The New England Patriots gave veteran quarterback Tom Brady another possible target on offense, drafting Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. This marked the first time in 19 years under head coach Bill Belichick that the Patriots took a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Earlier, it was expected that the Patriots would take either a quarterback or a tight end in the first round.

There were several reports that the Patriots might take a quarterback in Duke’s Daniel Jones or Will Grier of West Virginia. Jones was the second quarterback taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, behind Kyler Murray, who was selected first overall by the Arizona Cardinals. The New York Giants used their No. 6 pick to take Jones as a possible successor to veteran Eli Manning. Grier, for his part, was not selected in the opening round.

Nick Caserio heaps praise on Harry

The Patriots’ decision to select Harry instead of other big-name receivers came as a surprise since big-name receivers such as D.K. Metcalf of Mississippi, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel or Hakeem Butler of Iowa State were still on the board when the team made the No. 32 selection. However, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio defended the decision, saying the coaching staff looked at this year’s group of players across the board, stacked them up horizontally and vertically before working across. Caserio said that process worked beautifully for the Patriots when they selected running back Sony Michel in the first round of last year’s draft.

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Harry a productive wideout at Arizona State

According to Caserio, Harry was a productive player during his three years at Arizona State. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Harry caught 73 passes for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. In his freshman year, Harry caught 58 passes for 659 yards and five touchdowns and 82 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns in his sophomore season with the Sun Devils.

He also showed his versatility as he ran 23 times for 144 yards and three touchdowns and returned 14 punts for 165 yards and a score.

“Productive player over a three-year period,” Caserio said as he described Harry, calling him a “big, strong receiver, good hands, good with the ball after the catch.” Aside from that, Caserio called Harry a “smart” player. As proof of his strength, 47.3 percent of Harry’s yards came after the catch.

In his three years with the Sun Devils, 44.3 percent of Harry’s yards happened after his reception. “He’s hard to tackle, so he actually has a little bit of ability to make some people miss,” said Caserio.

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