The New England Patriots may have kept their undefeated status intact last night with a win against the Buffalo Bills, but they didn't come away from the game totally unscathed.
The team's depleted receiving corp took another hit with injuries to Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson and, with Deon Lewis and Julian Edelman already out for the long term, the Patriots now find themselves with just two healthy wideouts.
One of them, Brandon LaFell, is, of course, familiar to Patriots fans having hauled in 74 passes for 953 yards and a Super Bowl touchdown last season. The other, though, is Chris Harper - a 21-year-old only promoted to the active roster this week. So, who exactly is this 'next man up'?
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Next man up
Harper spent his college career at the University of California - posting a modest 163/2,030/13 stat line and making 35 appearances in three years at the school - before entering the 2015 NFL draft as an underclassman.
He was known for strong route-running ability and solid, if not spectacular, speed whilst with the Golden Bears. One thing Patriots fans will be pleased to hear is that he dropped just one pass in his junior year.
Ultimately, though, the 5ft 11 inch, 178-pound receiver went undrafted amidst concerns over his ability to handle the physical nature of the NFL.
The Patriots signed him up on May 5 as an undrafted free agent, and Harper was actually active for the team's season opener against the Steelers after winning a place on the 53-man roster.
Cut in mid-September, however, Harper has been on the Patriots' practice squad ever since - only being activated on November 17 after Edelman's injury.
And now, with a host of WRs on, or headed for, the treatment table, he could be thrust into a pivotal role as the team go in search of a perfect season.
One positive for Billicheck and co. considering the injuries to slot receivers Amendola and Edelman, is that Harper did play in the slot during his college career. And there is some thought that he could be a solid fit in the "Z" receiver position vacated by Edelman.
With the Patriots having plugged in receivers to great success in the past, who knows, maybe Chris Harper could be the next success story for Bill Belichick.
Patriots fans: Do you trust Harper or should your team make a free agent WR signing? Have your say in the comments below...
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