Patriots need wide receiver N’Keal Harry to step up in 2020

After a relatively disappointing rookie season in 2019, New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry could shoulder a big load for coordinator Josh McDaniels’ offense this year.

If 2019 proved anything, it’s the New England Patriots need some additional pass-catching help behind veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Ideally, this would have been then-rookie wideout N’Keal Harry, whom the Pats selected with the final pick in Round 1 of last year’s NFL Draft. But any hopes Harry would be an immediate-impact player were dashed by an ankle injury during training camp, which held him out of all but seven games during the regular season.

During that span, the former Arizona State standout mustered a mere 12 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

If New England is going to help alleviate the shortages at the position in 2020, the team will need much more from Harry. A lot more.

Veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is one player who could challenge Harry for opportunities in training camp. Sanu added only modest numbers after coming over from the Atlanta Falcons prior to last year’s trade deadline, yet the elder member of this cast has enough to suggest he can at least challenge Harry for a spot higher up the depth chart. Fellow wideout Jakobi Meyers is also another name to watch.

In an ideal world, though, the Pats get much more out of their younger investment.

If there’s a positive note, Harry’s 2019 injuries hindered a lot of his development. Yet those weren’t exactly factors for the 6-foot-4 wideout during his collegiate years, so it’s not as if he has a lengthy reputation of being injury prone.

Plus, with the Patriots going from perennial Super Bowl contenders to apparent underdogs in the wake of quarterback Tom Brady leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Harry has yet another thing to prove: being an essential part of the new era in New England.

This alone should be motivation enough, as well as the desire for Harry to prove he was worth a first-round investment.

And it isn’t as if the intangibles and talent which mandated a first-round NFL Draft choice on him simply disappeared.

Granted, the Pats could go with yet another wide receiver in a deep draft class later this month. Even that should serve as a boost to Harry’s motivation, though.

He’ll need it, just as much as the Patriots will need him to deliver in 2020.