2019 NFL Draft Preview: N’Keal Harry – WR, Arizona State
There’s a general consensus among both the NFL Draft and fantasy football communities that Alabama’s Josh Jacobs is the top prospect in the Class of 2019 at the running back position. There’s no such agreement among the wide receivers though—there are a number of potential candidates to be the first player at the position taken in April’s draft. In the opinion of Stephen White of SB Nation, the No. 1 pass-catcher in this year’s crop is N’Keal Harry of Arizona State, a 6’2″, 228-pounder who hauled in 73 passes for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago.
“He checks every box for a big-time NFL receiver for me,” White said, “and the only even faintly negative thing I could say about him is he needs to work on having a quicker release at times. In just about every other way he is an elite wide receiver prospect, and his releases are an easy fix. While he isn’t the burner that DK Metcalf is, I have no doubt Harry is more than fast enough to thrive in the NFL. He has the potential to be one of those guys who catches 100+ balls a year with his skillset, but he should also be a huge deep ball and red zone threat, as well.”
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San Brief of the MMQB is similarly impressed by Harry’s abilities. “Harry was a cheat code at Arizona State,” Brief said, “eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving in each of his past two seasons. He’s a multi-threat speedster with world-class agility and glue hands. When the ball is in the air approaching him, Harry has an uncanny knack for adjusting his entire body to the ball in an instant. Harry has the frame to play on the outside in an NFL offense, but his speed and niftiness mean teams can line him up in the slot, too—and can use him in the return game. He’s a do-it-all playmaker when he has the ball in his hands.”
Harry isn’t a burner (4.53-second 40 at the combine), but he has the size and strength (27 bench press reps) that many NFL teams covet in outside receivers. As Josh Weinfuss reported for ESPN, Arizona State head coach Herman Edwards compared Harry to another wideout that won with physicality in the NFL.
N’Keal Harry is a Dez Bryant-Type Wide Receiver
“I don’t like comparing players,” Edwards said. “I think they make their own lot in life as a player but I’ve said this: Guys you can probably equate him to — Dez Bryant. Big, strong, physical guy. Can make the contested catch. … That’s who he reminds me of a lot. Strong hands. Loves to compete. Really good in the red zone. Good coming inside where he’s going to take a hit.”
For Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, the comparison is a different big-bodied wideout—Allen Robinson of the Chicago Bears. “Back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits,” he wrote. Harry’s ability to body-up opponents and win with ball skills is undeniable, but his inability to find a threatening top gear or shake loose from tight man coverage must be accounted for within his new employer’s scheme. His experience playing inside should help and teams will love his impact as a run-blocker. His competitiveness and ability to come down with the ball could make him a productive member of wide receiver trio in short order.
However, that lack of “explosive traits” (i.e. high-end speed) gives Joe Marino of the Draft Network legitimate pause. “Harry projects as an x-receiver at the NFL level with the upside to also serve as a big slot,” Marino said. “His ball skills and ability to win in contested situations, combined with excellent play strength and balance make him a threat to challenge all levels of the field. With that said, his lack of quickness, speed and elusive traits present challenges to his ability to uncover. Harry can produce at the next level but making sure he is surrounded by quicker receivers will be important to lift coverage and create the space needed to take advantage of his skill set. Harry must also embrace his size and power to consistently overpower opponents given how NFL defenses will compete against him compared to the Pac 12.”
Those concerns don’t appear to have had an overly adverse effect on Harry’s draft stock. More than a few NFL teams were in attendance at Arizona State’s recent pro day, and several draftniks believe that the big wideout won’t make it out of the first round.
RJ White of CBS Sports thinks that Harry could wind up staying in Arizona—projecting him to the Cardinals at No. 27 after some draft-day machinations. “With the third piece of their (hypothetical) trade down with the Raiders, the Cardinals go local to bring in a potential No. 1 option for (Josh) Rosen in Harry, who can outbattle most corners for balls even if he’s not going to run away from anybody,” he said. “Between Harry and Christian Kirk, the Cardinals are now set up well at the receiver position when Larry Fitzgerald calls it a career.”
Frankly, a landing spot like Indianapolis (who picks at No. 26 and again at No. 34) would be preferable fantasy-wise, in that the improved quarterback play would better Harry’s chances of making a short-term impact. And make no mistake—while Harry doesn’t have the highest ceiling of this year’s wide receivers his toughness and physicality could help him integrate more quickly into the pros.
As with any pass-catcher, be they rookie or vet, Harry’s only going to be as good as the quarterback throwing him the rock. In a best-case scenario, with an established quarterback and clear(ish) path to snaps early on, Harry could vie to be the first rookie wideout taken in rookie drafts and dynasty startups and might creep into lower-end WR3 territory in redrafts.
However, if Harry winds up on a team where the situation under center and/or his prospects of early playing time are less set, he could fall into Round 2 of rookie drafts, into WR4 territory in startups and all but be an afterthought in redraft fantasy football leagues.
For more of Gary’s profiles check out all of our 2019 NFL Draft content.
A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Davenport has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications, including the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization’s Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. He knows football. Or so he’s heard.
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