For the first time in the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots drafted a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL draft.
With the 32nd and final pick in the opening round Thursday, the Patriots selected Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
At 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, Harry is a big-bodied target who lined up both outside and in the slot for the Sun Devils. He was incredibly productive at the collegiate level, surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons.
As a junior in 2018, Harry caught 73 passes for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games.
Harry, who hauled in 22 touchdown passes over his three years at Arizona State, is renowned for his big-play potential, contested catch prowess and ability to generate yards after the catch. The 21-year-old also is considered an above-average blocker.
The Patriots hosted Harry for an official pre-draft visit earlier this month.
“His experience playing inside should help, and teams will love his impact as a run-blocker,” Lance Zierlein wrote in Harry’s NFL.com draft profile, comparing him to Allen Robinson of the Chicago Bears. “His competitiveness and ability to come down with the ball could make him a productive member of wide receiver trio in short order.”
Here are Harry’s measurables and combine/pro day testing numbers (asterisks indicate pro day results):
Weight: 228 pounds
Hand size: 9 1/2 inches
Arm length: 33 inches
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Bench press: 27
Vertical jump: 38 1/2 inches
Broad jump: 122 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.05 seconds*
Short shuttle: 4.28 seconds*
Harry fills a glaring need for the Patriots, who lacked reliable receiver depth behind Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman. He joins Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson and special teamer Matthew Slater on the WR depth chart, with Josh Gordon potentially joining that group, as well, if his indefinite suspension is lifted.
Before Thursday, the highest the Patriots had drafted a wide receiver under Belichick was 36th overall (Chad Jackson, 2006). They hadn’t taken one in the first three rounds since Aaron Dobson went 59th overall in 2013.
New England currently owns 11 additional picks over the final six rounds: two second-rounders (Nos. 56 and 64), three third-rounders (Nos. 73, 97 and 101), one fourth-rounder (No. 134), one sixth-rounder (No. 205) and four seventh-rounders (Nos. 239, 243, 246 and 252).
Rounds 2 and 3 will take place Friday in primetime, with Rounds 4 through 7 following Saturday afternoon.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images