Contrary to popular belief, Bill Belichick is pretty good at drafting. He has his misses like everyone else, but as a whole, he’s satisfactory. But that doesn’t mean he’s beyond criticism. And in light of recent events, and assuming his time here is mercifully over, one has to ask: Is N’Keal Harry the biggest bust of the Belichick Era?
Before I dive in, I want to set some parameters. What is a bust exactly? In my eyes, it’s a player with a high drafting and lofty expectations. A first, maybe second round pick whose expected to produce almost immediately. Late round picks don’t always pan out, regardless of expectations so I cap it at a first or second round pick.
I do want to add some context though. Since Belichick has been the coach, the Pats have had the lowest average draft spot in the first round sitting at 23rd. So barring a trade up, a lot of his picks are at the back end of the first which is often times considered a glorified second rounder. With the cream of the crop likely already taken off the board, sometimes you have to reach for a guy with a high ceiling, but low floor. That’s not a way to deter criticism from any misses in these early rounds, but this was important to note.
With that being said, let’s run through Belichick’s first/second round pick’s and see where Harry stacks up.
First Round: The Patriots did not have a first round pick this year. Instead, they sent that pick to the Jets as a part of a deal to acquire Bill Belichick. Pretty good use of a first round pick I’d say.
Second Round (46) – Adrian Klemm: Bill Belichick’s first pick as the head coach of the New England Patriots was, you guessed it, an offensive lineman. Spending 5 seasons in Foxboro, Klemm only appeared in 26 games while starting 10. But, at the end of his career here, he racked up with 3 Super Bowl rings. So-so production, but expectations weren’t too high going in. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (6) – Richard Seymour: No explanation needed. One of the greatest picks in Patriots history. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (48) – Matt Light: No explanation needed for this one either. Guarded Brady’s blind side for a decade and did so at the highest level. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (21) – Daniel Graham: As a 2x Super Bowl Champion and former Patriots captain (2006), Graham grew into an admirable first round tight end. Worth a first round pick? Maybe not, but it’s not like anyone was thinking he’d be a Hall of Famer. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (65) – Deion Branch: Branch is one of my favorite Patriots of all time. Not only does he have two Super Bowl rings with the Pats, he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX (or ’39’ for people like me who can’t read roman numerals). Branch is the furthest thing from a bust. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (13) – Ty Warren: Following suit with the vast majority of Patriots drafted around this time, Warren nabbed two Super Bowl rings with New England. Belichick liked him so much he actually traded up to make sure he got his man. Named captain in 2007, Warren was a crucial cog in the teams front 7 for years. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (36) – Eugene Wilson: Wilson was a fine player during his 5 season with the Pats. He won’t blow you away with any stats, but he was an all around solid pick. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (45) – Bethel Johnson: Other than being absurdly fast in the Madden games, Johnson was a let down in real life. After bouncing around to 4 other teams after the Patriots, he made his way up to the CFL for a year with the Toronto Argonauts. High pick and expectations were here with Johnson, so he’s in consideration to be a bust. Verdict: Big Bust
First Round (21) – Vince Wilfork: Needs zero explanation. This is a Top 5 Belichick pick of all time. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (32) – Ben Watson: One of the best offensive skill position players Belichick has ever drafted. A really good tight end and an even better person. And there’s always this play. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (63) – Marquise Hill: Hill played in a handful of games while on the Patriots, but his on field production doesn’t matter here. Hill’s career and life were tragically cut short after a jet ski incident in 2007 took his life. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (32) – Logan Mankins: One of the best offensive lineman of the Patriots Dynasty. And to get him as the last pick in the first round? He outplayed any expectations thrust upon him and became one of the greatest Patriots offensive linemen ever. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round: They traded this pick to the Ravens for a plethora of late round picks. One of which would turn into Ellis Hobbs. Yikes. Talk about a player who refused to live up to local expectations.
