New England Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea is stepping back into the spotlight after weeks of looking like the architect of a wide receiver wasteland. First, he put his foot in his mouth when he suggested that James White was the most important thing in the Patriots offense. Then he was easily dispatched by Bill Belichick when he asked why Young wasn’t playing. But on Sunday night, it appeared that O’Shea had finally found his calling. He deployed the young wideout in the Patriots’ gameplan with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
For most of the year, the Patriots were missing their main receiver and most productive weapon, Julian Edelman. That changed midway through the year, when Edelman was suspended. Since then, the Patriots have been looking at multiple young wide receivers, including N’Keal Harry (who’s the best of the bunch), for the future.
Between Kevin White’s injury, Julian Edelman’s suspension, and Danny Amendola’s retirement, the New England Patriots are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to finding a young wide receiver to build around. That could be a blessing in disguise, though, since it could force the team to dive into the deep end of the draft to land its next stud receiver.
By selecting N’Keal Harry with a first-round selection, Bill Belichick took a big gamble. Sadly for the New England Patriots, the former Arizona State standout hasn’t been able to replicate his college success in the NFL. Even if the third-year pro has looked well in training camp, there’s no denying that Belichick made a big mistake by passing on A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, and Deebo Samuel in the 2019 NFL Draft.
While Harry’s future in Foxborough remains a question, considering his unexpected trade request and lackluster performance, the Patriots have finally found a young receiver worth getting excited about. Despite his track record of squandering early-round selections on the position, Belichick seems to have a penchant for discovering gems in the rough after the draft.
N’Keal Harry seems to be joining a lengthy line of Patriots receivers who have failed to turn out.
Since 2010, the Patriots have selected NINE wide receivers:
N’Keal Berrios, Harry Braxton Jeremy Gallon* Aaron Dobson* Josh Boyce* Jeremy Ebert* Taylor Price* Malcolm Mitchell* Devin Lucien* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy Gallon* Jeremy
SEVEN of them are no longer in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/E318mq5brj
December 24, 2020 — CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ)
Do you think Bill Belichick is kicking himself for disregarding his scouts at the 2019 NFL Draft? The creator of the NFL’s most successful dynasty went rogue instead of trusting his staff to guide him in the right path.
And the Patriots have suffered as a result.
Belichick’s decision to go with Harry over Metcalf, Brown, and Samuel seems to be the worst decision he’s ever made as a general manager. After all, it’s reasonable to question how big of an impact that choice had on Tom Brady’s dissatisfaction in Foxborough during his last season. Harry seems set to earn the dreaded “draft bust” moniker, with Metcalf, Brown, and Samuel all looking like big successes.
Of course, if he doesn’t turn things around and become a consistent contributor for the Patriots, he’ll join a lengthy line of wideouts in New England who have fallen short of expectations. Belichick squandered second-round choices on Chad Jackson (2006) and Aaron Dobson (2013), as well as third-round picks on Brandon Tate (2009) and Taylor Price (2010), on players who never became long-term Foxborough mainstays.
Despite failing miserably on Harry, the Patriots now have cause to be hopeful about the receiving position’s future.
New England has finally found a young wideout worth cheering for.
While Harry may shock everyone by finally putting everything together in his third season in the league, the chances of that occurring seem slim. Sure, he seemed to be in good shape throughout training camp. He’s also the right size and build to dominate lesser corners and safeties. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about a guy who still fails to create separation and make a major impact during games at this stage.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they have a promising young wideout who didn’t cost them a first-round selection. Kristian Wilkerson was one of the standouts from Thursday’s preseason game against the Washington Football Team, and New England didn’t have to spend any draft capital to get him.
With a height of 6-foot-1 and a weight of 214 pounds, the Southeast Missouri State product has the perfect build for an NFL receiver. As a redshirt senior, Wilkerson was named first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference after catching 71 passes for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Memphis native was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans before joining the Patriots’ practice squad before the start of the 2020 season.
Despite his position as an undrafted free agent, the 24-year-old seems to be on his way to a roster berth. Wilkerson has routinely made plays in training camp, and he took things to the next level against Washington on Thursday by leading the Patriots with six receptions for 39 yards. Even though Wilkerson was unable to catch a wonderfully placed deep ball from Mac Jones, the skilled wideout displayed excellent connection with the young rookie quarterback.
Additions by free agents At receiver, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, as well as third-year pro Jakobi Meyers, are well ahead of the pack. Plus, Gunner Olszewski’s worth as a returner should be enough to get him on the squad. Wilkerson, on the other hand, has a good chance of dethroning Harry for a roster place. Belichick is unconcerned with a player’s path to the NFL. All that counts is what happens on the field, and Wilkerson’s potential should make releasing him at final cutdowns very tough.
Bill Belichick may be forced to make some tough roster choices as a result of Kristian Wilkerson’s potential.
According to the current depth chart, New England Patriots receivers Isaiah Zuber (19), N’Keal Harry (15), and Kristian Wilkerson (17) may be fighting for a single roster berth. | Getty Images/Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
Don’t be shocked if the Patriots make a couple of moves to keep Wilkerson in the city. Given Belichick’s track record of missing receivers, it would seem stupid for him to let a young, promising one walk out the door.
Belichick will have to create space for Wilkerson if the Patriots want to keep him for at least another year. And here is when things may start to get interesting.
Is Sony Michel, the Patriots’ 2018 first-round selection, going to be traded to make room on the roster? Is it possible that Harry may change his outfit in the coming weeks? Is it possible for New England to retain more than one backup tight end?
To make room for Wilkerson, Belichick may seek to trade a defensive player. Joejuan Williams, Chase Winovich, and Anfernee Jennings, all first-round selections, have yet to win starting positions. Is it possible that one of them may be traded or removed to create room for someone with interesting potential?
In the end, the Patriots are fortunate to have this issue. New England has a wide receiver worth getting excited about for the first time in a long time.
Let’s see whether Bill Belichick is on board with this.
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RELATED: Bill Belichick’s Most Recent Undrafted Free Agent Find Has Gone From Looking for Jobs on LinkedIn and Considering Joining the Military to a Legitimate Threat to Steal a Starting Position That Didn’t Appear Up for Grabs
The New England Patriots’ run to the Super Bowl has been defined by Bill Belichick’s ability to find the most talented players in the draft and turn them into productive starters. This year, that talent took the form of wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who was one of the best undrafted free agents this year. Harry has been a revelation in his first season with the Patriots, and he’s been the best receiver on the team, period.. Read more about n keal harry analysis and let us know what you think.
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