So much for Tom Brady‘s “barren” weapons cabinet.
On Thursday, the Patriots selected ASU WR N’Keal Harry with the 32nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, marking the first time the team has selected a Round One wideout during the “Belichick Era.” A 6’2″, 228-lbs beast, Harry fills our No.1 Pre-Draft “Value Hole” admirably.
Obviously, playing alongside “The GOAT” has its fantasy perks. Moreso, with the departures of Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan, plus indefinite suspension of Josh Gordon, New England offered serious availability into one of the league’s tastiest “Aerial Pies.” Entering Thursday, the Patriots had the ninth most vacated targets (160) and sixth most Available Air Yards (1,771). With a prototypical build, 4.53 speed, sticky hands, and arguably this draft’s best elevation / contested-ball skills, Harry has every opportunity to be peppered early and often inside one of the league’s best pass-attacks.
Adding pass-catchers was arguably the Patriots greatest need entering the NFL Draft, and they wasted no time addressing this issue. Despite numerous offers to trade down, the Patriots coveted Harry enough to stay put and get their guy. Harry’s initial comments upon his selection hint at both his competitiveness and selflessness, suggesting he’s tailor-made for New England:
“I play with a lot of passion. Whenever that ball’s in the air, I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it… I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Anything coach wants me to do — whether it’s on special teams, offense, anything — I’ll do it.”
Harry brings verticality and jump-ball skills that the team has lacked since Randy Moss. Following Gronk’s retirement, the Patriots sorely needed these abilities, especially in the Red Zone.
Beyond this, Harry brings far more “Patriots-style” traits to the gridiron: The versatility to be moved around and play multiple positions, including experience in the slot. Fantastic run-after-catch abilities paired with supreme route-running, especially in the intermediate game. Harry frequently breaks tackles on slants and screens with plus-physicality, while possessing uncanny moves and foot-quickness for a man his size.
In fact, prior to the draft on his podcast, NFL Executive Michael Lombardi offered that any general manager selecting Metcalf before Harry would be “an idiot” due to his YAC skills:
“When the ball’s in his hands, he’s a beast,” Lombardi said of Harry. “He’s a freakin’ beast.”
Overall, Harry not only fits what the Patriots love to-do, but brings a contested-ball skillset the team has sorely missed in its WRs for years. Considering the immense “Surrounding Talent,” available “Usage,” and creative “Coaching Scheme,” Harry landed in the perfect spot. He’s easily the top rookie WR for redraft and dynasty purposes, and could easily breakout right from the year’s start if he nails down this complex playbook and establishes a rapport with Brady.