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.
If you leave N’Keal Harry in his element, he can flourish. Quick perimeter screens, routes under 15 yards, and giving him a chance to play above the rim in the red zone is his comfort zone. pic.twitter.com/2kBWOWfcL4— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 6, 2019
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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