• Will Harris

Rebound Radar: N'Keal Harry

If I told you that there was a draft prospect who had put up multiple 1000+ yard seasons by the age of 21, over 20 TD’s during his college career, tested out as a 98th percentile athlete and comped to Allen Robinson, you’d think he was a sure fire prospect, right? Would you be drafting him in the first round of your upcoming rookie drafts? I think so. The only question you would be asking is whether this prospect Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb?

Knowing that you’ve read this far, you’ll know that I’m talking about N’Keal Harry and not a 2020 draft prospect. Harry was drafted 32nd overall in 2019 by the Patriots and was the second wide receiver drafted in what, in hindsight, was a productive WR draft. Everything made sense drafting Harry 32nd overall: 89th percentile college dominator rating, 95th percentile breakout age, and impressive height to weight ratio (6’2, 228 lbs) and an 82nd percentile catch radius. The only thing that didn’t line up was Harry’s landing spot in Foxboro.

I liken Bill Belichek to Captain Ahab which is fitting for the Massachusetts club. Belichek has long sought a homegrown Alpha WR, and has flirted with these types often in free agency and through trade: Randy Moss, Chad Johnson and most recently, Josh Gordon. Landing Harry was Belichek’s very own Moby Dick; a WR that profiled to be a true alpha dog WR1 that would be a Patriot from day one. Year one for Harry & Co did not prove to be smooth sailing though.

Coming into the 2019 season, the role of N’Keal Harry was already in speculation due to the rather confusing and cluttered wide receiver corps assembled in Foxboro. Watching the moves that the Patriots made leading up to the 2019 season should have been a red flag for Harry owners: signing of Demaryius Thomas in April, adding former Colt Dontrelle Inman, taking a swing on the once intriguing Cameron Meredith, and of course the biggest nail in the Harry breakout coffin, Antonio Brown. This isn’t even bringing up Josh Gordon who profiled as the “alpha” in New England.

Drafters should have been wary in their rookie drafts assigning too much capital to the Arizona State star. But Harry’s prospect profile and tape were too alluring. Harry went off rookie draft boards routinely in the top ten of rookie drafts and was the consensus #1 WR for fantasy purposes.

Expectations on rookie wide receivers should always be at a minimum. Drafting WR’s in the 1st round of rookie drafts or with a high draft capital in redraft is a dangerous game. The ability to transition to a) the speed and precision of the pro game b) new quarterback c) new coach d) new system are incredibly difficult for a first-year player.

Having the added pressure of being a first-round draft pick for your fantasy team is probably the least of the player's worries but #1 for you and your hope for a fantasy championship. So just don’t put that stress on yourself. Let someone else take the risk and then you come in like a vulture to scavenge the remains of some poor WR prospect that didn’t live up to his ADP.

And that’s exactly what I’m recommending: vulture the remains of Belichek’s Moby Dick. Let someone else fall in love with this year’s deep WR class. Offer a late 2nd rounder to a frustrated Harry owner. Harry’s athletic profile and ability to play the game hasn’t changed since Arizona State. All that changed was Harry's opportunity share in New England. In that crowded and injury filled first season, Harry only played in 7 games. In those 7 games, his snap share only hit over 60% twice, and he saw a measly 3.4 targets per game, ranking him #121 amongst WR’s in 2019. Keep in mind that Harry averaged nearly 9 targets a game (8.83 p/g) during his collegiate career. Harry’s lack of targets was especially concerning as the Patriots ranked 9th in the NFL in pass plays per game. It doesn’t matter what kind of talent you are at WR, if you don’t see volume, production will be hard to come by.

With the departure of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and Phillip Dorsett, and with no replacement yet to come for Rob Gronkowski, volume should be there for Harry in year two. The time to buy Harry is now. If the Patriots add a proven Quarterback, Harry’s stock should increase. I’d start sniffing the waters around Harry now and let it culminate on your rookie draft day when people are in a feeding frenzy for rookie picks. Could a frustrated owner take the bait on a 2020 2nd rounder for Harry on draft day?

I think that is an affirmative hook, line and sinker.

Will Harris