Going into the 2019 NFL Draft the New England Patriots were the reigning Super Bowl Champions, but they only scored 13 points in their victory against the Los Angeles Rams. With TE Rob Gronkowski retiring, and WRs Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson leaving in free agency, it was clear the Patriots needed to address the offense in the upcoming draft if they wanted to defend their crown in 2019.
Prior to that year’s draft Bill Belichick had never selected a WR in the first round while with the Patriots. With no TE of value available at pick 32, Belichick made history by selecting WR N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State.
New England would have to wait to see their first round pick in action, as Harry was placed on injured reserve in training camp with an ankle injury. This injury did not impact the Patriots immediately, as they coasted to an 8-0 record to start the season, but following a Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens where the offense stalled out on many drives, it became apparent that Harry needed to debut.
N’Keal Harry came off injured reserve ahead of a Week 11 match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he would go on to total seven games played while making five starts. Harry did not play a whole lot, as he logged 45% of the total snaps in weeks 11-17. In comparison, Julian Edelman played in 87% of the total snaps in 2019.
Harry’s lack of play could be attributed to either him not being fully healed up from his ankle injury, or Tom Brady’s lack of trust in the rookie wide receiver. With New England lacking a FB as well as a dependable TE, a third receiver to pair with Edelman and Mohamed Sanu was needed to round out the offense. This urgency may mean that Harry was not 100% when the Pats activated him off IR.
Gaining Brady’s trust is very crucial for a WR to do, but it is also a very hard task to accomplish. Harry missed a good portion of training camp as well as the first nine weeks of the season, meaning he had no time to gain a rapport with Brady. There were also times throughout the season where Brady was a limited participant in practice, making it harder for the 20-year veteran to become acclimated to the rookie wide receiver.
2020 will be the year that Harry shows what he is capable of, as he will be fully healed from any lingering injuries. And he should have a better relationship with Jarrett Stidham, who will likely be the Patriots’ starting QB come Week 1. There is a good chance that Harry actually had more reps in practice with Stidham than Brady last season.
Harry will be a deep threat wide receiver that will help create space for Edelman and Sanu to work. I would not be surprised to see Harry rack up 800+ receiving yards and six TDs in his sophomore campaign. Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels could use Harry as a gadget type player, but the Arizona State product will find success on deep routes as well.
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