INDIANAPOLIS — The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is now upon us, and with it we will see draft hopefuls establish themselves in the minds of draftniks everywhere with their performances.
Although teams are already getting their draft boards finalized — the Combine serves as more of an interview for teams as well as a tool to acknowledge what players showed on tape — people everywhere become familiarized with standout performers for the first time.
Recently, Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compiled a list of one player that each team in the NFL should be monitoring during the Combine.
With a position group lacking in players under contract for 2019, Jeremiah and Zierlein went with Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry for the Indianapolis Colts. Here’s what they had to say:
“Harry would be a nice sidekick for T.Y. Hilton. He isn't going to run fast (his 40 time is expected to be in the 4.65-second range), but he catches everything and is ultra-competitive with the ball in his hands.”
Like they mentioned, Harry isn’t a downfield burner, but he does check just about every other box that you’d like to see in a receiver. His game is likely to make him an early draft selection, likely somewhere between the mid-first into the second round. The Colts have picks in that range, holding No. 26 in the first round and No. 34 in the second round.
This won’t be nailed down until official Combine measurements, but Harry currently measures about 6-3 and 220 pounds, and he looks it too.
With the ball in his hands, the 21-year-old junior flips a switch and becomes a running back, stiff-arming would-be tacklers and doing whatever he can to pick up extra yardage. His legs don’t stop churning, and his quality balance helps him keep plays alive.
Harry has great size and plays like it, but he’s not just the run-of-the-mill big receiver that we see every year; he has the ability to be an outstanding all-around receiver.
He lines up all along the formation, and he runs a variety of routes from those spots. Harry makes quick cuts in tight spaces which helps him get separation, even on quick routes. His physical nature isn’t just limited to when he has the ball either, as he shows it as a route runner as well. He’s not afraid to use his hands to keep the defender at a distance and shield them from the ball.
Harry is a natural hands catcher (catches the ball with his hands rather than letting it into his body). Matched with his great leaping ability, it allows for Harry to high-point passes and makes catches that smaller receivers cannot.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Harry gives good effort as a blocker as well when his teammates have the ball.
Now, as is the case with all prospects, there are concerns. Harry's lack of high-end speed was able to get him by in college both before and after the catch, but that could make it tough for him in the NFL.
First, receivers need to be able to get separation. If Harry's speed doesn't improve, then he'll need to take the things he does well and take them to an elite level, such as his route running, footwork, hand usage and ability to use his body to box out defenders.
In terms of making plays after the catch, without downfield blocking by his teammates, Harry may not be able to bust these huge plays as consistently as he did for the Sun Devils. He can, however, keep the chains moving by keeping his legs moving when defenders are attempting to wrap him up.
WHY THE COLTS?
Now that you know who Harry is as a player, here is why the Colts could have an eye on him.
As mentioned before, the Colts currently only have three receivers currently under contract for 2019 who have legit NFL starting/playing experience: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal and James Wright. Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain were both drafted in 2018 and could very well make an impact in 2019. Wright and Cain both spent the entire 2018 season on Injured Reserve with knee injuries.
Of the 11 receivers the Colts currently have not named Hilton, every one of them is at least six-feet tall, averaging about 6-1 ¾ . Harry certainly fits into that mold.
Harry would provide some needed outside relief from the pressure that defenses put on Hilton, and his ability to use his size and athleticism to make plays on the ball would be a valued red-zone weapon for quarterback Andrew Luck.
This is moreso how he plays and not a career projection, but Harry reminds me of a blend of Philadelphia Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has similar size and athleticism as Jeffery with Smith-Schuster’s attitude and play style.
Overall, Harry is a big-bodied receiver with sure hands and great leaping ability. He has good short-area quickness which helps in his route running. Harry plays tough, especially after the catch. He has adequate, yet not top-end speed. Whichever team selects him in the draft is likely getting a playmaker right away who can develop into a well-rounded, top receiver for his team.
So, while Harry may not blow people away with his 40 time at the Combine, that’s not a big deal. For my money, give me a receiver who is more of a technician with sure hands than somebody that can just run fast, every day of the week.