. He finished with 24 tackles for losses, an interception and four forced fumbles.

“He was big recruit; he was kind of coming into his own,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s still pretty young. It’s not the pressure on him right away. We’ve got some good veterans in there on the edge who can help him. He’s another guy, depending on how it goes, who can give you a little interior pass rush.

“That’s good room for a guy to come walking into with Calais (Campbell), Bud (Dupree), Grady (Jarrett) and David (Onyemata).”


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