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Is Seattle WR Chris Harper a Guy to Own in Dynasty Formats?

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Here’s the good news for SEA rookie wide receiver Chris Harper:

  1. Golden Tate is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
  2. Sidney Rice is due a total of $17.5 million in salary over the 2014 and 2015 season (along with an additional cap hit of $1.2 million for the pro-rated part of his bonus). That’s top 10 WR money and yet Rice is used more like a team’s 2nd or 3rd wide receiver. Hell, Ray Rice had more targets last year than Sidney did. So I can’t believe that the Seahawks will keep re-upping Rice’s contract if he’s being used as much as he is now. When I say re-up, I mean that all NFL contracts are written so they can be ended early. Except if you’re the Jets.
  3. If Tate leaves in free agency and Rice is cut for salary reasons, SEA could probably use a cheap option to play receiver.
  4. Chris Harper is a big and relatively fast guy.

Here’s the bad news for Chris Harper:

  1. Golden Tate’s value isn’t likely to be off the chart after a season of playing 3rd banana to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, so it’s possible the Seahawks could re-sign him for cheap.
  2. The Seahawks just paid Sidney Rice a bunch of money and didn’t seem to have a problem that they weren’t getting WR1 production out of him, so maybe they could just continue that insane practice.
  3. The Seahawks could also just try to re-structure Sidney Rice after this year.
  4. It’s also possible that the Seahawks could start using Rice like a WR1 and then he would be worth what he’s making.
  5. Chris Harper is big and sort of fast, but didn’t turn those attributes into a lot of college production. Specifically, he was a lot worse in the red zone than you would expect a receiver of that size to be. For just a good college receiver, I would expect them to convert almost a third of their red zone targets into touchdowns. Harper was about 10% below that and he actually scored about as often from the red zone as the rest of the KSU team. So he didn’t provide outsized red zone production in college like I would have expected given his size. Harper is one of the frustrating examples where you want a player to be much more productive than they actually were. Then when they aren’t that productive, you start pulling out the list of excuses even though lots of players have all manner of reasons not to produce in college and yet the good pros usually do anyway. I’m not trying to rest this entire analysis on the idea that Chris Harper underproduces in the red zone, but it is true that two of the three most important variables in my wide receiver projection model are related to touchdowns. So if I want to tell myself a story about a player having a ton of upside (like enough that I’ll sit around and wait while they’re buried on a depth chart) then I want to know that the touchdown outlook is good today, not just that it could improve.

I think a valid criticism of some of the things we do here is that it’s possible to start with a thesis and then go dig up support for that thesis. In this case I did have an inkling for a thesis that would have been more positive for Harper based mostly on Sidney Rice’s awful contract.  But the more I dug, the more I talked myself out of Chris Harper. He could be good at some point but I just can’t really tell myself a compelling story as to why he represents a good risk adjusted bet.

[edit: It’s probably fair to ask me to come up with some kind of valuation for Harper, rather than to sort of wander through salary information and a few stats. So here goes nothing. Recently @RumfordJohnny picked Harper in the @RotoPat dynasty league in the 4th round. It would be impossible to say that Johnny overpaid for Harper. None of the WRs that came off after Harper have any clearer path to a starting job. Maybe, maybe Aaron Mellette (who was the next WR picked after Harper and was picked by me, so I might not be objective) has half of a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting on the field sometime soon, but otherwise the 4th round is straight flier territory. And having a high upside guy like Harper on a team with a good QB is definitely valuable. So maybe my piece should have said that after I looked at the situation I was less high on Harper than when I started it, although the reality is that he’s still a high upside flier in dynasty leagues. In other words, I set out to write a piece that would have been really high on Harper and I ended up more sobered by the time I was done.]

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