Coming off two disappointing seasons that saw him catch only 47 combined passes, N’Keal Harry’s agent lobbied for a change. Jamal Tooson approached the New England Patriots, requesting his client be traded to another team.
New England’s decision-makers did not grant the request, and Harry entered his third training camp still with the team that had originally drafted him. Three months later, little has changed: the wide receiver remains a Patriot, and it seems likely he will stay put throughout the rest of the 2021 season.
The NFL trade deadline is now officially in the rear-view mirror, after all, and Harry is still on the Patriots’ 53-man roster.
“I’m a Patriot. I want to do anything I can to help this team win, and that’s my focus,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t worried about anything trade-wise. My main focus is doing whatever i can to help this team win and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Serving as the Patriots’ fourth wide receiver alongside Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, Harry has seen regular snaps since his first game of the season in Week 4. His statistics, however, have looked a lot like they did in 2019 and 2020: he has caught only five passes for 77 yards so far and actually saw more action as a run-blocker (60 snaps) than a route-runner (55 snaps).
The Patriots apparently still see some value in the former first-round draft pick, though. Accordingly, he continues to receive opportunities even if they do not come in the form of him serving in the traditional WR1 role his draft status would suggest.
“I’m going to be ready whenever it comes to me,” Harry said. “I do enjoy blocking. It’s something that our coaches ask of us as wide receivers, and I take a lot of pride in that.”
While his contributions as a blocker should not go unnoticed, the 32nd overall selection in the 2019 draft has been quiet as far as catching the football has been concerned. Through 27 career games, he has only 52 receptions on his résumé for a combined 512 yards and four touchdowns.
So far, he has not lived up to the natural expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick. Fellow wide receiver Jakobi Meyers said so himself on Wednesday.
“N’Keal has a way of just rolling with the punches,” Meyers said. “He came in here with high expectations; a lot of people will say that he probably didn’t live up to them. He’s still coming to work every day. He works to be the best man that he can be. He goes hard, he works hard in practice. I’m always going to be proud of N’Keal and the fact that he’s going out there making plays now, I’m happy to see, especially since we came in together.”
Harry did indeed make some plays recently, catching a season-high two passes for 30 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers. He appears to be trending in a positive direction, which is something the 4-4 team as a whole can also say about itself after its 2-4 start.
“We’ve been slowly building, day-in and day-out. We’ve had a chip on our shoulder going out to practice,” Harry said. “We know the type of team that we can be. It’s about making strides every day and improving every day, so that’s what we’ve been doing and what we’re going to continue to do moving forward.”
If Harry can do that as well, he should continue to see regular action — not just as a blocker but as a pass catcher as well.