Getting a first-round pick back is typically a good thing, but the return of wide receiver N’Keal Harry is set to force the Patriots into a tough corner.
The New England Patriots thought highly enough of N’Keal Harry to take him with the final pick in the first round of April’s draft. The rookie wide receiver out of Arizona State has been sidelined by an ankle injury, and returned to practice as soon as possible on Tuesday.
Harry’s return to practice seems to come at a good time for New England, with a long list of skill position players banged up. His participation on Tuesday opens a two-week window where he can practice, then be activated and eligible to play in a game after spending the required eight weeks on IR.
NFL teams can designate two players as eligible to return from IR each season. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn (toe/foot) and fullback James Develin (neck) were both placed on IR in September, so if Harry is activated when he’s eligible that leaves one IR return spot open for Wynn or Devlin.
Wynn missed his entire rookie season last year with a torn Achilles’, and he only lasted two games this year before being injured. But left tackle is a premium position, and obviously not easily replaced. The Patriots use the fullback as heavily as any team this side of the San Francisco 49ers, so Devlin is an important piece of their offense even though he’s not a marquee name.
At wide receiver, the Patriots have depth that makes Harry’s addition less important. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett are the top three when healthy, and fellow rookie Jakobi Meyers has shown promise when he’s gotten an opportunity dating back to the preseason.
Nothing has to be concrete regarding Harry’s return until after Week 8. But if the decision is based on importance as it looks right now, if there’s any chance Wynn and Develin can play again this season the two IR-eligible to return spots have to be held open for them.