First Round (21) – Laurence Maroney: For what fans expected out of him, Maroney can easily be considered a bust. He wasn’t bad by any means, but he just never seemed to live up to what everyone thought he would be. Notorious for running side to side as opposed to forward, Maroney is a name that most Pats fans wrinkle there nose to. He’s on the Bust Spectrum for sure. Verdict: Little Bust
Second Round (36) – Chad Jackson: While he is undoubtedly the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick just can’t seem to draft receivers. Probably due to the fact that he puts such little importance on the position as a whole, but the issue still remains. And Chad Jackson embodies that problem. The Patriots moved up a whopping sixteen spots to nab this guy. But he is unanimously considered a huge swing and a miss. It wasn’t all his fault though as he was injury plagued the second he stepped into Foxboro, but his two seasons here were wildly forgetful. He’s only remembered because he was, indeed, a bust. Verdict: HUGE Bust
First Round (24) – Brandon Meriweather: Big Bang Clock himself. Meriweather would exiled in todays NFL with the how he played. It always seemed like he was hitting people in the helmet left and right. Not a great safety, but a good one who can’t be considered a bust in my eyes. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round: The Patriots traded their 60th pick (and a 7th rounder) to the Miami Dolphins this year. The player they got back? The greatest slot receiver of all time, Wes Welker. Another pick well spent.
First Round (10) – Jerod Mayo: One of the greatest linebackers in the Belichick Era. Tremendous pick here. He’s on the Patriots coaching staff now if that tells you anything about the quality of this guy. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (62) – Terrence Wheatley: Injury after injury prevented Wheatley from ever seeing any significant playing time with the Pats. Nagging injuries aside, he’s still considered somewhat of a bust. Verdict: Bust
First Round: The Patriots had the 23rd pick this year but opted to trade back into the second round by dealing with the Ravens, who ended up picking Michael Oher in this spot.
Second Round (34) – Patrick Chung: The Patriot Way can be personified by a few different people in the Belichick Era, and Chung is one of those people. Chung played hard, did what he was asked and could do multiples things really well. He was a great Patriot and deserves his retirement. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (40) – Ron Brace: This was a miss. After only a few seasons with the Pats and 39 tackles, he was sent packing. Brace was expected to produce, but he just never did. He’s on the Bust Spectrum as well, but nowhere near N’Keal Harry level disappointment. Verdict: Bust
Second Round (41) – Darius Butler: Butler was a disappointment. After having a relatively mediocre first season where he played in 14 games, starting 5 of them, he fell of his sophomore year. He was replaced by Kyle Arrington early in the season and hardly saw the field moving forward. Butler was waived in the offseason after only two years with the team. Big miss with this pick. Verdict: Bust
Second Round (58) – Sebastian Vollmer: Vollmer was on the Patriots for 8 seasons and moved all over the offensive line while doing so. But no matter where he fit in, he played very well. Vollmer was a good pick and retired a Patriot. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (27) – Devin McCourty: Another slam dunk of a first round pick. McCourty will go down as one of the best Patriots ever. Fun fact: McCourty started his career as a cornerback and was pretty good! In his third year here, however, he was slid over to safety due to a cache of injuries at the safety position. The move worked out pretty well for him though. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (42) – Rob Gronkowski: Gronk will go down as the most dominant tight end to ever play the game. That’s all you need to know about this pick. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (53) – Jermaine Cunningham: Not a great pick here. Cunningham had a somewhat promising first year with 27 tackles and 2 forced fumbles, but he fell off a cliff in year two. He totaled only one tackle and was a healthy scratch for the vast majority of the season. He was cut in the off-season after violating the leagues performance enhancing substances policy. Verdict: Bust
Second Round (62) – Brandon Spikes: Spikes was one of the hardest hitting linebackers I’ve ever seen. His run defense was amazing. Unfortunately, a suspension due to violating the leagues banned substance policies derailed his rookie season after playing in only 12 games. Injuries became the norm in Spikes’ career after that, though he still produced when he saw the field. In 2014 he was infamously late to practice and used “snow” as the excuse. He was released that off-season. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (17) – Nate Solder: A very good left tackle worthy of the first round pick. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (33) – Ras-I Dowling: This was a big time bust. Dowling was touted as the next #1 corner for the Patriots when he was drafted. In 2 season with the Patriots, he only played in 9 games. Injuries early on in both years cut his seasons short. Dowling had so much promise but his health derailed his career. Verdict: Big Bust
