Fourth Round, 123rd Pick
Collin Klein got all of the headlines when Kansas State made a run at a national championship while he was making his case to win the Heisman Trophy, but his number one receiver, Chris Harper, was the best pro prospect in the Wildcats offense. How did this big receiver rise to the occasion in an offense that preferred to stay on the ground?
Harper is thickly-built, strong, stubborn receiver with surprising speed. He will bang in the air and during routes to get position for the catch, and Harper is difficult to bring down after the catch. His speed grants him a bigger cushion that he can turn into separation on shorter routes. Harper is aggressive after the catch and can make the first man miss despite a lack of great natural quickness.
Creating separation is not Harper's strong suit, and he has more trouble shaking corners in routes that you would typically see on a pro wide receiver prospect's film. His fight after the catch can create opportunities for forced fumbles because Harper is aggressive, but not that elusive. Klein's lack of accuracy visibly frustrated Harper at times, and his focus and effort would waver during games.
At 6'1" and 229 pounds, Harper's 4.55 speed is more dangerous than it looks like on paper. He has big, strong 9 3/4" hands and 32 3/4" arms to give him a large catch radius. Harper's explosion (35.5" vertical; 9'6" broad jump) is average, but again solid for a stronger wide receiver. He is not very sudden in open space, but his 20 bench reps show you how strong Harper can be in all facets of the game.
Harper started his collegiate career as a quarterback at Oregon, and transferred to Kansas State in an unsuccessful attempt to stay in the backfield. He took to the wide receiver position immediately after his redshirt season of 2009. There are no known character issues for Harper, who is also considered an insightful interviewer and provides some of the best quotes on the Kansas State team.
Harper wasn't a centerpiece of the Wildcats' run-first, conservative offense. He lined up outside exclusively and was the closest thing Kansas State had to a number one receiver.
Harper usually got a nice cushion from a corner that respected his straight-line speed. His acceleration isn't instant, but Harper was fast enough early in his routes to put the corner on his heels. Corners rarely tried to jam Harper with good reason. His strength and aggressive nature should allow him to do well against press coverage in the pros.
Because he had the speed to threaten a defense in the deep secondary, Harper was able to have room to operate on short and intermediate routes. He was good at setting up a corner who was cheating deep to create a lot of separation, when he would break off his route into an out or a crossing pattern.
Harper has good, strong, natural hands, and he snatches the ball out of the air. He sometimes fails to make the tough catch when he is at full extension, but drops are not a problem for him.
Harper isn't exceptionally tall, but he plays big. He instinctively uses his thick frame to shield defenders from the ball in flight, and he can also get low for an errant pass. In general, he has a lot of experience adjusting to poorly thrown balls. Once Harper has the spot, he doesn't give it up, and he will stay with a ball that is deflected or bobbled with very good concentration.
Run After Catch
More than his strong running after the catch, Harper benefits from an aggressive mindset that he uses to load up a move on his opponent as he is making the catch, even with his back to the defender. He is very stubborn and resists tacklers' initial attempts to stop him, although this does create chances for them to attack the ball, sometimes successfully. Harper can make the first tackler completely miss with savvy moves immediately after securing the ball, but he's not going to do much beyond that, other than breaking weak tackle attempts and dragging lighter tacklers for a few extra yards.
With the strength and mindset to clash with opponents, Harper is a good blocker who has a lot of experience in a run-based offense. He should be a very good fit in an offense with a scrambling quarterback or a running game that relies on stretch plays and other runs to the edge.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Harper might surprise a few NFL defenders with his speed, but he is probably going to be relegated to a possession-receiver role in the pros. He could be a very solid number two receiver opposite a number one that can stretch the field, and Harper should contribute a lot as a blocker for the running game.