FOXBORO — Patriots first-round pick N’Keal Harry had only been in New England a few short hours after taking a red-eye late Wednesday night, but in a short period of time he was able to make the organization and fan base feel good about their selection.
The Arizona State wide out was introduced to the New England media at Gillette Stadium Thursday afternoon where he said all the right things, especially when it came to being able to contribute to his new team in Year 1.
There’s a lot of pressure on the 21-year-old as he’s the first wide receiver ever selected in the first round by Bill Belichick, and he’s also about to work with Tom Brady, who arguably demands the most out of his receivers of any quarterback in the entire NFL.
But, that’s just fine with him.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Harry said. “I’m the type of player that wants to get better, I want to get coached hard, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Immediately following the draft, many compared the 6-foot-2 wide out to a number of successful NFL receivers including Dez Bryant (by his head coach last year Herm Edwards) and even Josh Gordon.
These comparisons come from his ability to make contested catches and his terrific hands. As a junior at Arizona State, Harry caught 73 passes for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns, which came following a sophomore year that saw him total 82 receptions for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns.
Even with those comparisons, Harry knows he hasn’t accomplished anything yet.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be compared to those types of players. But I still have to prove myself,” he said. “I haven’t done anything in the NFL yet so it’s my job to put in the work and to perform and to live up to the expectations.”
Given the current Patriots receivers depth chart, Harry will be asked to certainly contribute from the start, maybe more than any other rookie wide out in the Belichick era. As of Friday, here’s who is in the wide receivers room: Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Matthew Slater, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis and Xavier Ubosi.
Josh Gordon should also be considered, but since he’s still suspended he is not on the active roster.
Besides Edelman, there’s a lot of question marks from not only a performance standpoint, but just the ability to get on the field since a few of them have a history with injuries.
If everything goes as planned, it would seem like Harry is looking at a No. 3/4 receiver role with his main job being working the outside of the field on comeback routes, as well as being able to be a big target in the red zone. This is something Brady hasn’t had in a while — at least from a wide receiver.
Developing chemistry with the 41-year-old won’t be easy either considering Brady likely will only be with the team for the three-day mandatory minicamp in early June until training camp begins in late July. There, a ton of work will need to get done in a short period of time.
But, based on what we know about Harry so far, he’s up for the task.
“I just feel like we’re all held to a higher standard, everybody in the building,” Harry said. “That’s what I need, that’s what everybody needs to progress and to advance. So I’m looking forward to it.”
While Harry has proven nothing on the field yet, it certainly seems like he has what it takes and that should make the Patriots feel good about their selection.