Patriots choose WR N’Keal Harry in first round of NFL Draft
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots went on the offensive for the second straight year, capping the first night of the NFL Draft by taking Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry with the No. 32 pick.
The Patriots, who took offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel in the first round last season, took another weapon for Tom Brady.
New England is rebuilding its receiving corps after parting ways with Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, and chose a wide receiver in the first round for the first time during the Bill Belichick era. Harry is also the first wide receiver taken in the first round by the Patriots since Terry Glenn in 1996.
Harry is a 6-foot-2-inch, 228-pounder out of Arizona State, where he collected 213 passes for 2,887 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons.
Coincidentally, Harry has been compared with veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas, whom the Patriots signed to a free-agent deal earlier this month.
Harry has a penchant for making dazzling catches and ridiculous open-field moves. He has the power to battle through traffic and exceptionally strong hands to fight for every ball.
He wasn’t the most polished route runner and his tree was a bit limited in the Sun Devils offense, but he has the physical skills to improve with some tutelage under Josh McDaniels.
“Productive player, big strong receiver, good after the catch,’’ said Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio. “Will get him out here in the program and try to get him moving.”
Harry visited the Patriots recently, and Caserio said the team had other interactions with him.
“He came in and presented himself well, mature kid, seems like a very smart kid,’’ said Caserio.
As for what made Harry standout among the other receivers available, Caserio said, “we thought this was a player that made the most sense for us.”
This was the sixth time in franchise history the Patriots have picked in the 32d slot.
Most recently the club selected defensive tackle Malcom Brown there in 2015. Brown started 51 of 60 regular-season games and three consecutive Super Bowls, collecting wins in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons and LIII against the Rams.
In 2005, New England chose Logan Mankins, who developed into a perennial Pro Bowl left guard for nine seasons, starting all 147 games (including postseason) he played here.
The year before, the Patriots selected tight end Benjamin Watson, who caught 20 touchdown passes in 71 games played over six seasons in Foxborough. Though the 38-year-old Watson recently retired after his 14th season, ESPN has reported that he is reconsidering that decision.
The Patriots also took guard Mike Montler (1969) and offensive tackle Tom Funchess (1968) at No. 32 when that pick was in the second round.
Bill Belichick held the No. 32 pick in 2002 as well, but traded up to the No. 21 spot and chose tight end Daniel Graham, who developed into one of the top blocking tight ends in the league during his 10-year career.
Perhaps the most accomplished player ever chosen with the 32d pick is New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, a 12-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion who was taken by the Chargers with the top pick of the second round in 2001.