Before I dive in, yes I am aware there is a huge disparity between the talent levels of D.K. Metcalf and N’Keal Harry, I am not here to argue that.
I am, however, telling everyone to STOP complaining about the past and what could have been.
It takes no skill whatsoever to retroactively look at any draft in history and call out your favorite team for skipping over talented players – it literally happens EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
And yes, I had D.K. Metcalf graded as the best WR in that draft class but I did recognize the weaknesses and questions that surrounded him as a prospect. He wasn’t asked to do much besides run “go” and “curl” routes at Ole Miss and while he was dominant at those things at a college level, I can see the concern of worrying about that skillset translating to the NFL. Once you add in the fact that he had neck surgery in the offseason pre-draft, it’s not a surprise that scouts had their reservations.
And despite what Patriots fans like to think, it wasn’t just the New England brass who passed up on Metcalf. As a matter of fact, the entire NFL did it… twice! He lasted until the last pick of the second round where he was taken by the Seahawks.
It’s so obvious now that he was taken too low, but do you really think you’re smarter than the guys who are on the road for eight months out of the year scouting these prospects? No, you’re not.
There are hits, and there are misses every year for all teams but you can’t look at every situation in a vacuum.
Metcalf went to a Seahawks team with not only one of the greatest QB’s of our generation, but to my estimation the best deep ball thrower in the league. Metcalf came into Seattle and didn’t have to change his game one bit. They pretty much let him ease into the NFL by doing exactly what he did in college; run deep routes.
Now, with one season under his belt and confidence in connection between him and Russell Wilson – he is eating up and has established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Metcalf wasn’t asked to do too much that he wasn’t capable of last year, and now that he has evolved you are seeing the Seahawks open the playbook for him.
Now, onto the N’Keal Harry situation.
Taking him in the first round was probably too high, even at the time. However, the Patriots scouting department is unlike any other. They have a small board of about 40-50 names that they like and take them where they see is best fit. They obviously liked Harry a lot, and when it came their turn to pick they used it on him.
There were plenty of analysts out there who had Harry in their top three or two wide receivers, too. He wasn’t a shoe-in for a first round pick by everyone, but there are plenty of reliable names who had him as the best receiver in the class. Not saying they were right, but the Patriots weren’t taking a shot in the dark by taking him that high.
Harry’s skill set coming out of college was simple – get the ball in his hands and watch him go to work. He was not a polished route runner but in the PAC-12 he didn’t need to be (no offense PAC-12 fans). He would catch screens, quick passes, etc. and go crazy in the open field while defenders tried to tackle him.
All of these things that make Harry special weren’t really what the Patriots were asking him to do at an NFL level – they thought of him more as a contested catch/possession guy (kind of like Dez Bryant).
After starting his rookie season injured, it was hard for Harry to ever get a grasp of the offense let alone a feel for the NFL. Once he did come in, the Patriots weren’t playing him in a role for him to blossom due to their ungodly amount of injuries, so they tried to fit a circle in a triangular shaped hole.
Player development is something that you can not scout. You never know where a player is going to go, how they are going to respond to the NFL lifestyle, and most importantly the system they end up in. N’Keal Harry was not meant to be a #1 receiver, at least not this early in his career but here he is, trying to do it all without even getting season two under his belt.
My point of this article is don’t give up on N’Keal Harry just because someone drafted after him is better in THEIR SECOND SEASON. There is so much more that goes into drafting a player then the eye test, and whatever the Patriots system for scouting is pointed them in Harry’s direction over Metcalf. It hurts to think about what could have been, yes, but who is to say that Metcalf would develop just as well/fast as he did in Seattle, in New England? There are too many factors to continue being naive about the “mistakes” that the Patriots made.
Could they have drafted better? Absolutely. But, if you’re going to blame one bad season on the GM/HC of a football team that just had the greatest two-decade dynastic run in all of sports history, you need to take a step back.
That’s all I have to say about this matter. Go Pats.