As the NFL season quickly approaches, teams are narrowing down their rosters from 75 to just 53. Fifty-three is the number that each team may carry into the regular season, and 53 is the number that every team must reach by Saturday at 4 p.m.
And for former Cal wide receiver Chris Harper, needing 53 men was just enough for him to make his way onto the roster of the New England Patriots.
Harper decided not to return for his senior season at Cal to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. But he was not invited to take part in the NFL Combine — a huge snub for any potential draft pick. Despite Harper’s impressive numbers at Cal — 163 receptions for 2,030 yards — his absence from the Combine ended up affecting his success in the draft. Seven rounds came and left, but Harper was not drafted.
A month later, Harper was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. His chances of making the roster seemed slim at the time because of a veteran receiver group.
Throughout the preseason, however, Harper was able to make a sizeable impact on offense, having the most yardage of any player on the team. Harper had 15 receptions for 150 yards and one touchdown. This was the best performance by any of New England’s receivers, by far.
Harper’s chance to make the team was most likely helped by the departure of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne made the decision to leave the team, asking the Patriots to release him. Though Wayne was just signed Aug. 25, his presence would have possibly impeded Harper’s chances of making the team.
In addition, New England receiver Brandon LaFell is likely to miss the first part of the season while recovering from a foot injury.
It appears that luck may have been on Harper’s side in achieving a roster spot this NFL season. Let’s see what he does with it.
Alaina Getzenberg is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]