I get that everyone wants to pile on N’Keal Harry. There’s no denying that the New England Patriots might have taken the wrong receiver at 32 last year, considering the players that were selected after him. That much is obvious to anyone who has watched football over the last two seasons.
However, that does not mean that Harry can’t play. We have seen flashes of what the scouts loved in him, but he simply has not had the opportunities necessary to showcase his skills.
The easiest place to start is the targets. He has seen 51 all season. He has only received more than six targets in a game twice, and has seen more than five targets in a game just once since Week 4. Watch the film, there are times when he’s open, and Cam Newton simply isn’t looking his way for one reason or another.
And I know, Harry has had a few missed opportunities as well. The end of the Broncos game, and the sideline play two weeks ago are plays that stand out. But every receiver has plays like that. DK Metcalf has dropped multiple touchdowns this season where he was wide open, and simply had to catch the ball but did not.
These guys aren’t perfect, and, yes, Metcalf is on another level, but he has seen less than five targets in a game just once this year. When your volume is high, you don’t notice the mistakes as much because you see some good plays as well to at least make up for them. This isn’t to say that Harry is going to be an elite receiver if he sees more targets, but it’s possible that he could at least be serviceable if getting more involved in the Patriots’ offense.
Think about when we’ve seen him make some plays. The Seattle game in Week 2, when he finished with eight catches for 72 yards, was his statistically best game, and Cam Newton looked his way 12 times that day. He also had nice touchdown catches against the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, and a few nice catches against the Rams. We simply haven’t seen enough to know if he can be a factor in this offense.
In my opinion, in the next two weeks, whoever is playing quarterback needs to look his way a lot. I’m talking 10 targets at least in each game. Let’s just see what he can do with them. Maybe he’s terrible, and really can’t find a consistent role with this team, and everyone can say he is indeed a waste of a roster spot, and we can move on.
It is possible, however, that Harry is a serviceable player with a unique skill set after all that can help the Patriots in certain situations. Just because he was drafted too high, and isn’t producing at a top level right now does not mean that he can’t help this team.
He looks like he can be a decent third option, and possibly even a solid red zone target. Combine that with what we have seen from Jakobi Meyers this year, and, assuming New England is able to go get a stud receiver during the offseason, the position could be solid next season — even more so if the team is able to bring Damiere Byrd back as well.
I know that, no matter what he does here, people are going to be angry about the Patriots drafting Harry 32nd overall in 2019. Just try to remember that it’s not his fault that the team took him over the guys that were still on the board and have looked better than him so far. He just needs a chance to be the receiver that he can be, and, if that helps the offense improve, I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.
Right now, the Patriots offense needs all the help it can get.