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San Francisco 49ers fans should make sure to give a special shoutout to Bill Belichick this Thanksgiving. After all, without his help, their beloved team would have missed out on landing a franchise-altering superstar.

And even though the New England Patriots have found a way to start winning again, it’s scary to think how much better their offense would look with a player who always seemed like a picture-perfect fit for Josh McDaniels’ system.

Bill Belichick made a foolish decision to bet big on N’Keal Harry

Coming off their sixth Super Bowl championship, the Patriots owned the final pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In desperate need of a young receiver with upside, Bill Belichick hitched his wagon to N’Keal Harry. However, betting on the former Arizona State star has backfired badly for the legendary coach.

Expected to add physicality and playmaking ability to an aging, talent-depleted offense, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound wideout hasn’t looked anything like the dominant force he did in college. Injuries have plagued Harry from the get-go, forcing him to miss valuable practice reps. Plus, he’s struggled to gain separation against NFL corners — a concern scouts had during the predraft process.

While the 23-year-old deserves credit for his strong work as a blocker, the Patriots didn’t select him 32nd overall to drive defensive backs out of the way for Damien Harris. With only 51 receptions for 517 yards and four touchdowns in 27 games (16 starts), it’s obvious Harry has fallen short of expectations.

In fact, it’s fair to call him a flat-out bust.

Fortunately for the 49ers, though, Belichick’s bizarre decision to ignore his scouts allowed Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to secure a franchise-altering superstar.

The 49ers should send the legendary coach a thank you card for helping them land a dynamic offensive star

Thanks to the greatest coach in NFL history going rogue, San Francisco got a chance to add a dynamic playmaker for Jimmy Garoppolo. By taking Harry with the final pick of the first round, the Patriots allowed Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and A.J. Brown to remain on the board heading into the second day of the draft.

To no surprise, the 49ers pounced on the opportunity to bring a talented do-it-all-weapon to the Bay Area.

And with Samuel emerging as the biggest breakout star in the league, the front office should send a thank you card to the Belichick household in time for the holidays.

Selected 36th overall, the former University of South Carolina star has made everyone forget about his lackluster 2020 campaign. Coming off an injury-plagued season in which he totaled 33 catches for 391 yards and only one touchdown, Samuel has thrust himself into the Offensive Player of the Year conversation by showcasing his wide array of skills. Not only does he boast a 54/979/5 line as a receiver, but he’s also turned 11 carries into 58 yards and two more scores.

Currently leading the league with 16 yards per touch, the 6-foot, 215-pound wideout should earn Pro Bowl honors, and he could become an All-Pro for the first time, too. Considering Samuel has totaled more yards from scrimmage (1,037) than the 49ers’ next two most-productive offensive players (running back Elijah Mitchell and tight end George Kittle have combined for 1,020), it’s clear he carries tremendous value.

Luckily for Shanahan and Lynch, they landed a No. 1 receiver who can also do damage as a ball-carrier purely because of Belichick’s foolish choice to take Harry. Samuel’s versatility and explosive run-after-the-catch ability would have fit beautifully in New England, but San Francisco secured a superstar who can carry the offense for years to come.

Is Deebo Samuel the best wide receiver from his draft class?

Looking back at the 2019 draft, there’s no doubt Belichick botched a prime opportunity to give Patriots quarterbacks a premier playmaker. Instead of bolstering the depth chart with a Pro Bowl-caliber talent, he took a leap of faith on someone who should be gone after this season.

While Harry seems destined to start over with a new team in 2022, three receivers who went off the board shortly after him look like long-term fixtures with their respective franchises. Samuel, Brown, and Metcalf should be household names for the foreseeable future, which raises an interesting question: Who’s the best wideout from that stacked 2019 class?

On one hand, it’s hard to ignore Metcalf’s 25 receiving touchdowns and come away thinking he’s the best of the bunch. However, Brown owns the advantage in yards-per-catch average (16.5 vs. 15.3) while totaling only three fewer touchdowns. Samuel can’t compete from a pure numbers standpoint due to his time with injuries, but he does have a major edge over his peers in that he’s racked up 243 yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries.

Don’t forget the 2019 class also includes several other highly productive receivers. Diontae Johnson enters Week 10 with the most career receptions (199) of any player selected that year. Terry McLaurin isn’t far behind with 195 for 2,669 yards and 15 touchdowns. And Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Marquise Brown deserves mention for turning 21 of his 156 receptions into scores.

Needless to say, the league received a substantial infusion of talent at the position two years ago.

Overall, though, it’s difficult to overlook the impact Metcalf has made since he arrived in Seattle and not put him No. 1 on the list. His rare physical gifts give him the edge over most cornerbacks, and he’s shown improvement as a route-runner.

Still, that doesn’t mean the 49ers should feel bad about their division rival drafting a game-changing wideout. Thanks to Bill Belichick bypassing Deebo Samuel in favor of N’Keal Harry, they secured a star of their own.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.


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