Chris Harper’s football career began in Wichita, Kansas in high school and took him to the pacific northwest to play for the Oregon Ducks as a top quarterback recruit. After only one season in Eugene, Harper decided it was time to come back home to play for Kansas State where he has been since he transferred. Coincidentally, Harper is once again headed back to the pacific northwest, but this time he will be playing for the Seattle Seahawks. During his brief stop in Eugene, Harper switched his position from quarterback to wide receiver. While his production has never reached that of other top level receivers, Harper is a physical specimen. While his height, 6’1″, is just about par for the course, he weighs about 229 pounds which is right around the same weight as Calvin Johnson. His size and attributes have many people drawing comparisons between Harper and Anquan Boldin.
I think one of the most important parts of any receiver’s game is their ability run routes which directly correlates to their ability to get open down the field. Here, Harper is sent on a stutter and go and he gives a head and shoulder fake to get the corner to bite on the fake.
This just shows the defensive back biting on the fake. He squares his hips forward to run, but because he gives Harper a decent amount of cushion, the defensive back does not give up as much separation as Harper or Kansas State would like.
If Collin Klein had led Harper, this pass would have been a touchdown pass because Harper has enough separation that he could have stretched his arms out enough so that the defensive back could not swipe the ball away. Instead, Klein under threw the pass and Harper was shielded by the corner. Regardless of the play’s outcome, Harper showed the ability to gain separation against cornerbacks with a nice move.
Harper is running an inside route, but in this instance, Harper makes a cut outside to draw the corner to get more open when he cuts back inside. In this case the corner has once again bit hard and Harper can make a nice move inside.
The corner got caught off balance and stumbles forward into the path of Harper running his route. Unfortunately, a nicely run route got ruined by sheer luck. On this particular play, Harper sells the fake route very well and the defender was sucked in nicely as Harper cut back inside.
In the second frame, the cornerback is behind the FOX sign in the top right corner, but he bit again on the same stutter that Harper ran against Baylor. Harper is not taking out world beaters here, but to consistently beat teams on the same route is impressive especially when the other team must have scouted him and picked up on that move.
Harper gets enough separation again, but not as much as he could have because the corner played him with a five yard cushion which gives him the opportunity to recover. This is another solid play by Harper and he makes a good effort to get open. These skills will benefit him greatly at the next level.
Harper and his counterpart on the same side of the formation both run slants with the goal of the first drawing defenders and the second coming through with a little less coverage, however, the defense played man coverage so it did not really help the play. The corner approaches Harper in an effort to close off his angle into the endzone and push him off of his route a bit.
Being physical with Harper backfired on the cornerback because Harper bullied him in the air for the catch and pulled down the catch anyway. This looks even better in real time, but Harper just out battles the corner to catch a nice ball. This is particularly where Harper draws the comparison to Anquan Boldin. He has strong hands and he is a big bodied receivers that can out battle corners. He is not necessarily high pointing the ball, but most of the plays he makes are just a result of strength and effort. In a league where corners that have a whole new type of physicality, receivers like Boldin and Harper are becoming more necessary. Coincidentally, Harper is made to fight off corners that have the style of play like teammate Richard Sherman.
Harper runs a simple post route over the middle of the field and draws two defensive backs in coverage. He is definitively not open in any sense of the word and is even being held by one of the defensive backs, but he manages to run his route and get under the ball from Collin Klein.
Impressively, Harper comes down with a very nice catch where he shows many of his best skills. He has top notch hands that he can use to fight the ball away from defenders, he is tough against coverage, and will match any physicality that they bring. For most of the time that the ball was coming down, Harper only had one hand to try and make this catch. Again, the Anquan Boldin comparison holds true as he has been known to make many tough catches throughout his career.
Overall, Harper is severely underrated. I think he has the potential to profile as a solid number two option in any offense. Much of the reason that Harper did not go before the fourth round is the fact that he never produced a 1,000 yard season or even a double digit touchdown season despite his fundamentals. Part of this is a result of having a running quarterback in Collin Klein and a run heavy system. In the last two years, Kansas State has scored 75 rushing touchdowns compared to only 29 passing touchdowns. Most teams score 29 passing touchdowns in one season. Not only can Harper account for eight touchdowns from those 29, but he also has accounted for 30.48% of the team’s receiving yardage over the course of the last two seasons. In the 2011 season, he accounted for 27.77% of the team’s receiving yardage and in 2012, he accounted for 31.77% of the team’s receiving yardage. To put that in perspective, DeAndre Hopkins accounted for 33.6% of Clemson’s receiving yardage and Robert Woods accounted for 23.1% of USC’s receiving yardage. Both receivers were taken a minimum of two rounds higher than Harper, but had similar relative production to Harper. I think once Harper gets some time in the NFL under his belt and can really develop his skills as a receiver and then combine them with his athletic ability, he could turn into a solid pro football player.