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49ers see plenty of offensive versatility with Chris Harper

  • The 49ers plan on using newly signed receiver Chris Harper in a "jack-of-all-trades" role similar to former tight end Delanie Walker. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

SANTA CLARA — New 49er Chris Harper was given a wide receiver's number — 13 — Tuesday but confirmed he will have a multifaceted, Delanie Walker-like role in San Francisco.

Harper was drafted by Seattle as a wide receiver out of Kansas State after he began his college career as a quarterback at Oregon.

However, he's never played tight end, so he received a crash course in his first practice with the 49ers on Tuesday.

“I've never gotten in a three-point stance before, so that's going to be different for me,” Harper said from in front of his locker.

Harper, at 232 pounds, is slightly lighter than Walker, the former 49ers tight end who was signed by Tennessee as a free agent this offseason. Both mostly played wideout in college and were known as physical pass catchers whom 190-pound defensive backs struggled to bring to the ground.

Harper said he already was somewhat familiar with Walker, whom coach Jim Harbaugh once called a “Swiss army knife,” when the 49ers came calling, and he watched game film of Walker when he arrived in Santa Clara on Monday night.

“They put him all over the field,” Harper said. “And he's a great athlete. You can see that on film — he's a big guy that can run.”

Harper was drafted in the fourth round this year by the Seahawks. However, he was outperformed by unheralded receivers Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams and didn't make the final roster. When Seattle put Harper on its practice squad, the 49ers signed him.

Harper said the Seahawks tried to convince him to stay by bumping up his practice-squad contract. But the 49ers offered a better opportunity to get on the field, albeit one outside of his comfort zone.

Asked whether he was a good blocker, Harper said, “I thought I was a great blocker — as a receiver. But now I've got to block dudes like Aldon (Smith) and Patrick (Willis). So we'll see.”

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