Once thought of as one of the league's exciting up-and-coming receiver prospects, New England Patriots N'Keal Harry is now looking for a way out of Foxborough. But does that seemingly inevitable exit mean the Jacksonville Jaguars should be interested in the former first-rounder?
Considering the past moves the Jaguars have made, perhaps a cheap deal for Harry would make sense for both parties. But is there room in the Jaguars' crowded receiver room?
"For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to allow N’Keal to thrive in New England. Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college," Harry's agent Jamal Tooson said on Tuesday according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
"Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client.
"N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”
Are the Jaguars a team that makes sense to help Harry meet those draft-day expectations his camp alluded to, or are they yet another stop that wouldn't have much room for him to make a considerable impact? We examine the pros and cons below.
Why N'Keal Harry would make sense for the Jaguars
Perhaps the best way to describe Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer's strategy when it comes to acquiring players this offseason is this: He has been chasing stars.
No, not NFL stars, but recruiting stars. Meyer's entire previous expertise and experience have been at the college level, a level where he cut his teeth as a recruiter and worked tirelessly to bring in the best high school recruits into his program. Recruiting is the lifeblood of successful college football programs, and Meyer excelled in this area as well as any other coach in his era.
Meyer has seemingly taken some of that experience to the NFL level. Whether it is Tyson Campbell, Jay Tufele, Walker Little, Laquon Treadwell or Luke Farrell, players that Meyer has acquired have consistently been former top recruits who were highly-ranked on sites such as 247. Harry fits this bill as well, with the former Arizona State standout being ranked by 247 as a four-star recruit and the No. 53 overall recruit in the nation in the 2016 class.
Meyer and Ohio State didn't recruit Harry out of college, but Meyer could still believe he could unlock the potential that Harry has been hyped up to have since he was in high school. Harry went from a four-star recruit to a productive college receiver and eventual first-round pick, so the Harry that Meyer would likely know best -- the college version -- is the best version of Harry yet.
The Jaguars also have some question marks at wide receiver moving past 2021. Harry hasn't been productive in his first two seasons, with the former No. 32 overall pick recording 414 yards and four touchdowns on 45 catches in 21 career games. But before Harry began to struggle in New England, he was a big-bodied yards after the catch threat at Arizona State who looked like an intriguing big slot option.
For a Jaguars team that hasn't been afraid to add big-bodied receivers this offseason, Harry seems to fit the bill. He likely wouldn't cost much in terms of compensation either since the Patriots are one of the teams in the league who are typically most willing to quickly part with top draft picks who simply haven't panned out.
The Jaguars have two of their current top-six receivers playing on the final years of their deals in 2020 with Dorsett and DJ Chark. Add in the fact that Jamal Agnew is more return man than receiver, and the Jaguars could use more young talent at the receiver position. If the Jaguars and Meyer think they could unlock Harry's potential, then there is room for him on the 90-man roster.
For a Jaguars team that has been quick to surround No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence with weapons -- even if those weapons are just backups -- a player like Harry fits the profile in a lot of ways
Why N'Keal Harry wouldn't make sense for the Jaguars
The Jaguars simply shouldn't be giving up resources for players who wouldn't be locks to make the roster. There is little chance that Harry being traded to the Jaguars would mean a bump down the depth chart for Dorsett, while Agnew is a lock to make the roster due to his contract and special teams value.
Essentially, this would mean Harry would have to compete with Collin Johnson for a spot on the 53-man roster. If the Jaguars could send a conditional pick for Harry, then they could justify him on the 90-man roster --- but anything more would mean he should be favorited to land on the roster. And as of today, Harry making the roster over Johnson would be an unwise move based on the production of each.
In 14 career games, Johnson has caught passes from Mike Glennon, Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton. In that time, he recorded a higher yard for target (8.8 to 5.1), yards per reception (15.1 to 9.2) and yards per route run (1.60 to 0.93, according to Pro Football Focus) compared to Harry's career. Harry has played with better quarterbacks in New England, but Johnson has been the significantly better receiver despite playing more than 500 fewer career snaps.
There is no real argument to make for Harry as a better option compared to Johnson today. Perhaps Harry could impress in camp and outshine either Dorsett or Johnson, but the odds are in favor of the veteran and the second-year receiver having better camps and preseasons than Harry.
The Jaguars need weapons, but any move for a receiver should be a move made for a player who is decidedly better than Jacksonville's current options. That isn't the case for Harry, even with his first-round pedigree. Injuries and New England's offensive regression have stunted his development, but the Jaguars have more established receivers already on the roster both in the short- and long term.
It would be hard to blame the Jaguars if they took a cheap flier on Harry, but cheap is the keyword here.
For a rebuilding franchise that needs to hold onto as many draft picks as they can as they completely reshape the locker room, the Jaguars aren't in the position to move assets for players based on the potential they showed two years ago. Harry simply hasn't been a productive receiver at the NFL level, at least not to the extent of the other veterans and young wideouts on the Jaguars' roster.
Harry makes sense for teams still looking for pass-catchers, but the Jaguars more or less have a group they can walk into 2021 and be happy with. So, for now, the Jaguars don't make much sense for the Harry sweepstakes.
Once thought of as one of the league's exciting up-and-coming receiver prospects, New England Patriots N'Keal Harry is now looking for a way out of Foxborough. But does that seemingly inevitable exit mean the Jacksonville Jaguars should be interested in the former first-rounder? Subscribe for full article
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