By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
In 2019 Bill Belichick did something he'd never done before - select a wide receiver with a first-round pick. Naturally the player chosen with that selection, N'Keal Harry, has been under a microscope since first arriving in New England.
It hasn't helped that - while Harry was slow out of the gate due to injuries his rookie year - some of the players taken after him have emerged as stars. Harry was the second wide receiver off the board in 2019 (32nd overall), following Marquise Brown of the Ravens (25th overall). Among those selected after Harry were A.J. Brown (51st), D.K. Metcalf (64th), Terry McLaurin (76th), and Darius Slayton (171st).
On Thursday, Harry was asked if it's been tough to watch other wideouts from his draft class have their careers take off while he continues to get his footing in the NFL.
"No, I can’t compare my situation to anybody else," Harry told reporters. "Just like D.K. [Metcalf] can’t compare his situation to A.J. [Brown] and A.J. can’t really compare his situation to D.K. We’re all in different positions."
Different positions, indeed. Guys like Brown, Metcalf, and McLaurin all were drafted by teams with young, raw receiving groups on their roster. They were basically day one starters. Harry, after missing most of the preseason due to an injury, joined a veteran offense as a rookie and had to fight for reps against experienced NFL pass catchers in Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu.
While Metcalf and Brown are both more or less veterans at this point, Harry still doesn't have a full season under his belt. The 22-year-old has just 11 NFL games and 52 NFL targets to his name.
Harry acknowledged the disparity, saying, "I know I’m in a different situation and I’m just going to just, everyday, go out there and work on ways to improve and stay patient and trust God’s timing. That’s my philosophy."
So no, it's not like Harry was sitting back during the bye week, watching his fellow second-year receivers, thinking 'why not me?'
"My mindset is doing whatever coach needs me to do," he said. "At the end of the day, I’m not too worried about personal stats and stuff like that."
Many want to criticize the Patriots for making Harry their first round one wide receiver in over two decades (the last was Terry Glenn in 1996). But it's not that simple. First, it's not like they were the only team to pass on guys like Brown, Metcalf, and McLaurin. Most other teams passed on those guys not once, but twice.
On top of that, it's no guarantee that any of those other players would have had success in New England, or that Harry would have started slow elsewhere. So much of the draft process, especially at a position as scheme-specific as wide receiver, is about fit. And there's no denying that in Harry, they have a fit.
"I’m worried about getting a win," he remarked, when asked if his slow start compared to the rest of his draft class 'frustrates' him. "I hate losing. I hate losing more than I love winning so that’s my No. 1 goal, to win the game and do whatever I can to help us win the game."
You're not going to find a mindset that fits the Patriots any more than that.
So while the discussion around Harry and his draft class will continue, he's tuning out the noise. The reality is he's in the situation he's in, now he just has to make the most of it, regardless of what's happening around the league.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].