For the first time since 1996, the New England Patriots selected a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft. Ranked as ESPN’s top receiving prospect, N’Keal Harry joins Terry Glenn as the only Patriots receivers taken in the first round since 1990. With training camp in full swing, the Arizona State product has been under the magnifying glass, and rightfully so.
The New Kid In School
Going into the draft, wide receiver sat atop the list of the Patriots’ needs. With Rob Gronkowski enjoying retirement and Josh Gordon out of the picture (for now), the Patriots must prepare for the inevitable makeover of the receiving corps. That’s where N’Keal Harry comes in.
Standing at 6-4, 225 pounds, the 21 year-old is the tallest and heaviest of all twelve receivers on the roster. Through eight days of training camp, Harry’s ten receptions are tied for second, and he has the third most targets (16) behind Philip Dorsett and Maurice Harris. While Julian Edelman’s absence certainly creates more opportunity, N’Keal Harry still lands near the front of the crowded receiver pack.
Early on, Harry lined up in the wrong spot and the whole team ran as a result. He’s had some issues holding onto the ball and misunderstood his blocking responsibilities on some occasions.
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Under the Microscope
The combination of his first-round status and early mistakes has caused some apprehension surrounding Harry. And don’t get me wrong, some of it is justified. N’Keal Harry is in virtually unknown territory for a Patriots receiver. This will be the first time in nine years without Rob Gronkowski on the roster. To say he has some big shoes to fill is quite the understatement.
However, the sample size is far too small to have any serious doubts. Look at his three seasons with Arizona State. In 37 games, he racked up 2,889 yards and 22 touchdowns on 213 catches. In 2018, Harry was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference First Team as a wide receiver and the Second Team as a kick returner. He routinely lined up in the slot, and never had much of an issue with drops during his Arizona State career.
A six foot, four inch big-bodied receiver with experience in the slot and on special teams, N’Keal Harry fits Bill Belichick’s type to a tee. After spending extra time with Tom Brady and Stephon Gilmore doing side work after practice, he is obviously doing his due diligence.
The formula for establishing a contributing role within the Patriots offense is very simple. Gain the trust of Number 12. Everything else falls into place once that occurs. N’Keal Harry may be experiencing some growing pains, but he is doing exactly what he should be doing as a rookie in the Patriots’ system.
Bill Belichick used a first-round pick on him for a reason. In due time, N’Keal Harry will be a talented wide receiver in the NFL, but for now, be patient.
–Ethan Roy is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @_ethanroy