2015 Steelers NFL Mock Draft: 7 Rounds v16.0
Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The Steelers might have re-signed Darrius Heyward-Bey, but the Steelers could do better for an option behind Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. In addition, those in charge should probably think about releasing Dri Archer if they are looking for a capable slot receiver and special teams performer.
With this in mind, Pittsburgh’s brass could target a wide receiver during the later stages of the draft to challenge Heyward-Bey and to push Archer off of the roster. If this occurs, one wide receiver who could interest wide receivers coach Richard Mann and bring a valuable skill-set to the table is Chris Harper of California.
An early-entry junior, Harper enjoyed a productive career at California despite some less-than stellar quarterback play during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Overall, Harper recorded 159 catches for 1,969 yards and 13 TDs from 2012 to 2014. Harper is a shifty and quick receiver with good hands who works well from the slot, gets out of his breaks quickly, can do damage in space and can be a weapon on all different routes.
While the former Golden Bear does his best damage on outs, slants, tunnels and jet sweeps, he can beat opposing defenses on deep routes with his speed and is very dangerous in clumped formations where he can get free releases and hide behind bigger targets.
In addition to his talent on the offensive side of the ball, Harper has punt return experience and would be a legitimate challenger to Dri Archer to take Brown off of punt returns (2014: 13 punt returns for 100 yards).
Positives aside, I do have questions about Harper’s ability to handle press-coverage at the professional level. Bigger and faster cornerbacks at the NFL level could cause problems for the skinny prospect (5’11” 176 lbs.) if they jam him up at the line of scrimmage. Moreover, how competent Harper can be as a blocker and how well he can break tackles at the professional level must be questioned as well.
Issues aside, Harper should flourish against nickel and dime cornerbacks with the field spread and should find a home as an ancillary piece and a #3 or #4 wide receiver in the NFL. He would represent a “low-risk/high-reward” prospect for a team like the the Steelers, and he could challenge for a roster spot as early as his rookie season.
Next: Round 7