Former Cal wide receiver Chris Harper, in his first public remarks about his decision to leave school a year early for the NFL draft, said Tuesday he was concerned his production would drop in the Bears’ diverse offense.
“The fact that there’s a lot of receivers and the ball’s going to be spread around a lot more, just like it was this year,” Harper said after participating in Cal’s Pro Day workout in front of scouts from 29 NFL teams.
“It was more about my draft stock. I feel like next year it wouldn’t have been as high. With my production dropping every year, going into next year I wouldn’t have had as many balls or as many opportunities as I’ve had these last couple years.”
Harper caught 41 passes as a freshman in former coach Jeff Tedford’s offense, then had 70 and 52 catches the past two seasons playing in coach Sonny Dykes’ pass-oriented attack. He caught 11 touchdown passes the past two seasons.
Cal returns the rest of its receiving corps next season, including Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs.
Harper made what he called an “educated decision” to leave Cal after talking with family and mentors. He did not involve Cal’s coaching staff in the conversation. “No, because I felt it was my decision,” he said.
Harper said he was surprised and disappointed when he was not among the 44 receivers invited to the NFL combine last month in Indianapolis. But he remains confident he will be selected somewhere between the third and seventh rounds in the NFL draft, which begins April 30.
The website NFLDraftScout.com rates Harper as the No. 48 receiver prospect.
Harper, joined by six other former Cal players who were measured and tested in various areas at Pro Day, thought he fared well. He said he did 11 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and had a 35-inch vertical leap. His 40-yard dash times were in the low 4.5-second range.
“I dropped a ball — I was pretty frustrated by that,” he said. “Other than that I think I tested really well.”
Harper’s agent, Los Angeles-based Jerome Stanley, said neither Pro Day nor the draft will dictate Harper’s future as a professional football player.
“Chris is the kind of guy that’s successful in the NFL,” Stanley said. “It’s not a draft thing, it’s a can-you-play thing.”
Other former Cal players who participated at Pro Day were safety Michael Lowe, offensive lineman Alejandro Crosthwaite, defensive end Harrison Wilfley, kickers James Langford and Vincenzo D’Amato and long snapper John Sheperdson.