The New England Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round in 2019. By this time, they were expecting him to have blossomed into the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Instead, there is legitimate concern as to whether he’ll make the 53-man roster or traded to a team that believes they can help him revitalize his career.
Patriots analyst and 98.5 The Sports Hub personality Alex Barth released his predictions for the main roster heading into Week 1 of the 2021 season, and Harry didn’t make his list. Barth instead predicts 2020 UDFA Isaiah Zuber will slide in to claim what the former believes will be the fifth and final WR slot.
Barth predicts the Patriots will have Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and Zuber as their five receivers.
It doesn’t seem likely the Patriots would simply release 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry. At the same time, the team seems to have shifted its preferences at the receiver position, and he looked like an odd man out at times this spring. There were rumors during the opening weeks of free agency that there were multiple teams interested in trading for Harry, who has two concrete years remaining on his contract as well as a fifth-year option. If Harry pops this summer, the team could look to move him for an early-to-mid Day 3 draft pick. In Harry’s spot, the Patriots elect to keep Isaiah Zuber. Zuber’s versatility – both being able to play all over the offensive formation and contribute on special teams – make him the best option for the final receiver spot.
Is 5 Wide Receivers Enough?
The Patriots plan to run a lot of two-tight-end looks which already takes a wide receiver off the field. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, New England has seen some impressive work from second-year tight end Devin Asiasi, which suggests there could be one less spot for receivers.
Second-year tight end Devin Asiasi looks like a different player, and he is one of several Patriots who stand out when considering the benefits of spring practices for younger players. Wide receiver Isaiah Zuber and Uche are among the others who fall into that category. Asiasi (6-foot-3, 257 pounds) had one of the best plays of practice Thursday, hauling in a deep pass from Brian Hoyer, with Dugger in coverage. The play sparked a thought: For all the possibilities a two-tight-end set of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry presents, there’s also intriguing potential with a three-tight-end package that includes Asiasi, the 2020 third-round pick.
If New England runs 10 plays with three tight ends per game, that might be a high enough of a percentage to comfortably keep five receivers active all season. That might not be the best news for Harry and guys like Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon and Devin White.
Zuber Was Super in OTAs and Minicamp
If you’re wondering how Zuber became a candidate to stick on the roster, you need only to take a gander at some of the reports from OTAs and minicamp.
CLNS’ Evan Lazar wrote:
Zuber is setting himself up for a push to make the roster this summer based on way-too-early impressions. He has NFL receiver speed, size and is improving his routes. Zuber got inside safety Adrian Colbert on a deep post pattern and then caught Jalen Mills backpedaling before breaking on a speed out. As he improves as a receiver, Zuber adds value as a returner and ball carrier on offense (sweeps, end arounds, etc.). It’s early, but I like his chances to make the team more and more.
Zuber has some momentum and Harry might not be able to hold him off.
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