There’s a good reason for Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s decision to make N'Keal Harry the first first-round receiver selected by the team since Terry Glenn in 1996. The reason is simple: Belichick had Harry rated much higher than No. 32 in the draft.
That’s what Belichick told former Arizona State coach Todd Graham after picking Harry, according to Jeff Howe of TheAthletic.com.
“When I talked to coach Belichick the night that he drafted N’Keal,” Graham told Howe, via NBCSportsBoston.com. “[Belichick] told me, ‘Man, we were so fortunate that he was still there.’ They were so glad he was still available. They had him graded a lot higher than where he was taken in the first round.”
The Patriots had to feel strongly about Harry, or they wouldn’t have rolled the dice on him. Over the years, Belichick has shown that he has a scouting blind spot when it comes to receivers taken in the higher rounds of the draft, from second-rounder Aaron Dobson in 2013 to third-rounder Taylor Price in 2010 to third-rounder Brandon Tate in 2009 to second-rounder Chad Jackson in 2006 to second-rounder Bethel Johnson in 2003. Only Deion Branch, a second-rounder in 2002, delivered on his potential.
We’ll find out soon enough whether Harry does, and whether he merits whatever specific grade the Patriots applied to him.