The question is: how big of a mistake? Was the decision to draft Harry so bad that it ranks as the single worst player acquisition in Bill Belichick’s history as the head man with the organization?
At least one person thinks so and he might be on the something.
Is N’Keal Harry the Worst Acquisition on Bill Belichick’s Watch?
Some times we hear comments or read headlines that sound like the writer is a prisoner of the moment. I might even be guilty of this at times. The one written by Barstool Sports’ Jerry Thornton might sound like that initially, but upon further examination of his story: “N’Keal Harry Might’ve Clinched the Title of Worst Acquisition of Belichick’s Career Last Night,” there are tons of reasons to think he has a point.
Barstool Sports’ Jerry Thornton explains his concept.
For the purposes of this conversation, I’m not differentiating between between draft capital, money, and value surrendered in a trade. I’m lumping them all into one big, undefined category of Assets Given Up versus Return on Investment and trying to determine whether any player has ever cost so much and provided so little as N’Keal Harry has.
Thornton points out Harry’s failure to learn the playbook, his lack of production in general and more hurtfully, his lack of impact when compared to other wide receivers taken in the same draft. For an extra sting, Thornton pointed out Harry’s modest stats alongside teammate Jakobi Meyers, who came into the NFL the same season, but was undrafted.
Thornton admittedly answers his own inquiry when he says:
So yeah, to ask and answer my own question, N’Keal Harry is the worst player acquisition in the glorious history of the Belichick Era. Until further notice, meaning if he actually starts producing. Which is beyond what I allow myself to expect out of this guy. Unless he’s supposed to go into motion and just gets lost on the way.
Here is something Thornton doesn’t mention in his still-thorough examination of the disaster that is Harry’s presence on the Patriots’ roster: he may be indirectly responsible for the exit of Tom Brady.
Hear me out. It is largely believed that Brady, while perhaps looking to seek greatness apart from Belichick, was also not enamored with his team’s offensive weapons. Brady made the best of a tough situation in 2019, Harry’s rookie year, and put up numbers most wouldn’t have been able to muster because of his football IQ, passing accuracy and mastery of Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Still, he knew there wasn’t a lot in New England in the way of passing weapons. The Patriots knew that as well in spring of 2019, which is why they drafted Harry in the first round. New England was counting on Harry becoming an elite, No. 1 receiver, that didn’t happen.
Not only did he not show much promise from an on-field production standpoint, Harry got injured (playing in just 7 games) and seemingly lost Brady’s trust and confidence along the way. Harry had a total of 24 targets as a rookie despite starting five games.
It is believed Harry was drafted to serve as “bait” to entice Brady to stay in New England. It’s clear the bait didn’t work. However, imagine Harry showed the promise of say, the Tennessee Titans’ A.J. Brown, the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf, or even the San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel (all of whom were drafted in 2019 after New England took Harry) do you think Brady leaves for Tampa Bay?
Maybe he does, but it’s at least fair to think it’s a harder decision for the GOAT to make.
N’Keal Harry Linked to Trade Speculation
So when will Harry’s tenure in New England end?
ESPN’s Mike Reiss believes the Patriots might still be able to flip Harry for a late-round pick.
He recently wrote:
Harry has contributed to the Patriots’ offense in a niche role since coming off injured reserve and is behind Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne on the depth chart. But a team perhaps envisioning a greater role for him — projecting that a change of scenery could result in more promise reflective of his first-round draft status (No. 32 overall in 2019) — might be able to entice the Patriots to move him for modest compensation (e.g., a Day 3 draft pick).
Scott Carasik of USA Today considers him a fit for the Atlanta Falcons.
I’ve written this statement in some form multiple times over the past year, because it remains true: it’s time for the Patriots and Harry to go their separate ways.
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