Coming out of Arizona State, wide receiver N’Keal Harry was one of the best downfield threats in college football. It wasn’t because he blew by everyone with his vertical speed or because he beat man coverage with his ability as a route-runner—in fact, in both of those categories, Harry was adequate but not spectacular. However, his ability to win down the field was largely due to his ability to win contested-catch situations. He was masterful in 50/50 situations and jump balls—this is where he excelled. As the saying goes in the scouting community: “he catches good in a crowd... because he’s always in a crowd.” It speaks to the notion that he never created much separation as a route-runner.
Harry played his high school and college career in sunny Arizona. He was selected No. 32 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots and was now charged with continuing his career in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Needless to say, many scouts questioned his “fit” in New England both on and off the field. Harry battled injuries in his first season in New England. Then in his second season, the league as a whole had been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. That, paired with inconsistency at the quarterback position, led to Harry underperforming and struggling to meet the expectations of a first-round draft pick. However, it takes two to dance.
New England has had a horrible track record of drafting wide receivers early in the draft. Other than Deion Branch, who was drafted in 2002 and became a Super Bowl MVP, New England has struggled to draft and develop early-round wide receivers. Actually, New England has been horrible at drafting for quite some time. These issues were somewhat hidden over the years, but now that Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay, many of these issues are now highlighted.
New England’s first-round picks since 2014 are: Dominique Easley (cut after year two), Malcom Brown (wasn’t re-signed), Sony Michel (underperformed), Isaiah Wynn (can’t stay healthy), and Harry (just requested a trade). None of those players have performed up to their draft position which suggests they were likely all overdrafted.
Harry’s agent has formally requested a trade, likely because they both saw the writing on the wall and knew he’d probably be cut. What’s next for Harry? I believe there are two teams that would be a great fit for his services.
The San Francisco 49ers were rumored to have him highly rated in the 2019 NFL Draft. Harry’s not the best separator against man coverage, so Kyle Shanahan could be the perfect play-caller to put him in advantageous situations. Shanahan’s offense is quarterback and receiver friendly. Pair that with a running game that’s respectable enough to force defenses to stack the box and it could be a recipe for success for Harry.
The other team is the Arizona Cardinals. While some may say this is the obvious choice, this could come with issues of its own. Harry starred in high school and college in the state of Arizona. However, playing at home often comes with unique challenges. On the field, he could play in the slot in what has now become a crowded wide receiver room. After DeAndre Hopkins, one of the league’s best wide receivers, they signed former perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Green. At the slot position, future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald’s return is still undecided. However, they drafted Rondale Moore who will also play exclusively in the slot. This is where Harry is ideally suited to play. He could learn a lot from established veterans in the room and playing with Kyler Murray is a draw as well. However, if he was concerned with getting targets in New England, he could have the same concerns coming to Arizona.
No matter where he ends up or where he plays, Harry will undoubtedly have to improve the consistency in his work ethic (which was rumored to be an issue in New England), remain healthy, and make plays whenever his number is called.