With the 32nd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Patriots shocked the world and drafted a wide receiver. The team would pick Arizona State's very own N'Keal Harry. Harry had a few flashes against the Detroit Lions before going down with an injury during last year's preseason. He would end up missing the first half of the season and that hurt his development as a player.
A lot went into the disappointing season for the rookie wide receiver. The most important factors were missing half the season, coming from a signal offense at ASU, and how much different the PAC-12 is compared to the NFL.
Missing as much time as he did meant that he couldn't gain chemistry with Tom Brady and he couldn't get used to the speed of the NFL. Instead of having the first half of the season to get used to how much faster the NFL is compared to college, Harry was thrown into the hardest part of the schedule for the Patriots. He wasn't allowed a real opportunity to ease into the league.
The change in offenses was also massive for N'Keal Harry. His ex-teammate Brandon Aiyuk spoke about it at the combine this year. “We were a signal offense (at ASU),” Aiyuk said to NESN at the NFL Combine. “So for (Harry), going into camp, he was hearing NFL play calls and verbiage for the first time. So that’s one thing I’ve been working on this offseason, even before I get into camp, just so I can get used to hearing it.”
The jump from college to the NFL can be huge for players in general, but it can be especially hard for wide receivers. This is because for many wide receivers, they never really see press coverage while they're in college. A lot of defenses do not deploy press coverage often, so wide receivers are not able to get used to it. This can lead to a big shock in the NFL when corners press much more frequently.
Now, for this film review I want to focus on what Harry is already good at and what he's going to bring to the team in 2020.
N'Keal Harry, #15, is a very physical player. He loves to make his presence felt and he does a great job of that all over the field. Harry's physicality as a blocker helps the Patriots offense and it might be able to help spring big plays.
N'Keal Harry is a very strong player. When he was able to play last season, New England would use Harry to knock defensive ends off of their spots. In this clip Harry blocks Derek Barnett and gets him to the ground. Harry is a very aggressive blocker and a very physical one.
There are two separate plays in this clip but they both show the same thing. Both of these clips show Harry's aggressiveness and how physical of a blocker he is going up against Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White. Harry wanted to make White a complete non-factor on both these plays and he's able to do so.
This clip is like the first run blocking clip, except in this one Harry takes out a linebacker. Harry is a finisher type of blocker instead of a blocker that is happy with a stalemate. He wants to knock a defender down and finish his blocks and he does a great job on this play doing just that. Finishing a block like this one makes it so that there is one less player that can stop this run.
Red Zone Ability
While at ASU, Harry showed off his ability to make highlight-reel catches all over the field. Harry was able to finish very hard catches with a defender on him and this ability can help a lot in the red zone. Harry can go up and finish catches that other receivers would not be able to.
This is Harry's first ever touchdown in the NFL and he shows off his great body control and his ability to adjust to the ball. Harry is matched up against Byron Jones on this play and he is able to beat the veteran corner. Tom Brady puts this ball where only Harry can make a play on it and Harry adjusts to the pass well and is able to complete the catch for the only touchdown of the game.
On this play, Harry does an awesome of job of keeping the play alive and improvising for his quarterback. The Patriots offensive line is amazing on this play and they're able to keep the pocket clean for an absurd amount of time. This gives Harry, who wasn't open initially, to go inside and get open and score.
Fighting Through Contact
N'Keal Harry is against Byron Jones again in this clip and does a great job fighting through contact and defeating Jones' hands. I usually only talk about defeating hands when it comes to battles between offensive lineman and edge rushers/defensive lineman. However, hand fighting is very important when it comes too wide receivers vs. cornerbacks. Jones gets his hands on Harry first, but watch Harry swipe his hands away and continue his route unfazed by the contact.
Harry's Ability to Threaten Vertically
This play didn't stand because of a penalty on Julian Edelman, but this is a very promising moment from Harry. Harry is able to beat his man deep and the safety isn't able to rotate over in time because this is a single-high defense and Harry released outside. Harry beats his man and then is able to adjust to the ball perfectly and bring it in. This could have been a huge gain for the offense but it does show us what Harry can do in 2020.
