The Chargers showed an immense investment into the offensive line this offseason by drafting a pair of tackles in this year’s draft, on top of signing both center Corey Linsley and guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi.
But they weren’t done there.
Among the team’s 10 undrafted free agents they signed following day three, the Bolts added two more offensive lineman in former Cincinnati tackle Darius Harper and San Diego State guard/tackle Kyle Spalding. For this UDFA profile, we’re going to focus on the former.
The 6’7 Harper has a chance to become the first player since Antonio Gates to make the Chargers roster as an undrafted player that played basketball at the collegiate level. Unlike Gates who didn’t play a lick of football while at Kent State, Harper transferred to Cincy following two years of playing on the hardwood at Miami (Ohio).
After bulking up to over 300 pounds, Harper earned a starting job during his second year with the Bearcats in 2019. He played a part in all 14 games while earning the start in eight of them. As a senior in 2020, harper started all 10 games at tackle en route to earning Honorable Mention All-AAC honors. The Bearcats offensive line was also name a semi-finalist for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top unit.
During draft prep, Harper put up a notable performance at his schools pro day, posting an elite 8.23 relative athletic score (RAS). His best marks from the day include a 5.05 in the 40, a 30.5-inch vertical, and a 4.54 in the short shuttle.
Darius Harper is a OT prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 8.23 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 202 out of 1134 OT from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/cR55nRA9cJ #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/CpKssSSWeh— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 5, 2021
Off the bat, Harper projects well as a developmental tackle prospect with an upside of a swing tackle in the NFL. He’s got a prototypical build and notable athleticism, two of the best indicators for a decent floor at the next level. However, the team’s recent flux of tackles will make it almost impossible for Harper to carve out a place for himself on this team or on the practice squad.
As things stand, the current depth on the roster at tackle include Trey Pipkins, Brenden Jaimes, Storm Norton, and fellow UDFA Kyle Spalding. If he’s to land on the practice squad, he’ll need to beat out Spalding and Norton, whom I believe won’t make the final roster if the team decides to keep both Pipkins and Jaimes as backups.
On film, you’re able to tell that Harper is still fairly raw at the position almost immediately. His pass set mechanics and fundamentals are a bit all over the place and that inconsistency will eat him alive in the NFL. Cincy ran a spread, gimmicky offense and some plays it looks as if Harper was coached to set or block a certain way, so I can’t say for certain, but his habit of crossing his feet in pass pro and creating a narrow base for himself was detrimental when he faced his toughest competition (bowl game against Georgia).
Again, I believe he’ll have a shot at sticking on the PS, but beyond that, I don’t expect much from him.