Perhaps all N’Keal Harry needed to do for the past two years is request a trade.
Ever since Harry’s agent asked the New England Patriots to trade his client, the 2019 first-round pick has done nothing but shine at training camp. Tuesday’s session, which was the first one with pads, was no exception.
Harry is beginning to look like the player the Patriots hoped he’d become as a one-on-one threat and as a blocker for runs to the outside.
Harry is Making Plays at Receiver
Ever since Harry was a star at Arizona State, he has excelled in one-on-one situations against defensive backs, out-muscling them and catching jump balls. His combination of size and athleticism provide potential for a serious red-zone threat–if nothing else.
Early on in training camp, we’re seeing some of those gifts shine through.
Pat’s Pulpit’s Ryan Spagnoli and Bernd Buchmasser called Harry one of the biggest winners after Day 6 of training camp. They wrote:
Harry was able to take advantage of his size and physicality during 1-on-1 drills, making a pair of back shoulder catches despite being closely guarded by Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams; he also caught a fade versus Michael Jackson. While he did not have a catch in an 11-on-11 setting from either quarterback, he did look good on Tuesday.
If Harry can continue to win in one-on-one situations, while also making some plays in 11-on-11 drills, the conversation around him may start to change.
Harry is Making Plays as a Blocker
Few wide receivers in the NFL are as big and strong as Harry. His strength and aggressiveness in the run game make him a potentially valuable blocker. We saw a smidgeon of that on Tuesday, and it nearly led to a dust-up between him and the defense who took exception to a spirited block thrown against second-year defensive back Kyle Dugger.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe described the situation:
Harry appeared to knock off Dugger’s helmet with a block. Uche and several defenders took exception to the play, then the defense was late on a personnel change for the ensuing play. Belichick wasn’t amused and sent the entire defense on a penalty lap.
In practice, that might upset a few teammates. However, if Harry carries that into the regular season and his nastiness in the blocking game helps to spring a few outside runs, every Patriots player will love him for it.
More importantly, it could help to solidify him a roster spot.
Harry Could Simply Be Improving His Trade Value
The trade request hasn’t been forgotten, nor has the struggles Harry has had throughout his first 2 years in the league. Because of that, it is possible the Patriots might still want to move on without him.
If they can continue to give him opportunities to shine, and he takes advantage of the chances to reinvent himself, Harry might actually make himself more attractive to perspective trade suitors.
That could be the masterplan. If the Patriots can find someone to take Harry’s salary, while parting ways with a draft pick, it could be a win for both sides.