There could be more to N'Keal Harry's 2019 season than just dropped passes and failed expectations.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in New England Patriots 2019 first round draft pick N'keal Harry's rookie season. The best way to describe his first year in the NFL would probably be underwhelming, and believe it or not Harry actually became a topic of conversation at the 2020 NFL combine, with the Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock giving his insight on what happened with Harry in 2019, also Harry's former ASU teammates Brandon Aiyuk.
Before we get into what those two guys had to say about Harry, let's take a quick look at his 2019 season. Things couldn't have started off worse for Harry. He injured himself during training camp, battled his way back to the preseason, and he was injured again, leading N'Keal Harry to open up the first half of his rookie year on the IR. He spent two months recovering, and he finally made his debut for the Patriots against the Philadelphia Eagles on week 11, after that he played seven straight games for the Patriots and he wasn't able to create much on offense.
His less than spectacular season led to only 12 catches on 24 targets for 105 yards. At no point this season did N'keal Harry have more than three catches in a game or more than 29 receiving yards. He caught only two touchdowns in his hoodie campaign.One of those Touchdowns came against the Dallas Cowboys, and one versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Ultimately, I think we can all agree N'keal Harry did not live up to the expectations that we had for him when he was drafted.
Harry's season left Tom Brady growing frustrated with his receiving Corps, and some people claiming that N'KealHarry was a draft bust. Obviously only catching 50% of your targets is not good enough in the NFL, especially for a first-round draft pick. According to Henry McKenna a Patriots Wire, there could be more to N'Keal Harry's 2019 season than just dropped passes and failed expectations. Nobody was making excuses for Harry, but Mayock and Aiyuk just give us a better insight to what he went through his rookie year.
At the Combine, Mike Mayock was asked about wide receivers transitioning from college to the NFL and Mayock referenced N'keal Harry a lot during his press conference. But he also gave us some more insight on what the transition looks like for a young receiver.
“It’s just how much offense you have to absorb… I’ve met with some of the college wideouts already this year, and what they’re doing, half of them are doing this (turning his head) pre-snap. They look over to the sideline, and they have their own individual coach telling them what route to run… You better get in there and get in the huddle, and you better learn three positions, not one. What (an NFL coach) is asking you to learn is mind-boggling.”
Those words from Mayock are really telling, and it's also a good example of how complicated the NFL is. Even in another professional league like the XFL, coaches are more hands-on with their wide receivers. In the NFL, coaches are hands-off during gameplay. I remember finding it very strange when I was watching the first XFL game and DC Defenders coach Pep Hamilton was speaking directly to his wide receivers who were wearing a mic helmet, and he was telling them what routes to run, and also giving instructions and reminding them on a trick play not to move too quickly up the field.
By the time a receiver gets from the NCAA to the NFL, they won't have that kind of individual instruction during the game. So for somebody like N'keal Harry who's basically learning how to play wide receiver at the professional level, missing so much time with his team and actually running plays seriously hindered his growth his rookie season.
Brandon Aiyuk was able to give us even more of an insight because he understands the type of transition that N'keal Harry had to make, and he even explained the difference between the ASU offense in NFL offense.
“We were a signal offense (at ASU). So for (Harry), going into camp, he was hearing NFL play calls and verbiage for the first time. So that’s one thing I’ve been working on this offseason, even before I get into camp, just so I can get used to hearing it.”
Good on Aiyuk for getting himself prepared to enter the NFL, and maybe that's where we could criticize Harry for not doing the same thing. But, when you listen to what Mayock and Aiyuk had to say, it does sort of give us an explanation of why Harry's progress was so slow as he was trying to acclimatize himself to the Patriots offense, and learning their playbook. Adding into that, the Patriots have one of the most complicated offenses in the National Football League probably didn't help him. That's why Harry staying healthy this spring and giving himself a good opportunity to work with the starters will be crucial in Harry having a bounce-back year in 2020