NFL

Patriots face tough job finding trade partner for wantaway draft bust N'Keal Harry

N'Keal Harry wants out of New England, but moving him on may not be easy for the Patriots.

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Patriots may struggle to find trade partner for draft bust N'Keal Harry

The New England Patriots are hoping their first-round pick from this year's draft, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, can help return them to glories of the Tom Brady era, but they appear set to move on from another recent top selection.

Wide receiver N'Keal Harry, the first-round pick of the Patriots in 2019, seemingly has no desire to catch passes from Jones should he win the starting quarterback job in 2021, his agent this week announcing Harry had requested a trade from New England.

Given the Patriots invested heavily in the wide receiver position in free agency this offseason, Harry may well have found himself on the outside looking in come roster cutdown day.

Therefore, New England will likely be only too willing to oblige his request, but they might find a lack of suitors following an extremely disappointing first two seasons in the league from the former Arizona State star.

Harry has 45 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns so far in his NFL career, disappointing numbers that reflect his inability to separate from coverage at the highest level.

Indeed, even in college Harry was known more for his ability to make contested catches than for his prowess as a separator, and his struggles in getting free from defenders have been exacerbated in the pros.

Harry the epitome of a NFL draft bust

Thrown at only 24 times as a rookie by Tom Brady, he was open on just 43.5 per cent of those targets in 2019, the lowest percentage among NFL wide receivers to be targeted at least 20 times in that campaign.

He improved his open percentage markedly to 63.2 in 2020 but that was still 17th-lowest for all wide receivers last season, with opposing cornerbacks experiencing little difficulty in keeping him under wraps over the past two years.

In 2019, Harry registered a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable – on only 47.8 per cent of targets, well below the average of 60.5 per cent for wideouts with a minimum of 20 targets.

His big-play percentage, which measures burns for 20 yards or more and burns for touchdowns, was 24.5, while Harry was tied for fourth-bottom in burn yards per target (6.82) and his burn yards per route average of 1.3 was a yard below the mean.

The 2020 season saw Harry's big-play percentage decline to 20.6 and decent improvements in burn percentage (52.6), burn yards per target (8.27) and burn yards per route (1.7) were not enough to get him even close to average in those categories.

Harry's failure to hit the ground running helped push Brady out the door after the 2019 season and he again failed to stand out in an offense that struggled mightily following the now seven-time Super Bowl champion's departure.

He is the epitome of a draft bust and a cautionary tale to teams thinking of investing in players who struggle to separate at the college level. Harry might want out of New England, but he may have significant trouble finding a new home.