Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were expected to be aggressive in their rebuilding process this offseason, but many didn’t expect them to be this aggressive. They’ve acquired the two top tight ends on the market in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and on the defensive side, they’ve added several pieces that will complement what was already a very good unit. However, they failed to add a true #1 WR to what was arguably the worst receiving corps in the league. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are good additions, but the Patriots need more. While the receivers not named Jakobi Meyers underperformed last year, this N’Keal Harry comparison will hopefully have Patriots fans reconsidering their desire to see him shipped out of town.
Harry has been nothing short of disappointing since he entered the league as a 1st round pick in 2019. In addition to playing only seven games in his rookie season, he struggled to build trust and chemistry with Tom Brady as the season went on. This made Harry a non-factor in an already thin Patriots offense. He finished his rookie season with just 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. For reference, DK Metcalf was drafted 32 picks after Harry and he played a full season, racking up 58 catches for 900 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Looking to bounce back in 2020, Harry was forced to build chemistry with a new quarterback in Cam Newton. This task was made even tougher with the absence of training camp due to the pandemic. Harry showed flashes throughout the 14 games he played last season but wasn’t able to string together enough to impress. He finished the season with 33 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Rumors have circulated in the past week that teams have called the Patriots inquiring about the availability of Harry. Though a change of scenery could prove to be beneficial for both sides, Harry just turned 23 years old and hasn’t had any stability at quarterback throughout his career. A full offseason with Newton and a full training camp could be what he needs to get back to his college ways. With more weapons in Henry, Smith, and Agholor, Harry could find himself with favorable matchups on the outside. This could certainly help his playmaking ability.
N’Keal Harry Comparison
With such a disappointing start to his career, it’s easy for Patriots fans to write Harry off as a bust. And while they may eventually be right, he should be given the chance to prove them wrong. He wouldn’t be the first underperforming first round WR to turn his career around. Take this former Patriots as an example of a good N’Keal Harry comparison.
Demaryius Thomas is best known for his prime years in Denver catching passes from Peyton Manning. But what a lot of fans don’t remember are his first two years in Denver in which he underperformed. Like Harry, Thomas played only 21 games through his first two seasons and they shared similar stats as well.
While Thomas more than doubled Harry’s yardage over their first two seasons, he also had nearly 50 more targets. A lot of this has to do with the aforementioned distrust with Tom Brady and a crowded receiving room that included Philip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Jakobi Meyers, and Mohamed Sanu, among others.
After his slow start, Thomas became a very serviceable receiver who has made four Pro Bowls in his career. This is not to say that N’Keal Harry will become what Demaryius Thomas became, but if Harry becomes even half of what Thomas was over his career, Patriots fans should be happy.
I am not advocating for Bill Belichick to keep Harry on the team if he receives a good trade offer. However, it would be foolish to sell low on Harry when we’ve seen flashes of what he can be.
Harry will likely never live up to expectations and will always be compared to the receivers drafted after him in Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin. Though he will never escape these comparisons, he has an opportunity to carve out a serviceable career and change Patriots fans’ perception of him. But if any N’Keal Harry comparison turns out to be true, hopefully it can be that of Demaryius Thomas.
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Photo – (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)