Keelan Cole, Sammy Watkins, and Emmanuel Sanders were viable options if the Minnesota Vikings wanted to fill their WR3 position using free agency. But another possibility opened up this week when N’Keal Harry’s agent asked for a trade from the New England Patriots.
With Minnesota’s options dwindling, adding a former first-round pick seems like a good way to bolster the receiving core. However, Harry may be a gamble the Vikings aren’t willing to take.
Looking at his athletic profile, Harry provides the opposite of what Beebe brings as the third wide receiver. His 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash isn’t going to keep defenses up at night, but his ability to make contested catches and collect yards after the catch made him a top prospect.
Harry has a similar physical profile to Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown. While both receivers don’t possess blazing speed (Brown ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash), they can get downfield, win with their size, and make things happen when the ball is in their hands.
But that’s where the similarities between Harry and Brown end. While Harry can put together a decent time in the 40-yard dash, he doesn’t seem to give maximum effort on the field.
“[Harry] doesn’t get to top speed quickly, and even when he gets there, it isn’t much to write home about,” The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard said before the 2019 draft. “I don’t know what he’ll test, but he doesn’t play fast.”
This observation was put on tape during Week 1 last year when Harry took a screen behind the line of scrimmage. Going up against a much smaller cornerback, Jomal Murray, Harry built up a head of steam and bounced off him like Wile E. Coyote slamming into a brick wall.
Harry’s inability to play at full speed shows up even during his best games. During a Week 2 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, Harry caught a career-high eight passes for 72 yards, but most of those receptions came on screen plays.
If Harry is running full speed on any of these plays, there’s a good chance that he can gain a bigger chunk of yardage. Instead, Harry’s receptions have the same effect as running the ball into the middle of the defensive line.
When Harry is asked to run a deeper route, the results are the same. While Harry was able to make a couple of key catches during this game, he looked slow and tentative out of his breaks.
Harry’s style of play is a big reason why he hasn’t been able to consistently produce in New England. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran summarized it as the “N’Keal Harry Experience.” One play he looks ready to become one of the best receivers in the game; the next he looks like the second coming of Laquon Treadwell.
“He’s up, he’s down, he’s in, he’s out,” Curran wrote in Aug. 2020. “He’s making acrobatic catches, he’s clanging easy ones, he’s manhandling defenders and Mossing corners, he’s on a knee calling for a trainer…NO WAY!! He’s back out making a diving catch no other wideout on the Patriots’ roster could get to.”
Treadwell didn’t have the splash plays that Harry has been making, but the trajectory of their careers has been the same. Harry injured his ankle during the second preseason game of his rookie year and didn’t make it back onto the field until Week 11. Upon his return, he angered Tom Brady for not being dependable and was sparingly used in the final month of the season.
Even if Harry’s 2019 ankle injury had something to do with his sluggish play on the field, he still would be a bad fit for the Vikings. A prototypical X receiver, Harry would be stuck on the outside where he would have to win with route-running and be able to make plays. While he was able to do that at Arizona State, that hasn’t translated in the pros and would likely create an unreliable target like Kirk Cousins had with Treadwell.
There’s a chance that Harry will get to choose his own team if the Patriots release him, but the Vikings still shouldn’t be interested.