FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Nick Caserio says he has absolutely no concern about what’s happened in the past.
He believes Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry can lend a hand in shaping his team’s future.
The Patriots made Harry the first wide receiver they’ve selected in the first round of the NFL draft since they made Ohio State’s Terry Glenn the seventh overall choice in 1996.
“We’re not really concerned about what’s happened in the past,” Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, said following Harry’s selection late Thursday night. “I think we look at this year’s group of players across the board and then we stack the players, obviously, horizontally and vertically and then we work across.
“It’s the same thing we did with Sony (running back Sony Michel) last year when we drafted Sony at the bottom of the first round (31st overall). He was a good player. He was a highly-rated player. So relative to what are the options that we were looking at that was the choice that we made. So whatever’s happened in the past really has no bearing. It has no relevance to this year what’s happened last year or years past.”
The past shows that the Patriots have a well-documented history of failures in their attempts to draft talent at the wide receiver position, but in Harry, the 32nd overall selection, they’ve gotten themselves a player that Lindy’s Pro Football Draft Report says is “a physically gifted player that possesses all the athleticism needed to be a difference-making receiver at the next level.”
Ironically, Lindy’s compared Harris to Demaryius Thomas, the former Denver Broncos-Houston Texans wide receiver the Patriots recently signed as a free agent.
In New England, joins a wide receiver-needy depth chart that consists (in alphabetical order) of Braxton Berrios, Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Bruce Ellington, Josh Gordon (currently suspended for his latest violation of the league’s substance abuse policy), Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson, Matthew Slater (primarily a special teamer) and Thomas.
At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, Harry poses a sizable target for quarterback Tom Brady in a group that’s been lacking in them.
An early entry in the draft, Harry appeared in 37 games over three seasons at Arizona State, leaving the school ranked third in the program’s history in both career receptions (213) and receiving yards (2,889). Twenty-two of his catches went for touchdowns, 17 coming over the past two years.
Harry also has some experience returning punts, returning 14 for 165 yards (an 11.8-yard average) with one touchdown during his time with the Sun Devils. In addition to being a first-team Pac-12 all-conference selection, Harry was a second-team choice as a return specialist as a junior in 2018.
“He’s been a productive player,” said Caserio. “He has some physical attributes that are important at that position. There’s some other good players that are out there as well. We just thought that this was the player that made the most sense for us at the time.”
Harry’s selection came at a time when Missouri’s Drew Lock, a potential quarterback of the future, was still on the board.
“Our whole philosophy is just to try to pick good football players regardless of where they come from, how they get here, what position that they play. That’s what we care about,” said Caserio. “It doesn’t really matter what position that they play. You just try to pick good players however they get on your team, and just put them in a position where they have a chance to be competitive with the other players out there. So ultimately that’s what we’re most concerned about.”
The second wide receiver chosen in the draft — Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown went to the Baltimore Ravens at 25 — Harry said that after making a pre-draft visit to Foxborough he left New England with a favorable first impression.
“I had a visit with the Patriots and I felt it went really well,” said Harry, in a conference call that actually took place early Friday morning. “I feel like I meshed with the coaching very well and I just feel like I fit in with the team and everything very well, also.”
Prior to Harry, Chad Jackson, a bust as the 36th overall selection in 2006, was the highest pick the Patriots had ever invested in the wide receiver position during Bill Belichick’s reign.
When asked what it meant to be the first wide receiver selected in the first round in Belichick’s 20 draft as head coach, Harry said: “It means the world to me. For him to have that much faith in me and that much trust in me it just makes me want to work that much harder. So I’m going to come in with a workhorse mindset and get better every day.”
Pats take Vandy CB
With the 45th pick of the draft, the 13th of the second round, the Pats took Joejuan Williams, a cornerback from Vanderbilt.
Williams, who is 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, made 56 tackles and had four interceptions last season for the Commodores.