Bill Belichick surprised many by taking N’Keal Harry 32nd overall in the 2019 NFL draft. After all, A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel seemed like better stylistic fits. Still, New England Patriots fans rightfully got excited about the prospect of Tom Brady throwing passes to a first-round receiver.
However, the Harry experiment has been an abject failure. And on Saturday, Belichick fired a warning shot at the disappointing wideout by signing his potential replacement to the active roster.
Will Harry find a way to turn his career around before it’s too late? Or will his continued struggles lead to an early exit from Foxborough?
N’Keal Harry has been a major disappointment for the Patriots
N’Keal Harry put up big-time numbers at Arizona State. Yet, he has failed to make any meaningful impact since Bill Belichick made him the final pick of the first round in 2019.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver missed most of his rookie year with an injury. And by the time he did return, he could not get on the same page as Brady. Harry’s rookie season ended with just 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, a fresh start with a new quarterback has not led to different results for Harry. After catching 13 passes during the first two games of the season, he has totaled just 11 more receptions.
Although he continues to play a bulk of the offensive snaps, the big-bodied receiver has mostly been relegated to blocking duties. Stunningly, he has more penalties than touchdown catches in his second year in the league.
Bill Belichick just put the former first-round pick on alert
Given his draft pedigree, N’Keal Harry is flirting dangerously close to bust territory. With just 24 catches in nine games, he has failed to become the No. 1 receiver the Patriots desperately need. In fact, wasn’t a former first-round pick, it’s fair to question whether he would even get on the field.
And while Bill Belichick won’t come out and say it directly, it sure seems like he has had enough of the Harry experiment. In fact, it’s hard to interpret New England’s latest signing as anything but a direct warning shot at Harry.
On Saturday, the Patriots officially signed Donte Moncrief to the 53-man roster. The veteran had been on the practice squad, but now he has a chance to contribute as a pass-catching option for Cam Newton.
Given the fact that he has spent the majority of his NFL career as a perimeter receiver, Moncrief could very well take over Harry’s spot in the offense. At 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, he has the size to make plays against smaller defensive backs. Plus, he showed off his speed by returning a kickoff for 53 yards in New England’s win against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday.
More importantly, though, Belichick has officially put Harry on alert by signing Moncrief to the active roster. If he gets outplayed in practice, he could lose his starting spot. And even if the Patriots don’t make a change right away, they shouldn’t hesitate to bench Harry if he continues to make mistakes on the field.
What does the future hold for Harry?
By signing Donte Moncrief, Bill Belichick just sent N’Keal Harry a message that his job is far from secure. But will that motivate the former first-round pick to step up his game before it’s too late?
At this point, the Patriots no longer can afford to keep putting Harry on the field if he can’t contribute in the passing game. Teams don’t draft receivers in the first round to block or run trick plays. If New England has already come to the conclusion that Harry will never be more than a gadget player, it’s time to send him to the bench.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if Belichick admits he made a massive mistake by passing over other talented receiver prospects in favor of Harry. Would the Patriots be willing to cut or trade him after just two years with the team? Would New England consider moving Harry to tight end to try and salvage his career?
Belichick deviated from his norm by spending a first-round pick on a wide receiver. Unfortunately for the Patriots and their offense, it has become clear that he chose the wrong pass-catcher.
So unless N’Keal Harry suddenly becomes a reliable weapon down the stretch, don’t be surprised if New England moves on from him this offseason.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.