N’Keal Harry joined the New England Patriots with considerable expectations for a rookie pass catcher being inserted into one of the most challenging offensive systems in all of football. When the team picked him 32nd overall last spring, after all, he became the first wide receiver selected by the club in Round One since Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000.
Despite his talent and impressive college production in combination with his draft status, however, the rookie appeared in just eight games after starting the season on temporary injured reserve. That said, he was able to move up the depth chart throughout the season and ended it as the Patriots’ third wide receiver behind Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu.
Heading into 2020, Harry is therefore in line to make the famous second-year jump — at leas according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista, who named as her choice among players entering Year Two who are “set to make big leaps” during the upcoming season:
What a weird, frustrating rookie season he had. He was the first receiver on whom Bill Belichick had used a first-round pick, and with that came high expectations. He hurt his ankle in the preseason and missed the first nine games of the regular season. By the time he got on the field, Tom Brady’s frustration with the offense had already boiled over, and Harry struggled to gain his trust while trying to understand the Patriots’ complicated offense. The results were ugly — Harry caught just 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. It’s ridiculous to think that Brady’s departure could make anything better in New England, but that might be the case for Harry, who never got out of Brady’s doghouse and can only go up. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he should at least be a reliable red-zone target for Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer.
As a result of his at times slow growth process and stint on injured reserve, Harry finished his rookie season with just 14 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns as well as six carries for an additional 56 rushing yards.