The first day of the 2019 NFL draft is over and it saw the New England Patriots stay put at the end of the first round and draft Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry. The 21-year-old addresses arguably the Patriots’ biggest need as he adds both athleticism and physicality to the club’s pass catching corps — something that the team is lacking following the retirement of future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the winners and losers from the Patriots making Harry the 32nd pick of this year’s draft.
Winner: QB Tom Brady
After seeing Gronkowski retire and both Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson leave New England via free agency, the Patriots added a high-upside receiving option for Tom Brady on Thursday. Harry gives the veteran passer a physical boundary option with the ability to challenge press-man coverage and win jump-balls due to his size. Needless to say that Brady has to feel good about New England’s first-round selection.
Winners: WR Julian Edelman & RB James White
New England drafting Harry is good news for Julian Edelman and James White. With a talented receiver like the Arizona State product being added to the skill position group, the Patriots’ projected top-two pass catchers should see their workload at least somewhat reduced. The same goes for the defensive attention drawn by the two star players: having another viable receiving option in the lineup will make it harder for teams to focus on stopping the productive duo.
Loser: WR Josh Gordon
With Josh Gordon still indefinitely suspended, the Patriots invested in a player that is suited to play the same role as him: like Gordon, Harry has the skill set to serve as an X-receiver and deep threat target in New England’s scheme. Consequently, his addition puts pressure on Gordon whenever he returns to the club. The veteran, whose focus has to be on bigger things than football right now, might have to fight for playing time.
Winner: Josh McDaniels
One of Harry’s best attributes is his versatility. In 2018, he was regularly thrown the ball on deep passes (18 targets) and when aligning in the slot (29 targets) and produced in both areas. He furthermore also saw action as a ball carrier — he had 7 rushing attempts for 10 yards and a touchdown last season — and on top of that attempted four passes in his three years at Arizona State. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will have plenty of fun with the rookie and his skill set.
Losers: WR Demaryius Thomas & WR Maurice Harris
Harry’s arrival does not only pose a challenge to the still suspended Josh Gordon, but also to two of the players currently on New England’s active roster. Offseason acquisitions Demaryius Thomas and Maurice Harris bring the same basic skills playing on the perimeter to the table as the first-round pick — without the upside, of course — and will therefore see their practice reps and chances at making the team reduced.
Winner: OT Isaiah Wynn
Second-year man Isaiah Wynn also can be considered a winner, mainly because of the fact that New England did not draft another offensive tackle in round one to challenge his presumed standing as the starting left tackle. While the position still remains somewhat of a need — Wynn is coming off a torn Achilles, Marcus Cannon turns 31 in May — yesterday strengthened his position as the front-runner to fill the spot previously held by free agency departure Trent Brown.
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