N'Keal Harry lands in New England after first round selection

Former ASU wide receiver N'Keal Harry goes 32nd overall to the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft

N’Keal Harry’s lifelong dream of playing professional football became a reality Thursday night as the former ASU superstar was drafted 32nd overall by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. 

Harry was only the second wide receiver taken in the first round and becomes the first Sun Devil drafted in the first round since Damarious Randall was selected 30th overall by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. 

Harry joins a New England squad lacking in weapons after the retirement of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and the departure of wide receivers Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Opportunities will likely be there for Harry from day one, as the rookie will now begin to receive passes from three-time MVP and six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady

“He was a productive player over a three-year period,” said Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio in a press conference immediately following the draft. “Big, strong receiver, good hands, good with the ball after the catch.” 

Harry also bucks a trend for the Patriots franchise as a whole, becoming the first wide receiver taken in the first round across the entire tenure of legendary head coach Bill Belichick.  

“The expectation will be no different than any other player,” Caserio said. “It’s just to come in, build a foundation, and then go from there.”

Following a stellar junior season that saw Harry catch 73 passes for 1088 yards and nine touchdowns, the Chandler High product solidified his position as a first-round talent with an impressive showing at the NFL combine. After running a 4.53 forty-yard dash and bench pressing 225 pounds 27 times, Harry was projected to land somewhere in the middle of the first round come draft night. 

Yet, as Thursday’s first round began, a noticeable lack of skill position players were hearing their names called. It took until the 24th pick for the first running back to be drafted, as Josh Jacobs went 24th to the Oakland Raiders, and the 25th pick for the first wide receiver to be taken, when the Baltimore Ravens selected Marquise Brown. 

As the round neared its completion, significant buzz began to emerge that Harry could land with the Seattle Seahawks, who owned both the 29th and 30th overall selections. Linked to the Seahawks throughout the draft process, Harry seemed like a natural fit for the receiver-needy Seahawks. 

But, as Seattle selected pass rusher L.J. Collier with the 29th pick, then traded away the 30th, it appeared Harry would join a number of other highly-touted offensive prospects who would have to wait another day to learn their future teams. Yet almost instantaneously, Harry’s fortunes changed for the better, as he became the final selection of the first round and the newest member of the New England Patriots. 

“He’s been a productive player, and he has some physical attributes that are important to that position,” Caserio said. “There were some other good players that were up there as well, but we just thought this was the player that made the most sense for us.”

 Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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