In the 2019 NFL Draft the Patriots made a surprising move at the end of the first round, drafting N’Keal Harry, a wide receiver with the 32nd overall pick. It was the first time Bill Belichick grabbed a wide receiver in the first round of the draft and the highest he has drafted a receiver since the infamous Chad Jackson was taken 36th overall in 2006, and the first time the Pats took a receiver in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996.
But it feels as though we are forgetting N’Keal Harry as we look towards the new, New England Patriots in 2020 and beyond. When people talk about the Patriots skill weapons at Stidham’s arsenal its Julian Edelman, maybe Mohamed Sanu and it stops there.
Yes, Harry had a disappointing rookie season by the numbers and failed to make an immediate impact. But let’s not forget that he missed much of training camp and the beginning of the season due to an injury and was placed on the injury reserve list. And even when he came back he was never on the same page as Tom Brady and never fully gained the GOAT’s trust.
But despite all of that, I am still very excited for what I believe Harry can bring to this Pats team. So let’s get hyped.
Here is what I see out of N’Keal Harry in this highlight tape which perhaps is what Patriots fans did not understand with him coming in.
He has great body control and hands. There is no such thing as a 50/50 ball for him it is more like 75/25 because he wins those battles more times than not.
He is a big, physical receiver weighing in at 6’4, 225 pounds. That is an in-between mix of Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson and he certainly has the ball skills that they possess.
The issue however with Harry, and what probably made him a late first rounder rather than a top-10 pick is his speed. He ran a 4.53 at the combine. Compared to the guys I compared him to who both ran a 4.3. Can he get faster? Sure, but not 4.3 fast, that’s just something you can’t really teach.
But he just doesn’t have that break away speed which is right now what the NFL seems to covet. The OBJ’s, Tyreek Hill’s and Deebo Samuel’s of the league are their own breed, Harry just simply is not that and we cannot expect him to be that.
Still in his final two seasons with the Sun Devils he posted back to back plus 1,000 yard seasons with 17 total touchdown catches. He posted elite production for a middling PAC-12 team.
Yup that’s all I have to show you is two catches. Which should serve as a reminder as to how little time Harry had during training camp to earn himself a spot on not only the Pats depth chart but in Tom Brady’s circle of trust.
But even then, the catches he is making, albeit against the Lions second string secondary are still impressive and show you what he is about. Throw the ball around him and he will go get it. Makes him a dangerous guy for opponents to game plan for because even when he is covered he’s open.
His first touchdown catch should be all you need to realize, ok this kid has some talent. I mean he even made Joe Buck show some emotion. While everyone was wondering “how is Belichick going to replace the red zone threat that Gronk was?” We didn’t realize he already had with Harry.
Even his touchdown catch against Cincinnati, where he is able to get away from his defender in a small confined space and then make a diving catch on a Tom Brady fastball. It’s even more impressive when you really think about it.
In fact he reminds me of Bizzaro-Cordarrelle Patterson. Where Patterson was fast with bad hands, Harry is slower but with great hands.
I fully believe that Brady just never fully trusted Harry who is not a great route runner. Brady likes guys such as; Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola who run precise routes. Guys who used quickness over speed to get open. That’s just not N’Keal Harry and Brady didn’t get enough time or had enough patience to learn the new nuances of a rookie receiver.
However it does seem as though Jarrett Stidham and Harry have been working together quite a bit this off season to make that connection that Harry and Brady never did.
Current NFL Comparisons
So let’s say I am right. That in the end Harry’s rookie season is the throw away year of his NFL career. Which is not entirely out of the question. Belichick has noted that the true growth and development of a NFL player comes from their rookie year to second year in the league.
Some real world comparisons for Harry could be Kenny Golladay and Courtland Sutton.
Both are about Harry’s skill set of great hands but not huge bursts of speed. And size of standing at 6-4 and over 200 pounds. They also showed great improvement from year one to year two which is what I am most excited for.
Take Golladay for our first example, who played in 11 games his rookie season of 2017, making 28 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns. In his next two seasons since then he has accrued consecutive plus 1,000 yard seasons and scored 11 touchdowns last season. Mind you he did that last season with guys like Jeff Driskell and David Blough throwing the ball to him. He has quietly turned into one of the better receivers in the league, except for he plays for the Detroit Lions and thus no one pays attention to him.
Courtland Sutton had a 704 yard and four touchdown rookie season before a 1,112 yard and six score year in 2019. He had a strong connection to rookie Denver, QB Drew Lock, which could be that Stidham-Harry connection we are looking for this season.
I mean these highlights between Harry, Golladay and Sutton all look like the exact same player.
I think Golladay and Sutton are fair comparisons for what we can expect out of Harry. Will it come in 2020? Maybe not fully but I do expect this type of production from him at some point. And some day we may view 2019 for Harry as simply what it was, a rookie who had an ill-timed injury that basically cost him a season of development but nothing more.
When we talk about what type of weapons does Jarrett Stidham have, let’s not forget about N’Keal Harry. He’s the forgotten piece of the puzzle for the Patriots but not for long.