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Cowboys countdown to kickoff: #50 Devin Harper

The Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants in Week 1. And we’re counting down to it by jersey numbers.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 50.

LB Devin Harper
Born: 13th May 1998 (25) - Knoxville, Tennessee
College: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Draft: 2022, Round 6, Pick 193, Dallas Cowboys

2021 Stats: (College)
Snaps: 902
Defensive Snaps: 852
Tackles: 95
Pressures: 39
Sacks: 6
TFL: 11
Defensive Stops: 42
Penalties: 2

Devin Harper started playing for Oklahoma State in 2017 and stayed there until he declared for the draft in 2022. His first season was fairly quiet, taking snaps mostly on special teams, but the next year he took a big jump when he got a chance to play on defense. He made 44 tackles with five for loss while adding three sacks and returned one interception for a touchdown. His junior season in 2019 took a dip when he played most of the season injured. He still managed to play in ten games though and made 34 tackles and five tackles for loss.

Unfortunately his senior year would follow the same direction when he started in just one game. But again in a limited season he still managed to produce 37 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks. He made the decision to play for a fifth season and it was this year he really came into his own. During rivalry week, Harper was the main man that helped Oklahoma State win the Bedlam series against Oklahoma. He had the best game of his college career shutting down the high-powered Sooners offense. The highlight of the game came during Oklahoma’s final drive and Harper flew into the backfield on one play to force a throwaway, then come right back to sack Caleb Williams and give the Cowboys victory.

He ended his career as team captain and was named first-team All-Big 12. He had a career total of 216 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He also made two interceptions, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt.

Cowboys Review:
The Dallas Cowboys took Harper in the sixth round of the draft in 2022, some even called the pick too high. But the Cowboys have had good success finding talent in the sixth round. His testing during the pre-draft process was very good and his athletic testing was through the roof. His issues was both with age and only one year of real production. But last year the Cowboys put him to work on special teams to see what he could produce and how he could develop. He certainly looked raw in most parts of his game but was doing his part to the standards required. His season was cut short after a bad Achilles tear and he was placed on injured reserve in October having played only three games. This meant that both back-to-back draft picks from that year went to IR (the other being Matt Waletzko).

2023 Roster Projection:
Harper walks into a linebacker room that is fairly light and deemed one of the most questionable position groups on the Cowboys roster. This means he could see more of a workload than is expected of him.

What makes Harper an interesting case here is the unknowns ahead of him on the depth chart. Jabril Cox has a whole host of questions in terms of his health and ability, so Harper could theoretically be ahead of him by the time Week 1 begins. Damone Clark looked good as he got more playing time and maybe has the most upside this year, but of course he has questions on health and durability. Then, of course, there’s Leighton Vander Esch who occupies the LB1 position in the group but he comes with questions of durability as well.

Harper, at this stage, looks to maintain a role he had last year taking snaps on special teams. If nothing changes week-by-week on the depth chart, it’s possible he gets some rotational or sub-package snaps on defense. But Harper just needs to stay healthy and be on the ready for “if” any of the top three players ahead of him has to miss time. This makes him someone to watch closely during training camp next week.

Projected 2023 Stats:
Snaps: 490
Tackles: 29
Pressures: 5
Sacks: 0
TFL: 2
Defensive stops: 10

The Big Question:
How much does Harper play on defense this year? Answer in the comments.

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