N’Keal Harry, the first New England receiver to be drafted in the first round of the Belichick era, must continue making strides as a major contributor.
N’Keal Harry has some big shoes to fill. With Julian Edelman temporarily sidelined by a broken finger, Rob Gronkowski retired, Josh Gordon suspended, and the rest of the Patriots‘ 2019 pass-catching department somewhat of a mystery at present, the onus falls on Harry to step up to the plate and become a valuable weapon on offense from Day One.
That’s what happens when the greatest head coach of all time, Bill Belichick, bucks two decades of precedent and elects to draft a wide receiver in the first round for the first time ever.
Talk about pressure.
Harry got off to a fast start, shining during the early portions of New England’s OTAs back in March. The hype train around him slowed down a bit during the Pats’ mandatory minicamp in June, as a couple of noticeable drops and rookie mistakes proved he still had a ways to go in his integration to this high-powered offense.
That process is ongoing, of course, and will continue to occur even long after the ball is officially kicked off Sunday night in Gillette Stadium on September 8. There’s no such thing as a surefire thing in the NFL – just ask Ryan Leaf or the Chargers – so it stands to reason that Harry is destined for his fair share of ups-and-downs during his rookie season.
The good news for him (and for Patriots fans) is that he’s working with the best resources available to him so far in training camp… and he’s even drawn a flattering comparison from a teammate.
“He’s (got) that kind of build, really physical and strong. I think he can use that to his advantage,” Harris told reporters.
Harry, like Boldin, displayed an uncanny knack in college for being able to high-point the ball in the air and outmuscle defenders to make some incredible catches. The hope around Foxborough is that those skill sets will only continue to mature, develop, and blossom as he finds his way around Josh McDaniels’ offense on the field.
Perhaps even more importantly, Harry is logging quality time working with ex-Patriots star receiver Troy Brown so far at camp. As CBS Boston pointed out in a recent article on the subject, Brown and Harry don’t exactly have the same body type, nor do they bring the exact same intangibles or physical tools to the receiver position.
Nevertheless, the two share two crucial commonalities: they both catch passes from Tom Brady, and they both play for the Patriots. And that just might be enough.
“(Brown) is just teaching me how to be a complete receiver and how to take my game to the next level,” Harry told the media after Sunday’s practice. “He’s one of the greatest receivers that’s ever played here. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m going to keep asking him questions and keep learning from him.”
If Harry can develop quickly – and in the mold of an all-time franchise great like Troy Brown – then the sky really is the limit for the rookie out of Arizona State.