Patriots

NFL evaluator: Easy to see Josh Gordon in N'Keal Harry's game

NFL evaluator: Easy to see Josh Gordon in N'Keal Harry's game

FOXBORO -- Even if you're watching tape of one NFL-caliber prospect after another, all considered among the best of the best at their position in college, there are some talents who stand out even among the elite because of their combination of size and skill. 

That's what happened to one evaluator I spoke to over the weekend who studied New England's first-round pick, N'Keal Harry from Arizona State, during the pre-draft process. This person had worked with Josh Gordon before, and it was Gordon who first came to mind when Harry's tape was on the screen.

While Gordon is still among the most gifted receivers in the league, the comparison between Harry and Gordon is a natural one for a variety of reasons. 

A layman could make the comparison following the combine -- as I did on an episode of "The Next Pats Podcast" (31:37) -- because of their remarkably similar physical traits. According to Mockdraftable.com, their respective frames (6-foot-2.5, 228 pounds for Harry; 6-3, 224 for Gordon), their arm lengths (33 inches; 33.25 inches), hand sizes (9.5 inches, 10 inches), 40 times (4.53 seconds, 4.52 seconds), vertical jumps (38.5 inches, 36 inches) and broad jumps (122 inches, 121 inches) are all nearly identical. 

But it goes beyond the measurables. Watch them play, I was told. The word that continued to come from the evaluator who had worked with Gordon and studied Harry was "rare." Both play faster than their 40 times, and both have the body control and change-of-direction ability of a receiver 30 pounds lighter. That's not something that would necessarily show up in a combine test. 

For example, Ole Miss wideout D.K. Metcalf had numbers in Indianapolis that blew everyone's out of the water. At 6-foot-3.5, he checked in at 228 pounds, had better jumps (40.5-inch vert, 134-inch broad) and a much quicker 40 (4.33 seconds). But, I was told, Harry plays "twice as fast" as Metcalf. "And I'm not sure it's close." It seems as though others around the league agreed. Metcalf ended up being drafted No. 64 overall by the Seahawks.

The Gordon-to-Harry comparison was helped, in the eyes of this evaluator, by their work after the catch. Even without the benefit of working with the Patriots before the season, Gordon was a terror in 2018 on slants, hitches and the occasional back-shoulder throw. On some of the shorter tosses that got him the football in space, he broke tackles regularly and fought through contact to pick up whatever yardage was available to him.

The ability to make contested catches are part of what makes Harry's skill set so appealing, but I was warned, don't consider him a jump-ball specialist. The instincts to find a crease and keep plays alive with the football in his hands was something Harry exhibited time and again as a Sun Devil; he broke 38 tackles in three seasons and was a pest for opposing defenses on screens.

With a creative coordinator like Josh McDaniels, and a short-area surgeon like Tom Brady, the Patriots will likely find a variety of different uses for their shiny new first-round toy who looks like he could be the closest thing to Gordon in this year's draft class.

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.

David Ortiz says leaving Patriots wouldn't impact Tom Brady's legacy

David Ortiz says leaving Patriots wouldn't impact Tom Brady's legacy

Over the past 20 years, Tom Brady has established himself as one of the greatest and most beloved athletes in Boston sports history.

But if Brady leaves New England for a new team in free agency this offseason, would that leave a stain on his Patriots legacy? Fellow Boston sports legend David Ortiz doesn't believe so.

The former Red Sox slugger recently spoke with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com about Brady's impending free agency. According to Ortiz, leaving Foxboro behind ahead of his age-43 season won't take away from anything Brady has accomplished with the Pats in the past two decades.

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"His legacy has already been built. It’s always there," Ortiz told Bradford. "That’s not the problem. His problem is not going to be legacy. He could go and play somewhere else for the next 10 years when he returns to New England his legacy is going to be there.

"It’s a good thing to do but you also have to look at your options. I hope he stays with the Patriots, but it’s not up to what I say. It’s his decision. Sometimes an offer at home might be a couple of million less than what you could get on the road. It’s up to you whether you think it’s worth it."

Brady will officially become an unrestricted free agent if he and Patriots don't agree to a contract extension by March 18. Several teams are expected to be in the mix to sign the six-time Super Bowl champion, with the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders as two of the most likely destinations.

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