The 49ers are looking at Chris Harper not as a wide receiver, the spot he played at Kansas State, but as a tight end/H back in the mold of former 49er Delanie Walker, according to a league source.
There are plenty of similarities between the two players. They both played wide receiver at the college level. And they are around the same size. Walker measured a little under 6-1 and weighed 240 pounds out of Central Missouri in 2006. Harper is a little under 6-1 and weighs 235 pounds. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash prior to the draft. Walker ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash before his rookie season.
Walker played 57 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps last year, often lining up in the backfield as an H-back or in the slot as a receiver. He also occasionally was split wide like a wide receiver. That gave the 49ers the ability to run or throw the ball on any play in which Walker was in the game.
The 49ers, of course, used a second-round pick on a more traditional tight end, Vance McDonald, and he is expected to play in two tight end sets this season along with Vernon Davis. The 49ers also have Garrett Celek on the roster.
Harper must get a little bigger and stronger, but he is being eyed as a weapon for the future. The 49ers had a similar player, MarQueis Gray, on their roster this offseason. The Browns, however, signed Gray to their 53-man roster before the 49ers could sign him to their practice squad.
The 49ers signed Harper off the Seahawks practice squad. A fourth-round pick this year, he will sign a three-year deal with his new club. The deal is expected to be announced this afternoon.
-- Matt Barrows