On this play, the Bills run a single-high defense just like the Bengals did, and Tre'Davious White is going one-on-one against Harry. Harry is able to release outside and he's able to defeat White's hands and get vertical. Harry is able to get a few steps on White and this could have gone for a huge gain if Brady was able to throw the ball to Harry.
This is another great example of how well Harry is able to adjust to balls and finish the catch. Harry releases outside again on this play and is able to fight through the contact on this route. He slows down and brings in this ball on the sidelines for a solid gain. Harry is going to be a legitimate vertical threat with his contested catch ability and how well he is able to adjust to passes.
Harry After the Catch
Not only is Harry good at contested catch situations and adjusting to passes, Harry is special once he has the ball in his hands. He is a natural at making people miss, letting his blocks develop, and hitting the right lanes. Once Harry gets the ball, he's able to do a lot of damage.
To get Harry the ball more, Josh McDaniels drew up plays such as end-arounds, sweeps, screen, and even had him lined up in the backfield at times. This was to let Harry do what he is best at -- make plays with the ball in his hands.
McDaniels draws up a screen for Harry in this clip and Harry is able to give a sneak peek into how good he can be once he is able to get the ball. Malcolm Jenkins gets an opportunity to bring Harry down almost right away, but Harry is able to avoid the tackle and pick up some yards. Plays like this aren't very flashy, but they are the difference between negative yards and a long 2nd down or a positive pick up and a manageable 2nd down.
Here, the Patriots put Harry in motion so he is able to hit top speed quickly. McDaniels draws up a perfect play here. By faking the run and having the entire offensive line commit to the run to the right, the Chiefs defense bites and you can see the linebackers commit to the right side to try and stop the run. This opens up the left side of the field for Harry and he is able to break two tackles for what should have been a touchdown. At the combine, Harry came in at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds. He is a huge dude and hard to bring down. Once he gets the ball, a lot of defenders bounce off of him.
Harry again shows off how hard it is to tackle him at times, especially when he's moving. He is able to hit top speed quickly here because of the sweep and once he is at top speed, he is incredibly hard to tackle. These plays can pick up solid yardage every time they are called because of how talented a player Harry is.
Harry is a patient runner and also has great vision. Harry lets Matt LaCosse engage the safety here and he cuts it outside to pick up some extra yards. Harry is a natural at finding the correct lane and hitting it to pick up as many yards as he can. Harry can do these plays in 2020 to help the offense and doesn't even need to get the ball to make an impact.
This is a perfect example of how Harry can affect the play and the defense without even touching the ball. New England fakes the sweep here and watch how the linebacker, #50, is forced to bite on the sweep to make sure Harry doesn't get free yards. This opens up the defense a bit and makes it easier to run the ball. Harry can run fakes like this at any point in the game and defenses will be forced to respect it, otherwise Harry can make a big play.
Harry's vision and his ability to run through arm tackles is on full display on this play. He sees that Shaq Lawson is attacking the outside of Ted Karras, which is shutting down that lane for Harry to hit. Harry then goes inside of Karras and runs through Lawson's arm tackle and runs through another arm tackle. Weak tackle attempts won't do anything to Harry, he'll run right through them and pick up extra yards.
This final clip is a more traditional wide receiver clip but it still shows off the damage that Harry can do once he gets the ball. Harry runs a curl against this corner and he shows off how hard it can be to bring him down and how he seeks out contact. Harry is able to break this corner's tackle attempt and when the safety goes to tackle him, Harry lowers his shoulder looking for contact. Harry is a mean and physical runner.
Harry has a lot to work on such as his route running and releases but he's been busy working hard at those aspects of his game. If Harry is able to improve those parts of his game and elevate them, he will be a very scary player. Harry will be looking to have a breakout year this year and I believe that he is capable of doing that.