The New England Patriots attacked the wide receiver position in the offseason, choosing to sign Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne away from Las Vegas and San Francisco with long-term contracts.
Part of the reason Bill Belichick made those moves was the disappointing, poor play of N’Keal Harry.
Further cementing Belichick’s reputation as a poor evaluator of college wide receiver talent, the Patriots took Harry 32nd overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, making him the second receiver off the board after the Ravens brought Oklahoma speedster Marquise Brown to Baltimore.
The Arizona State product was billed as a 6-4 vacuum with great hands, run-after-catch ability, and athleticism. After just 45 catches in two seasons, Harry has already put in a trade request, seeking to fulfill his potential elsewhere after New England added replacements.
If the Patriots do end up granting Harry’s request to play elsewhere, a role as either the third or fourth receiver on the team has opened up.
These three players on the fringe of the roster could be locks to make the team and contribute on offense.
3 Patriots who could take N’Keal Harry’s spot on 53-man roster
3. Devin Smith
While some Patriots fans may remember him as yet another failed second-round pick of the Jets, as he has recorded just 15 catches since 2015, there is a reason that Smith keeps getting offers to make it in the pros at age 29.
The former Ohio State star made his name thanks to a deadly blend of verticality and skill, often making difficult, contested catches. While he never put it together in the pros as a route-runner, he wasn’t given much of a chance in New York, and New England could get him the targets he needs.
Could Devin Smith finally break out with the Patriots?
Harry’s skills lie in the fact that he could line up in the slot and make tacklers miss despite his frame. While Smith is a different player, meaning the offense would have to be tinkered with to some degree in order to make him a significant player, an impressive preseason could be enough to give Smith the job.
With Phillip Dorsett now in Jacksonville and without a tremendous amount of speed among the projected starters, Smith could be the one who emerges out of a very crowded bunch of receivers in New England. With the backing of Belichick and Josh McDaniels, will the former Buckeye be able to finally accomplish what he was unable to do in New York and Dallas?