Patriots

There's reason to be wild about Harry - the Patriots first-round pick receiver from Arizona State

There's reason to be wild about Harry - the Patriots first-round pick receiver from Arizona State

FOXBORO – Remember the game back in 2011 when Tom Brady and Bill O’Brien got into it on the bench in Washington?

Brady’s irritation – which he later admitted was misplaced – stemmed from his belief that wide receiver Tiquan Underwood didn’t aggressively attack a 50-50 ball in the end zone resulting in an interception. 

“Ti, you got to go get it!” Brady pleaded on the bench.

O’Brien let Brady know that he believed the quarterback was mistaken. The rest was expletive-laden history.

The reason this is germane nearly nine years later?

I don’t think Brady will ever have to complain about a lack of fight from N’Keal Harry, the wide receiver the Patriots took with the last pick in the first round on Thursday night.

Harry is a 6-2, 228-pound, ball-attacking, high-pointing, back-shouldering, acrobat who’s got durability, after-the-catch toughness, hammerlock hands and the savvy to body up defenders and win contested catches.

In other words, if the Patriots were going to break their annual tradition of staying away from first-round receivers, Harry is the perfect one to do it for.

Herm Edwards, who coached Harry at Arizona State, had this to say about Harry earlier this year when he spoke to ESPN.

"Is he willing to compete?" Edwards asked. "Check that box. Does he prepare himself when he is not in the building, when he's off the field? Check that box. In the community, does he have any issues in the community? Does he have any red flags of him being obviously social problems and outside the community? Has he been arrested? Check that box off, nope. 
"There's a lot of boxes he checks off. Probably the biggest box of all that he checks off, and I've discussed it with the pro guys, is he loves to compete."

There were faster wideouts on the board. A lot of them, given that Harry was timed at 4.53. There were taller ones and quicker ones. But there probably aren’t any with the size-strength-hands-work ethic combo that Harry appears to bring.

Any time the Patriots bring in a receiver, the primary concern isn’t about hands or feet. It’s whether or not the space between their ears is filled with gray matter that will help them get to the right spot at the right time.

Brady’s iced more experienced players than Harry for crimes against route-running. But as it stands now, Brady isn’t in the position to ice anybody. He’s got Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and James White as dudes to throw to.

If Demaryius Thomas is a quick healer, maybe he gets him too. If Josh Gordon gets reinstated and succeeds in staying clean, Brady’s got him too.

Until then, Harry is Brady’s big wideout best buddy. Here are six minutes of video showing why Brady might be convinced – at nearly 42 – to fall in love with a player half his age. 

Harry is tougher than Thomas. He may at this point be just as fast as Gordon and within a year he will almost certainly be faster. And he’s got a ton of attributes similar to Gordon. Harry isn’t a reach. He was projected to be a late first/early second-round value.

And while speedier, shiftier slotty receivers such as Parris Campbell, Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown got most of our local attention when we stacked players to fill the very obvious wideout need, Harry was sitting there as a little overlooked.

While Campbell ran 273 snaps from the slot last year for Ohio State, Harry ran 130. And was massively productive.

There’s really nothing to wail about when it comes to this pick. It’s a position of need. It’s – let’s admit it – a more entertaining position to watch a player develop at than, say, defensive tackle. He’s not soft. He’s not injury-riddled. It’s a mediocre draft to begin with. Harry, because of his physicality, is going to be much more of a bare-knuckle receiver than Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson and so on.

"This guy, in my opinion, ain't even close to as good as he's going to be," said Todd Graham, Harry’s coach at ASU in his first two years at the school. "He was in college for 36 months. You're talking about a guy who was really young, as far as his mental maturity, emotional maturity, he was very young coming out of high school.”

The steep learning curve Harry’s been dealing with is about to get even steeper. He’s stepping into a spot that’s opened into a trap door to nowhere for countless receivers who preceded him. Veterans, rookies, former first-rounders and scrubinis. 

They’re all down there in the dustbin of Patriots wide receiver history.

On first impression, you can at least see Harry isn’t going there without a fight.

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Tom Brady posts selfie with rival Peyton Manning: 'We were friends this whole time'

Tom Brady posts selfie with rival Peyton Manning: 'We were friends this whole time'

The NFL might never again see a quarterback rivalry as awesome as the one between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Brady's New England Patriots and Manning's Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos teams squared off in many classic regular season and playoff battles, including a few AFC Championship Game matchups.

Despite the intense on-field rivalry, these legendary NFL QBs are friends off the field, as Brady reiterated in a tweet posted Wednesday featuring a selfie of him and Manning.

It's not often you see arguably the two-best quarterbacks in NFL history in one photo. 

Brady is coming off his sixth Super Bowl title, and oddsmakers like the Patriots' chances of winning a record seventh championship next season. Manning didn't enjoy the same postseason success as Brady, but he did win one Super Bowl each with the Colts and Broncos, in addition to many regular-season records that still haven't been broken.

The Brady-Manning rivalry was similar to the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry for the NBA in the 1980s -- both players pushed each other to new heights, and made their respective sports more exciting in the process.

Edelman reveals when he earned Brady's trust>>>

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Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

It’s quiet time in the NFL. Everyone knows that. 

But the quiet only applies to breaking news (unless the Texans decide to randomly fire someone else and not replace him in the next few weeks). 

It’s never hard to generate a conversation that morphs into an argument that slips into name-calling and finally devolves into a wild speculation about the circumstances under which a person was conceived. 

You can rank the Top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL for instance. That may get some conversation started. 

Or, you can simply post a picture on social media of one of the all-time great catches in Super Bowl history and then let nature take its course. 

That’s what happened when my Twitter buddy Dov Kleiman posted a quick video of Julio Jones’ amazing sideline catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51.  

The coverage from Patriots corner Eric Rowe couldn’t have been better. The placement of the ball by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — probably nine feet in the air, moving at high speed and over the boundary — was pinpoint. And the catch had four elements — the leap/extension, the securing, the toe tap and the collision with the ground. 

It put Atlanta in position for the game-securing field goal. (Spoiler: That didn’t happen.)

The Jones catch was as good as it gets. 

But was it better than Julian Edelman’s catch which came a little more than two minutes later? 

It wasn’t long before someone replied to Dov with the contention that it wasn’t.

Like Jones’ catch, Edelman’s had multiple elements. 

The hash marks on an NFL field are 18 feet, six inches apart. Edelman is in the air above the right hash when the ball is tipped. He lands, gathers momentum, takes a sidestep and dives fully extended in the time the ball takes to drop to the ground, probably covering at least 10 feet. He wrestles the ball from a trio of Falcons defensive backs then — with the ball inches above the ground — releases it so he can secure his grip better. 

And it put the Patriots in position to continue a drive for the game-tying touchdown. (Spoiler 2.0: Happened.)

Which is the better catch? 

Jones’ was the more gracefully classic NFL catch, up there with Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl-winning catch in 2008 in degree of difficulty. If it were Edelman on the receiving end of that throw and not Jones, I don’t think Edelman would have made it. 

But Edelman’s was the more improbable and bizarre catch. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catch quite like it and that’s taking into account the Jermaine Kearse quintuple-touch catch near the end of SB49, Antonio Freeman’s “He did what?!” catch on Monday Night Football and myriad other double-tip catches. 

Edelman covered an insane amount of ground and only someone with the rarest of short-area quickness could have done what he did. Jones might have caught Brady’s pass outright but I don’t think he would have caught it after it was tipped as Edelman did. 

State your case for which catch was better. Show your work. 

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