N’Keal Harry: New England Patriots Rookie Review

The 2019 Patriots are a thing of the past, which means it’s time to look back and see where the young players on the roster stand moving forward. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry had an up-and-down 2019, but does he have what it takes to maximize his ability in 2020?

New England Patriots Rookie Review: N’Keal Harry

2019 In Review

N’Keal Harry started the 2019 season literally on the wrong foot. The rookie suffered an ankle injury in his preseason debut and began the year on the short-term injured reserve. Once activated, Harry slowly but surely became a larger part of New England’s offense. While he never had a breakout performance, the Patriots started to find new and creative ways to get him the ball down the stretch.

The Patriots drafted Harry to be a big-bodied contested-catch specialist, and he flashed those traits as a rookie. Harry’s first touchdown was a thing of beauty, as the Arizona State product hauled in a perfect back-shoulder throw against the Dallas Cowboys. He was more than just a one-play wonder, as Harry made quite a few contested grabs against the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins.

Harry can be dangerous in the open field, and Josh McDaniels did everything in his power to scheme him into open space. Harry is hard to bring down with a full head of steam, as evidenced by his success on end-arounds and his great non-touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course, Harry wasn’t perfect in 2019. The rookie wasn’t always on the same page as Tom Brady, which is obviously a bad thing. However, this isn’t a death sentence for Harry’s career, as New England has one of the most complex offenses in the league. Harry and Brady’s connection should improve with a full offseason under their collective belts.

This biggest concern for Harry’s future involves his ability to separate. This was Harry’s biggest flag coming out of college, and he hasn’t done much to change that narrative. According to CLNS’ Evan Lazar, Harry ranked 143rd out of 143 eligible receivers in separation per route run. This obviously isn’t great, and the film doesn’t paint a prettier picture.

N’Keal Harry In 2020

N’Keal Harry is going to have a chance to earn a large role in New England’s offense next year. Julian Edelman is the star of the show, but the Patriots need somebody else to step up opposite him. Mohamed Sanu didn’t impress during his time in New England and Phillip Dorsett is a free agent. Jakobi Meyers looked good as a rookie, but he doesn’t have the highest ceiling.

Harry’s relative inability to separate is going to be a large obstacle to overcome. It’s possible to succeed in the NFL without getting open, but you need to be just about perfect at every other part of being a wide receiver. Harry demonstrated an impressive catch radius as a rookie and Josh McDaniels found ways to scheme him open. Once he has the ball in space, Harry is remarkably tough to bring down and has the ability to turn out chunk plays.

Personally, I’d be pleasantly surprised if Harry ever overcomes his separation issues and develops into a true star. However, he definitely belongs in the NFL and can be an effective weapon when utilized properly. He already demonstrated an ability to be a dangerous red zone weapon and should only improve with more experience.

When not in the red zone, Harry could serve as a souped-up version of Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s better at the catch point than Patterson ever was, but Harry won’t ever be open by more than two or three yards without schematic assistance. Just like he did with Patterson, Josh McDaniels should be able to scheme up some open looks and allow Harry to make plays in the open field.

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