Second Round (56) – Shane Vereen: Vereen fit the mold the Kevin Faulk left and did so amazingly. He could run when he had to but he was an absolute weapon as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield. If you like the Patriots, you loved Shane Vereen. Great value pick late in the second round. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (21) – Chandler Jones: Very, very good player who played his way out of town. And by that, I mean he was so good that the Patriots didn’t want to foot the bill. Fun Fact: Chandler Jones may be a victim to my Jersey Curse. Any New England athlete’s jersey I get, they either get injured, traded or become a serial killer (looking at you Hernandez). I got Jones’ jersey and he was gone the next off-season. I’ll take some blame for him leaving. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (25) – Dont’a Hightower: In my opinion, High is the greatest linebacker to ever play for the Patriots in the Belichick Era. He learned under Mayo and then took that role when the former left and shined. When he’s not on the field, the defense suffers immensely. Just look at last season…Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (48) – Tavon Wilson: Wilson was a virtual unknown to experts when he was drafted. So much so that even the great Mel Kiper had zero notes on the fella. He fell into the career backup role and did so swimmingly. This pick is nothing to write home about, but since it was a reach to even pick him here, it can’t be considered a bust. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round: The Pats traded their 29th pick to the Vikings for the 52nd, 83rd, 102nd and 229th picks. Those picks results in Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Josh Boyce (another failed WR) which is a decent yield.
Second Round (52) – Jamie Collins: What an athletic freak this guy was. He was sent packing after in the midst of his 4th season with the Patriots due to his freelancing on the field. And if you know anything about Belichick, you know he hates when players don’t do their job. He came back a few years later a seemingly changed man and contributed while he was here. I still miss him jumping over the center to block field goals. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (59) – Aaron Dobson: Remember when I said Belichick had trouble drafting WR’s? Here’s another piece of evidence. Expectations were high with this one. After 519 yards and 4 TD’s in 12 games his rookie season, everyone thought Dobson was going to take a big leap in year two. Spoiler alert: everyone was wrong. As is the case with almost every Patriots draft pick it seems, injuries plagued his career here. He didn’t see the field too much in this sophomore season and even less in his third year. Three seasons of mediocrity put Dobson in the big time bust category. Verdict: GIANT Bust
First Round (29) – Dominique Easley: Oh boy, talk about your big expectations. Easley was supposed to be a linchpin in the Patriots D-Line for years to come. In his rookie season, Easley played in 11 games with only 9 tackles and 1 sack. With Wilfork retiring in the off-season, Easley was set to take over that starting role in year two and show why he was drafted so high. Instead, his season ended early when he was put on the IR in December. Tallying only 15 tackles and 2 sacks, it was clear he wasn’t producing how the team expected. He was surprisingly released the following off-season. Easley is rightly classified as a bust. Verdict: Big Bust
Second Round (62) – Jimmy Garoppolo: Ah yes, the Prodigal Son. The one who was supposed to take over after the GOAT retired and bring on another 20 years of dominance in New England. We all know how that story ended though. I’m not going to dive into it. Belichick wanted Jimmy but Brady’s stubbornness to decline forced his hand. Jimmy G is one of the ultimate “What If’s…” in Patriots history, but he’s certainly not a bust. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (32) – Malcom Brown: In his four seasons here, Brown was a pretty solid defensive lineman. He totaled 48 tackles and 3 sacks in his rookie year and kept his production going throughout the majority of his playing time. Was he worth the last pick in the first round? You can say no if you want, but he’s definitely not a bust. Fun Fact: The only other defensive lineman picked before him was Danny Shelton who ended up landing with the Patriots at one point in his career as well. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (64) – Jordan Richards: This might be my least favorite pick Belichick has ever made. Coming out of Standford, all you heard about this guy was that he was “like a coach on the field” and that he is “the quintessential Belichick pick”. Every draft expert was completely baffled by this pick as they all had him going in the fifth round at best. Not to mention the team already had McCourty and Chung as the established starters. This seemed to be a case of Belichick trying to outsmart everyone. He normally succeeds at that, but this time? Gigantic swing and a miss. In 2018, Richards went to the Falcons in exchange for a seventh round pick. Ew. Verdict: Definitely a bust
First Round: The Patriots were wrongly stripped of their first round pick due to a little thing called Deflategate. I’m not getting into that because I’ll get too upset and rattle off 3,000 words about how Goodell is an imbecile and no one understands air pressure. Moving on…
Second Round (60) – Cyrus Jones: Scratch what I said about Jordan Richards, THIS may be my least favorite Belichick draft pick. Jones was a corner who couldn’t play corner so he was moved to kick returner for the most part. Which was strange because it was clear he couldn’t really do that either. Most known for his fumbles or just flat out misplaying balls on kick/punt returns, Jones was a mess. This one being his most egregious..
