The Patriots’ depth chart at wide receiver was in dire need of an addition entering Thursday’s NFL Draft. Bill Belichick addressed that want with the final pick of the first round: Arizona State wideout N’Keal Harry.
The Patriots coach had never before drafted a receiver in the opening round during his 20-year New England tenure, and the franchise had not picked a receiver in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996.
Tom Brady’s newest target checks in at 6-foot-2, 228-pounds and left college with 2,889 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns to his name. Harry, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, should bolster an offense that will be without retired tight end Rob Gronkowski and indefinitely suspended receiver Josh Gordon.
Harry’s initial remarks sounded ready-made for Foxborough.
“I play with a lot of passion. Whenever that ball’s in the air, I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it,” he said on a conference call after being drafted. “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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the Patriots’ latest weapon:
Harry shattered a basketball rim in high school
Harry was born in Toronto in 1997. He moved to St. Vincent, a Caribbean island, as a child before joining his grandmother in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was in Arizona that Harry made his name as a budding young athlete, and it would be there that he developed into an NFL prospect.
The five-star recruit chose Arizona State, located 20 miles from home, over offers from Washington and Texas A&M. He did so in part so that his grandmother could attend more games. However, before he ever committed to a college Harry was well-known in the state. His powerful slam dunk in a high school basketball game shattered the backboard, suspended play, and was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter.
Harry compares favorably to Mississippi receiver D.K. Metcalf
One of the players Harry drew comparisons to during the pre-draft process was D.K. Metcalf. The Mississippi wideout raised eyebrows at the NFL Combine after driving his massive frame 40 yards in 4.33 seconds. Although Harry lacks Metcalf’s straight-line speed — he clocked in at 4.53 seconds — the Patriots’ pick is regarded as the superior route runner.
On his podcast, former NFL executive Michael Lombardi offered that any general manager who nabbed Metcalf before Harry would be “an idiot.”
“When the ball’s in his hands, he’s a beast,” Lombardi said of Harry. “He’s a freakin’ beast.”
The draft analysts at First Level Media agree. They noted that Harry has quick feet and “make-you-miss-in-a-phone-booth” moves uncommon for a player of his stature, and projected him as an outside receiver in the NFL. Harry played both near the sideline and in the slot as he led Arizona State in receiving touchdowns each of his three seasons.
Harry hauled in a highlight-reel grab and returned a punt for a TD in the same game
In October, Harry ran a route down the left sideline late in the fourth quarter against USC. He wasn’t able to race past the defender — that’s the knock on him — but the tight coverage had no impact on the final product. Harry contorted his body, pulled in the pass with one hand, then kept possession as his body slammed to the turf.
Earlier in that same game, Harry revealed that he does have the ability to elude opponents with a 92-yard punt return. He caught the punt inside his own 10-yard line, raced parallel to the end zone, then turned upfield and burst past the Trojans for a touchdown. The two plays sealed an upset victory for the Sun Devils.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio noted that Harry is a “big, strong receiver. Good hands. Good with the ball out of the catch.”
The punt return showed off Harry’s versatility on special teams as well. He told reporters he’s willing to play wherever Belichick deigns to put him next season, and the head coach will surely take advantage of Harry’s multi-dimensional skill set. But the first order of business, of course, is to plug the hole on the wide receiver depth chart.