A smooth runner with good athleticism and balance. Has a nice jump cut and spin move to bounce plays outside on the edge. Able to hurdle defenders. Shows good patience, and is a nice north-south runner that can find cutback lanes when he gets past the line of scrimmage. Keeps his feet moving after contact and sometimes will lower the shoulder, deliver blow to the defender and play with nice pad level. Can be a good option in the flat and shows potential on screens because of his burst in space. Adjusts to the throw and comes back for the ball. Shows some ability to cut a pass rusher on the edge in pass protection.
Struggles to change direction at times with choppy footwork. Too patient at times when hitting the hole, dancing in the backfield and waiting for holes to open. Not super elusive and will struggle at times to make defenders miss on the outside. Needs to improve his footwork. Doesn't consistently run with the authority and power his size merits. Doesn't always finish runs and can be tentative about contact at times. Doesn't consistently fight for extra yards. Inconsistent concentration as a receiver, body catching and will drop some easy throws at times.
You see the flashes of big-time potential for Harper, but he's too inconsistent. He needs work and polish, and if he can iron out those kinks, he can be a very good NFL rusher. If not, he'll be a career backup. He split carries with Andre Ellington this past year, but was really the No. 2 back when Ellington was healthy. But due to Ellington's injury, he became the main back down the stretch and finished as Clemson's leading rusher with 760 yards on 197 carries (3.9 avg), 7 touchdowns, and 35 receptions. Spent two years as a reserve behind C.J. Spiller, combining for 114 carries for 551 yards (4.8 avg) and 5 touchdowns with 15 receptions.
Harper has the physical tools and potential to be a good runner, but he's not as consistent as you want. He is not as powerful a runner as a player his size should be, and he spends too much time trying to juke defenders and make the athletic plays than just lowering his pads and powering through them. If he can improve in areas such as his footwork, vision, and pad level, he can be a very good running back, capable of being a lead back in an offense and being a 1000-yard rusher. He's got potential, but it would not surprise me if he's better with his second team than he is with his first. How likely he is going to live up to his athletic potential will depend on character assessments and how hard teams think he's going to work. I have no reason to doubt his character, but he's inconsistent, raw, and undisciplined. If he doesn't change these things, he'll be out of the league by the time his rookie contract expires. If he does, he has the chance to be a good solid rusher in a similar fashion as a Rashard Mendenhall. He's not a guy that is going to make an offense go, but can be a powerful, athletic rusher that can make some big runs and be a guy that can give you 15-20 carries, as well as being a factor in the passing game if he makes improvements there.
Harper is the athletic, powerful runner that could fit well in Atlanta down the road as a lead back. But he's a bit of a project. He isn't going to make a huge impact right away because while he has potential in the passing game, he's inconsistent and unpolished there. So he won't take reps from Snelling, and while athletically his upside as a rusher is higher than Snelling's, he's undisciplined, raw, and incosnsitent so he won't be a major upgrade there. But if he takes to coaching, by his second or third season he should start to emerge, move past Snelling on the depth chart and give the team an option to be the lead back and replacement for Turner. But at the same time, he might not develop, never passing Snelling on the depth chart and the team letting him walk three or four years down the road. But if he does develop, he can be a good runner in the Falcons power-based attack and also be more of a dual threat in the passing game.
Harper is a boom/bust prospect that has second round potential, but because he might take time to develop, you're better off waiting until the fourth round to take him.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.