Few position groups in the NFL experience the jump in talent that the wide receiver position entails. It takes a very special type of receiver to make a noticeable impact day 1 in the NFL. For most franchises, drafting a wide out in the 1st round doesn’t even guarantee a starting job, let alone playing time. Seattle fans may recall their team drafting Golden Tate in the 2nd round in 2010.
Though his talent is certainly undeniable (and is finally transferring to the field), his conversion to the NFL had its bumps along the way. He had to learn a new route tree, a new system, a new quarterback, as well as Washington State laws on breaking and entering a donut shop. Needless to say, the workload can be exasperating. So it is quite easy to overlook Chris Harper, the 4th round wide receiver out of Kansas State…at least on paper. In person, the 6’1" 234 pound former quarterback is as physically imposing as any receiver prospect in this year’s draft class.
A 4 star athlete out of high school, Harper was originally recruited to the University of Oregon where he would compete for the starting quarterback job. Sensing the lack of a long term fit, he would eventually make a change both at position and at school. He transferred to Kansas State where he could be closer to home. With starter Colin Klein firmly entrenched as the quarterback on campus, Harper made the switch to wide receiver; a move which proved his understanding not only of the game, but of his own physical abilities.
Playing quarterback for one season at Oregon (as well as his experience in high school) made Harper a valuable commodity for the Wildcats. His understanding of what quarterbacks were seeing on the field allowed him to consistently be in the right place at the right time, and he quickly became the favorite target of eventual Heisman hopeful Colin Klein. Though Kansas State’s offense was based predominantly on Klein’s ability to run the ball effectively, Harper made the most of every opportunity. He found a way to impact every game whether as a receiver, runner, or blocker. His 110% effort and team first attitude would endear him to teammates and fans alike. Harper finished his junior season as Kansas State’s number one receiver with 40 receptions for 547 yards and 5 touchdowns. Entering his senior year, expectations for Chris Harper went through the roof.
Unbeknownst to many, Kansas State was primed to make a run at a 2013 BCS bowl game. Teams across the nation quickly began their due diligence on the receiver in a fullback’s body. As the season progressed, Harper’s brutality as a blocker and sneaky athleticism did not go unnoticed. His play drew rave reviews and many began comparing him to a raw Anquan Boldin. His fearlessness across the middle and tough guy attitude struck fear in his opponents as the Wildcats shocked the world with a one loss season and a BCS bowl appearance. Harper finished his senior year with career bests in receptions (58) and receiving yards (857). He also contributed three touchdowns.
So, where does Chris Harper fit in with the Seattle Seahawks? It’s clear that Pete Carroll and John Schneider value unique characteristics in their players, and it is quite easy to see the uniqueness in Harper’s game. He may not be the fastest guy on the field, but his effort more than makes up for it. Strait line speed is far overrated in today’s NFL anyway. With everyone more concerned over combine numbers produced by grown men in spandex, the way these kids are playing with pads on is sometimes overlooked.
Chris Harper is only 6’1" and runs a 4.55 40 yard dash. Neither number is particularly impressive, but if you flip the game tape on, it’s easy to see why Seattle fell in love. Harper creates separation with crisp routes and certainly doesn’t make any "business decisions" when it comes to making a block or taking a hit. He has no qualms about catching the ball in traffic and more often than not, delivers the hit instead of taking it. He appears more than willing to take on blockers and do the dirty work as he learned textbook run blocking techniques in college. In the end, it seems quite possible that the Seahawks are looking to the future and hoping that Harper can provide the big body their offense will need at a far cheaper price than Sidney Rice.
Though nobody in Seattle would like to see Rice go, Harvin’s new contract may force Rice to either restructure his contract, or seek a trade following the 2013 season. Even with Golden Tate entering a contract year, his price tag paired with the rookie contract of Harper would be a far less expensive option than Sidney Rice. Plus, moving Rice would allow cap space for free agents-to-be such as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and eventually Russell Wilson allowing Seattle to maintain its strangle-hold on the NFC West.