He returned the favor though a few years later fumbling as a member of the Ravens and helping out his former team so I guess it all comes out in the wash as they say. Verdict: Big bust
First Round: The Patriots traded their first round pick for receiver Brandin Cooks. I’d say that was a good trade as Cooks put up 1,000 yards in his only season here.
Second Round: This pick was sent to the Panthers for Kony Ealy. If Ealy were drafted by the team, he’d be a bust but lucky for him and Belichick’s draft record, he was acquired via trade. Ealy was here for 5 months before his release and ultimate signing with the Jets. He’s now playing in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts.
First Round (23) – Isaiah Wynn: I don’t need to tell you about Wynn. He tore his achilles in the second preseason game and missed his entire rookie season. Then he got hurt again in his second year and your typical local talking heads were calling him a bust. He came back after that injury though and has been one of the best linemen the Patriots have since. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round (31) – Sony Michel: Other than N’Keal Harry, this may be the most polarizing pick in Belichick’s history. Half of the fans will tell you Michel sucks and wasn’t worth the pick and the other half will tell you he’s good he was just dealt a bad hand to start his career. I tend to lean to the “he’s good” side of things. His rookie season started slow due to an early injury, but he rounded into form as the year went on. He ran the Patriots to a Super Bowl ring in his rookie year with the second most TD’s ever by a running back in a single postseason. Michel had over 900 yards in his first two season before 2020 put him on IR for much of the year. He had to split time with emerging star Damien Harris as well. But all things considered, even if Michel hasn’t been as good as you want him to be, he’s been productive enough to NOT be a bust. Verdict: Not a bust
Second Round (56) – Duke Dawson: The legendary Duke Dawson did not play in a single game for the Patriots in his very short tenure here. That’s all you need to know about him. Verdict: Clear bust
First Round (32) – N’Keal Harry: The reason for this article. Harry had very high expectations coming in, and rightly so. He was a big bodied receiver who was touted for winning 50/50 balls and supposedly knew how to use his size. I don’t think there has ever been a scouting report more wrong than this. Harry is the definition of a disappointment. From seemingly committing penalty after penalty when the team couldn’t afford it, to criticizing his own fans, Harry is a bad memory for New England. Verdict: HUMONGOUS BUST
Second Round (45) – Joejuan Williams: He’s not a starter, but Williams has seen the field here and there in his first two years with the team. He’s done fine while he’s been out there. There’s really not much more to say about him. The expectations not being too high for him coming in is the only reason he’s not considered a bust in my eyes. Verdict: Not a bust
First Round: The Patriots traded this pick to the Chargers for the 37th pick overall who turned out to be…
Second Round (37) – Kyle Dugger: Too early to tell with picks this recent, but all signs point to Dugger being a really good player. He’ll be taking over Chungs role this year so now is the time for him to step up.
Second Round (60) – Josh Uche: Just like with Dugger, it’s too early to call this one. But if he keeps projecting how he is, he’ll be the furthest thing from a bust.
First Round (15) – Mac Jones: TBD
Second Round (38) – Christian Barmore: TBD
I think we all knew where this investigation would get us: N’Keal Harry is the biggest bust of the Belichick Era. And to me, it’s not even close. He was supposed to be the next big, great receiver and he turned out to produce slightly more than you or I did for the team. He seemed whiny ever since he got here and, like I said, his tweet calling out the fans didn’t help matters. Also, when receivers like DK Metcalk and Deebo Samuel were available at the time Harry got picked, his shortcomings look even worse.
When you can’t succeed with Tom Brady or Cam Newton, who had nothing but great things to say about you, AND you get benched for Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd, you are the problem. Maybe a change of scenery will help, but I’m not holding my breath.
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