We’re back to looking at WR prospects, and for this write up, the wide receiver of choice is Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry. Harry, 21, had 73 catches for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns in his final season with the Sun Devils. the 6’4, 213 lb. prospect is also a 2x First Team All-Pac-12 member, doing so in his last two years in college.
Harry has gotten a good amount of attention from scouts and the Twittersphere, but is he worth being taken by the Titans? As Hue Jackson once said; We gotta watch the tape.
On a few of Harry’s routes in his junior season it struck me how impressive he is running the double move. A guy like Jordy Nelson was the king of the double move in his prime, and Harry executed that well when he needed to.
The two plays above are similar, except the first one features Harry going up and making a play at the catch point, while the second is an easier play for him to make. On both of these plays he sells the shallow out route, schooling the defensive backs and allowing himself to get wide open down the field.
Now let’s look at what Harry is perhaps best known for; His explosiveness after the catch. If you give him the ball in space, his athleticism in this area is unreal.
Getting yards after the catch isn’t exactly a rare feat, but whenever Harry was in that position, he often made it look extremely impressive. His elusiveness is excellent and can be owed to his good pad level and lightning agility, making him a slippery target with the ball in his hands.
Both of these plays are spectacular, but the second one is even better than the first. The vision and instincts Harry uses to quickly spin his way out of trouble the moment he has the ball in his hands is aesthetically pleasing, and although it’s hard to see in full motion, he puts a nasty stiff arm on an incoming tackler.
This play also went for a touchdown. Crazy stuff.
With his explosiveness after the catch it’s been easy to see why people are high on N’Keal Harry, but as a route runner it’s a different story for me.
You wouldn’t expect a receiver as hyped as Harry to struggle against zone defense, and yeah, he doesn’t. But against tighter coverage he gets jammed pretty easily and struggles to create separation on his own.
Here the corner executes soft press coverage against Harry and seems to jam him up pretty easily. The break on his route isn’t quick enough to leave the corner in the dust, and while Harry does make an effort to chop away the DB’s hands, it’s not enough to create separation.
Another issue with Harry’s route running is he’s sometimes too patient and holds out the start of his routes for too long. He has a reputation for being a 50/50 receiver, but often fins himself tangled up in these situations where the quarterback seems to spend as much time attempting to throw him open than lofting up prayers in his general area.
The patience on this route is too much, and the corner goes unphased as he sticks into Harry’s window the entire way. It’s an easy shutdown and the pass is well over the head of Harry.
Harry’s emphasis at the catch point can work with more accurate quarterback play, but as a route runner I’m not seeing much I can invest in early on. There’s no doubt that this play would’ve worked if the QB threw to Harry’s back shoulder, but it emphasizes how easily he gets jammed up against press coverage.
Harry’s ceiling includes guys like Marvin Jones, who is a phenomenal receiver at the catch point but isn’t as fast as Jones, making him inferior as a route runner. One can also be reminded of guys like Golden Tate or Jarvis Landry after the catch, and Harry’s ability there will get him drafted early in my mind.
But despite his freakish athleticism, I’m not a big of fan of taking N’Keal Harry at pick #19. He’d definitely help give the Titans a YAC weapon, but he has a long way to go before he’s ready against man and press coverage. If he were a later round pick, then I’d probably be in favor of Tennessee drafting him, and if he were drafted in the right offense—one that emphasizes his YAC ability—then I think he’’ll become a dangerous receiver.
Still, someone is going to draft Harry early, and I do understand why he’s as hyped up as he is. Ultimately, though, I see him as an exciting, but flawed receiver that needs time to develop and refine his route running ability.