Other than a few weeks in June, there really isn’t any downtime on the NFL Calendar. The NFL Combine is coming up, and then Free Agency kicks off. After that is mini-camp, then training camp starts; before we know it, it’s time for the preseason to get underway. So, I better get a move on and start my offseason countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2022.
Here we go.
20. The Patriots trade N’Keal Harry
With the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the World Champion New England Patriots selected Arizona State receiver N’Keal Harry. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound, first-Team All PAC player was the first receiver the Patriots had ever drafted in the 1st round under Bill Belichick, and expectations were high. Harry had all of the physical tools, and New England hadn’t had a player of his athletic caliber since Randy Moss. Patriots fans everywhere started dreaming of high-pointed deep balls, 50/50 grabs, and a legit red zone threat from the receiver position.
However, the N’Keal Harry era in New England never got off the ground. Harry was either injured, a healthy scratch, or never on the same page as the rest of the team. His time in New England was plagued by drops and mistimed routes, assuming he even saw the field at all. He received a mulligan for a banged-up rookie season, and then another one during the anomalous year that was 2020. After all, a lot of players struggle their rookie year, and it wasn’t fair to judge a receiver on a Covid-19 season where Cam Newton, as impressive as he was at times, was the quarterback. Surely, 2021 would be the year for Harry to step it up. Patriots fans very much wanted to keep the faith in him, as a player of his caliber simply shouldn’t be struggling as much as he was. The thought process was that with a full year healthy, in a non-pandemic season with in-person practices, he’d finally get his act together and emerge as the legitimate threat we all thought he’d be.
However, in early July of 2021, Harry requested a trade. Things clearly weren’t working out in New England, and he wanted a fresh start. Rumors started swirling as to whether the Patriots would move on from him, what the market would be like, and if the rift between Harry and the rest of the team was too big to return from at this point. However, before any legitimate trades could even be explored, N’Keal Harry pulled a N’Keal Harry and injured his shoulder diving for a pass in a preseason game and was ruled out for at least four weeks. He didn’t see any 2021 action until October, and was a combination of a complete non-factor and a healthy scratch for the rest of the year.
He finished the 2021 season with 12 catches on 22 targets for 184 yards in 12 games, of which he was listed as a starter for only four. As Harry continued to be a ghost on the field, his fellow 2019 draftees Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and Jakobi Meyers, all drafted after him (and in Meyers’s case, not drafted at all) established themselves as legitimate targets in the NFL. When Harry was a healthy scratch for the last game of the 2021 regular season and the Patriots declined to pick up his fifth year option, even the most diehard of holdouts had to come to grips with the truth: N’Keal Harry was a complete bust.
Most people thought that Harry would either be released before the start of the season or continue to be a waste of a roster spot for the 2022 campaign and then go test the Free Agent waters in 2023. Up until that point, Harry had registered less than 600 yards receiving in three seasons with only four touchdowns to his credit; the odds of getting any kind of return for him were extremely slim. However, on July 12th, 2022, the Chicago Bear decided to take a flyer on Harry, offering up a 2024 seventh round pick for him. The Patriots were all too happy to accept. From a first round prospect to a seventh round tradeoff in a few short years, N’Keal Harry’s name now sits ignominiously next to Ras-I Dowling’s, Chad Jackson’s, Dominique Easley, and all the other Bill Belichick draft busts.
In what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, Harry has made a few absolutely spectacular catches as a member of the Bears thus far. He’s still wracked with injury and as inconsistent as ever — he only played in seven games last season - but it’s safe to say he makes a better Bear than a Patriot. I’d be lying if I didn’t shake my head and laugh watching this catch on the highlight reel the same week the Patriots got whacked by Buffalo 24-10. I still think Harry is a bust as a receiver, but I do wish him well.
It for sure didn’t work out, and I was as excited about anyone; it’s with no small amount of irony that drafting Harry was my No. 20 Moment just a few years ago, and now here I am talking about swapping a 2024 late round pick for him. Some players just aren’t able to pick up New England’s offense (not to mention a few coaches too, *cough cough* Matt Patricia coughcough) and can’t make it happen for themselves. And while I have no ill will towards N’Keal Harry, I have to admit I was relieved to finally have that particular experiment come to an end - so much so that I put that trade here at Number 20.
For one of the most unspectacular highlight reels you’ll ever see, click here.