FOXBORO, Mass. — Chris Harper took a bet on himself in January, when he declared early for the the 2015 NFL Draft, and so far it’s paying off.
Harper went undrafted out of Cal, but the wide receiver known for spectacular catches quickly was scooped up by the New England Patriots as a priority free agent. He made the Patriots’ 53-man roster out of training camp but was cut and added to the practice squad after Week 1.
Now Harper has another chance to prove himself on the active roster Monday against the Buffalo Bills. He was signed off the practice squad Tuesday after wide receiver Julian Edelman broke his foot Sunday against the New York Giants. The Patriots might need Harper to play a key role if fellow wideouts Keshawn Martin, who has missed four games with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable, and Aaron Dobson, who was added to the injury report Monday with a back issue, can’t play.
“Yeah, I think anybody who’s put in the position to play has the opportunity, so I have a good opportunity,” Harper said.
Harper played the slot and outside receiver in college. He lined up inside on just 7.8 percent of his preseason snaps with the Patriots this summer, however, when he caught 15 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and no drops.
Harper caught 163 passes for 2,030 yards with 13 touchdowns in college. He dropped just one pass as a junior, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and made plenty of highlight-reel grabs.
It remains to be seen how the Patriots will replace Edelman’s role as the “Z” receiver in the offense. Martin should get the first crack at the role in three-receiver sets if healthy, but Harper and Dobson have a chance to take the opportunity if Martin can’t go. Dobson is better suited for the Patriots’ “X” role, however, while Harper has the size and agility to replicate some of Edelman’s traits.
Harper certainly came on strong at the end of the summer, after fellow receivers Brandon Gibson and Brian Tyms suffered season-ending injuries, and now he has the chance to prove he made the right decision by forgoing his senior season at Cal.
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Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Aug 22, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Harper (14) returns a kick against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports