Though Josh Harper was a productive wide receiver at Fresno State, many NFL scouts saw more flaws than strengths in his game.
He doesn’t have elite speed or size, and one scouting report labeled him an “unorthodox route runner.”
Yet after seven rounds of the recent NFL draft were completed, the Raiders signed Harper to a free-agent contract – and now some believe Harper could flourish in silver and black.
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated included Harper this week in his projection of undrafted rookies with the potential of making the biggest splashes in 2015. Burke cited Harper as a good candidate to make the Oakland roster as a wideout, joining No. 1 pick Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes.
Burke notes that Harper averaged 84.5 catches and 1,054 yards receiving over 2013 and 2014, adding that “He’s a reliable possession receiver, flashing enough elusive after the ball is in his hands to be dangerous as an NFL threat.”
But Harper’s biggest asset may be his chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr. Bill Williamson of ESPN.com noted that Harper caught 79 passes from Carr in 2013 for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns. Harper speaks highly of his former Bulldogs teammate.
“He makes all the throws,” Harper said of Carr at the NFL Combine this year, according to Williamson. “He has crazy arm strength. He’s a great leader and an even better person. So that didn’t surprise me with his success (as a rookie.)”
Harper is most likely a slot receiver with the Raiders, where he can make use of his quickness.
His coach at Fresno State, Tim DeRuyter, says Harper will catch on quickly.
“He has a tremendous football mind,” he told the Sporting News recently. “Some people are smart in the classroom, but not in football. He’s both. He understands coverages and leverage.”