Counterpoint: The Patriots Went the Risky Route in Picking N’Keal Harry

News-PressBill Belichick finally made an exception to address his aerial attack. The New England Patriots drafted Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry with the No. 32 pick in Thursday’s NFL draft, marking the first time Belichick selected a player at the position in the first round since he became coach of the franchise

First and utmost the Pats got the guy Mattes wanted so hat tip to him. Good stuff.

Secondly, I don’t have any ill will toward N’Keal Harry nor am I trying to aimlessly “hate” on him. He plays for my fucking team now, I hope he goes out there and crushes it and has me on the bandwagon by Week 2. I just would have preferred AJ Brown as with Harry I have concerns. Big ones.

Since forever, NFL teams have had an affinity for big WRs. They have very good, very obvious reasons. The majority of defensive backfields have, for the most part, been made up of speedy guys that max out at 6’0″, mirroring the typical size for a receiver. It’s simple human mechanics – smaller usually means faster, to an extent. Therefore, having a 6’4 behemoth that runs like his smaller counterparts and can pivot on a dime, leaving the pigmy DB to fall over in disgrace is a gigantic advantage. In the far reaches of our lifetime, guys like Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson rebirthed the big WR. They were soon followed by Randy Moss and a couple of others that carried the torch that burned until 2006, when Megatron was drafted and the hunger for big WRs reached epidemic levels.

Here’s where things get murky. The reason guys like Moss worked out is because he runs like a fucking deer on top of being 6’4. He didn’t just use his size as leverage to get open. The reason we don’t see a lot of the “chain mover”-types like Keyshawn anymore is because DBs have simply caught up to their ability. It doesn’t matter how big you are nowadays, if you can’t separate from an NFL DB they are going to make your life hell.

That hasn’t stopped NFL teams though from taking fliers on big uber-productive college WRs that aren’t burners. They see size as size. And guess what? A lot of these picks don’t pan out. For every Tyler Boyd, Corey Davis, and Michael Thomas, there is a Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Devante Parker, or Breshad Perriman. The name I am afraid to even utter, and that gave me cold sweats when thinking about the Pats potentially drafting Harry, is Jaelen Strong. Strong also hailed from the A State Sun Devils wide open offense. He had striking similar measurements (6’2 220 lbs, 4.40 40) as well as stats in his last year in Tempe. He was selected in the early 3rd in 2015 by the Texans after slipping due to speed concerns. Strong amassed 330 yards and 4 TDs in three seasons before tearing his ACL in 2017 and missing last season. Yikes.

K’Neal Harry has literally the same issues as Jaelen Strong. They are both big guys who posted decent 40 times but that scouts say lack “breakaway speed.” So Harry isn’t a quintessential downfield threat, that’s no big deal right? Wrong. He also isn’t seen as having great quickness in and out of breaks or that “fast-twitch” speed scouts look for in wide receivers in order to gain separation. Basically, when face up with an NFL-caliber defensive back and not some guy from Utah who goes at 5’10 with a 4.7 40, how the hell is K’Neal Harry planning to get open? Against the league’s elite? I just don’t know.

Again, despite the amount of words I just used to tear him down, I hope the Harry-Pats relationship works out. There are just things you just can’t teach – A QB can have a huge arm but can’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, a DE could be an athletic freak but just not “mean” enough, and some of these big WRs just don’t have the quicks to get open.

Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

-Joey B.

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