The New England Patriots broke with tradition during the 2019 NFL draft: for the first time since Bill Belichick took over as head coach and de facto general manager, the club selected a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry will add size and physicality to a Patriots skill position group that lost both attributes when All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski decided to retire in late March.
Harry will obviously not replace what a generational talent like Gronkowski brought to the table. The two do play different positions, after all. That being said, he will still be of value to a team that has lacked a big outside wide receiver for quite some time now — especially with Josh Gordon and his similar skill set still indefinitely suspended. Harry might therefore see a prominent role in New England’s offense right away.
And according to one former NFL general manager, he adds a different dimension to the unit reminiscent of another ex-Patriot: Hall of Famer Randy Moss. “Harry offers a poor man’s Randy Moss outside,” the ex-executive told ESPN’s Mike Sando when speaking about the selection of the Arizona State product with the 32nd overall pick last week. “Let’s say Josh Gordon falls through: they have a big-length receiver on the other side.”
The former GM also called Harry a “freak who can get vertical, can high-point the ball, has very good body control” — all features that Moss also brought to the table, albeit at a historically high level: between 2007 and 2010, he appeared in a combined 56 regular season and playoff games for New England and registered 271 catches for 4,046 yards and 51 touchdowns. At his peak, Moss was nothing short of a cheat code.
Expecting Harry to do the same is unrealistic, but he can still be a very good complementary receiver for quarterback Tom Brady. “I love N’Keal Harry — he was my number one receiver,” a current NFL general manager told Sando. “They haven’t drafted receivers early, but Belichick is really good at understanding every draft is different. He understands, ‘I am taking the guy, he is a receiver, I don’t care.’”
Whether or not Harry will live up to the lofty comparisons and compliments thrown his way remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: based on his skill set, he should fit in very well in New England as a prototypical X-receiver type. The aforementioned Moss and Gordon were (in Gordon’s case: are) similar in this regard, and if the rookie can follow their footsteps at least somewhat the NFL better watch out — even with Gronk no longer part of the equation.