When Bill Belichick made N’Keal Harry the 32nd overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft, it gave New England Patriots fans hope about the future of the team’s offense. After all, Belichick had never spent a first-round pick on a receiver before taking the big-bodied playmaker from Arizona State.
But while Harry looks like a draft whiff, the Patriots have another second-year receiver who has surpassed expectations. And based on his production in limited opportunities, Jakobi Meyers deserves to permanently replace Harry in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.
N’Keal Harry has failed to live up to his first-round billing
Bill Belichick surprised many by drafting N’Keal Harry with the final pick of the first round in 2019. But given the Patriots’ lack of depth at receiver, it made sense to take a shot on the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder. Plus, with wideouts demanding pricier contracts, the chance to secure four years of Harry’s services for $10 million (plus a fifth-year option) represented a smart financial investment by the Patriots.
However, after showcasing dynamic run-after-the-catch and big-play ability in college, Harry has failed to make an impact in New England.
Injuries have been a major problem for the 22-year-old. Harry played just seven regular-season games as a rookie after starting the season on injured reserve. A lack of chemistry with Tom Brady resulted in just 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Even with Cam Newton taking over as the team’s starting quarterback, the second-year wideout hasn’t made any big plays in the passing game. Before suffering a concussion in Week 7, Harry had totaled just 19/172/1 on 32 targets.
Meanwhile, several receivers drafted after him have already become stars. Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers totaled 57/802/3 as a rookie and should be a Pro Bowl selection sooner than later. A.J. Brown—who went 19 picks after Harry—averaged 20.2 yards per catch on 52 receptions in his first year in the league.
Of course, D.K. Metcalf has quickly made NFL teams regret letting him slip to the 64th pick. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound wideout has already caught 14 touchdowns in 23 career games and looks like a future perennial All-Pro.
Jakobi Meyers earned a roster spot after going undrafted in 2019
With N’Keal Harry trending dangerously close to “bust” territory, it may be time for the Patriots to pull the plug on the disappointing receiver. But if there’s any silver lining, New England has another second-year wideout who can permanently replace him in the starting lineup.
Though he never heard his name called during the 2019 NFL draft, Jakobi Meyers has outproduced his first-round teammate. A former quarterback, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder moved to wide receiver on a full-time basis during his final two years at North Carolina State. And while he may lack dynamic athleticism, Meyers’ route-running and strong hands make him a quality NFL receiver.
In his rookie season, he played 15 games (one start) and recorded 26 catches for 359 yards. Considering he made the team as an undrafted free agent, that production certainly should have given the Patriots reason to make Meyers a more integral part of the offense in 2020.
The Patriots have found a replacement for their $10 million mistake
Yet, despite all of their problems on that side of the ball, Jakobi Meyers barely saw the field in New England’s first five games. However, with Harry missing time with a concussion, Meyers has stepped up in a big way for a Patriots team desperate for playmakers.
Against the 49ers, he totaled four catches for 60 yards. On Sunday, Meyers followed up with six catches for 58 yards. He also caught a two-point conversion in the team’s 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Overall, his ability to consistently get open and gain yards after the catch makes him the Patriots’ best receiver right now. Josh McDaniels needs to find ways to get the ball in Meyers’ hands as much as possible if New England has any chance of experiencing a second-half turnaround.
At this point, Harry may just be a lost cause, but the Patriots at least have a legitimate starting-caliber receiver in Meyers. And ultimately, the 23-year-old should replace New England’s $10 million mistake in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.