FOXBORO — N’Keal Harry is unique.
When the Patriots selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, he became the first NFL draftee to come from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small island nation in the Caribbean.
That’s not all.
That pick also marked the first time Bill Belichick, in 20 drafts as the head coach and shot-caller for the New England Patriots, selected a wide receiver in the first round.
That’s not all.
What truly makes Harry a rare breed is his height, weight and athleticism. He is a receiver who’s stronger than most tight ends. He actually benched more than Rob Gronkowski at the NFL Combine with 27 reps of 225 pounds. Harry’s in the 99 percentile for all receivers drafted in NFL history when it comes to strength.
That’s more than Patriots third-round pick, defensive end Chase Winovich (18 reps) and one less rep than Trey Flowers put up in 2015.
Finding a player comparison for Harry isn’t easy. There aren’t many receivers who are as big when you factor in his height (6-foot-2) and weight (228 pounds). When diving into the numbers, you see how rare of an athlete this first-round pick is.
If the few players with whom Harry compares are any indication, the ceiling for this draft pick was certainly worth the capital.
Harry breaks the mold when it comes to Patriots wide receivers, but he also breaks the league-wide norm.
The selection of Harry marked the third time Belichick drafted a receiver taller than 6-1. Harry joins Aaron Dobson (6-3) and P.K. Sam (6-3). At 228 pounds, Harry’s the heaviest receiver ever drafted by a Belichick-led Patriots team. The closest was David Givens (217) in 2002.
When looking at data for every receiver at the NFL Combine since 2000 (according to Pro Football Reference), only 35 players weighed 228 pounds or more. Most of the successful names on this list have something in common — they are either 6-4 or 6-5.
For example Plaxico Burress (6-5, 231), Vincent Jackson (6-5, 241), Calvin Johnson (6-5, 239) and Mike Evans (6-5, 231).
When narrowing the search to find players who stood 6-2 and weighed 228 or more, you won’t find many. Since 2000, there are five who hit that criteria at the NFL Combine — Andre Johnson (6-2, 230), Ryan Krause (6-2, 244), Tab Perry (6-2, 229), Greg Little (6-2, 231) and Duke Williams (6-2, 229).
If you expand that to include receivers who were 6-3, only four more names are added to the list — D.K. Metcalf, Mark Harrison, Marcus Davis and Dwight Jones. Since 228 pounds is an arbitrary number, we widened the search looking for receivers who stood 6-2 and weighed 225 pounds or more.
Those results show 11 receivers since 2000. The most successful names are Johnson, Dez Bryant (6-2, 225) and Quincy Enunwa (6-2, 225).
Of the remaining eight, only two players (Little and Legedu Naanee) had over 1,000 career receiving yards; three players (Rob Johnson, Krause and DeAndre Smelter) combined for two receiving touchdowns); and three (Perry, D’haquille Williams and Jerome Lane) never caught an NFL pass.
The Patriots historically value receivers with fast 40-yard dash and three-cone times. That’s one reason why the selection of Harry strayed from the Patriots’ norm.
Since 2000, Belichick has drafted 16 receivers. The average height and weight of those players was 5-9.5 and 199.6 pounds. Those players ran an average 40 of 4.44 and ran an average 6.88 3-cone drill. In terms of leaping ability, the average Patriots drafted receivers who had a vertical of 35.2 inches and a broad jump of 121.4 inches. The average bench press was 15 reps of 225 pounds.
Harry’s 4.53 40-yard dash was well below the Patriots average and the third-slowest behind Givens (4.56) and Sam (4.54). The rookie isn’t in bad company, however, as Julian Edelman is right behind him at 4.52.
It’s similar for his three-cone time (7.05). The only three receivers with slower times were Matthew Slater (7.31), Aaron Dobson (7.19) and Jeremy Gallon (7.07).
His 122 broad jump hits within the average. The same can be said for his vertical jump, which at 38.5 inches ties him with Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson for the third best among Patriots drafted receivers.
Besides his height and weight, Harry’s strength separates him from everyone. He bench pressed 27 reps of 225 pounds. That was the most out of any Patriots drafted receiver. It was also the most in the NFL Combine for a receiver that we can find dating back to 2000.
Unfortunately, the bench press isn’t a good indicator for a receiver’s success. Since 2000, the most successful receivers who had 20-plus reps on the bench are Marvin Jones, Kenny Britt, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Matthews.
So who does Harry compare to when factoring in height, weight and testing numbers?
We expanded the search looking for receivers standing between 6-2 and 6-3 while weighing somewhere between 220 and 230 pounds. Seven names stuck out that the Patriots would be thrilled with — Bryant, Johnson, Enunwa, Larry Fitzgerald, Allen Robinson, Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas.
When you factor in testing numbers, Jones gets eliminated for his 40-yard dash time of 4.36. The same goes for Thomas, who reportedly ran a 4.38. Enunwa’s not a bad comparison, but at 6-2, he ran a 4.45 40. The same goes for Johnson, who’s 4.41 40 and 132-inch broad jump makes him a better athlete than Harry.
That brings us to Bryant, Robinson and Fitzgerald.
All three are over 6-2 and weight 220 or more pounds. Robinson, however, is a little bit better of an athlete. Although his 4.6 40-yard dash is slower, his broad jump (127), three-cone (7.00) and 20-yard shuttle (4.00) all surpass Harry’s numbers. He’s also an inch taller and eight pounds lighter, so we move on to Bryant and Fitzgerald.
Bryant’s height (6-2) and weight (225 pounds) mirror Harry. His 40-time (4.53 to 4.52) and vertical (38 to 38.5) are nearly identical. Harry’s broad jump (122) isn’t close to Bryant (133), but he had a much better showing in the three-cone (7.05 to 7.21) and 20-yard shuttle (4.28 to 4.44).
Fitzgerald stood an inch taller at 6-3, but weighed 225 pounds. His 40 time is close (4.48 to 4.53), but had a near identical vertical (38 to 38.5) and the same 20-yard shuttle time (4.28). Fitzgerald had a better three-cone (6.94 to 7.05), but not by much.
To make it interesting, we expanded the search for the perfect athletic comp to include receivers who stood 6-4.
That’s when Brandon Marshall’s name popped up.
Marshall weighed 229 pounds at his 2006 Combine. He ran an almost identical 40 time (4.53), jumped a very close vertical (37) and broad jump (120 to 122). Furthermore, his three-cone time (6.96 to 7.05) and 20-yard shuttle (4.31 to 4.28) were within Harry’s range. Although Marshall is nearly two inches taller, Harry has bigger hands (9.5 inches to 8.9 inches) and longer arms (33 to 32.6 inches).
The Patriots would be thrilled if Harry’s production mirrored any of the above receivers. Of course, until we see Harry on the field, it’s all about speculation and potential.
Harry’s a rare breed, so he has plenty of both.