Patriots bolster receiving corps with ASU’s Harry

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots addressed a top area of need by selecting Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry with the final selection of the first round, 32nd overall.

That should make quarterback Tom Brady happy, as it marks the first time the Patriots have selected a receiver in the first round since they chose Terry Glenn in 1996.

The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Harry is a physical target who director of player personnel Nick Caserio said has shown proficiency in making contested catches. Caserio added that the Patriots had opportunities to trade the 32nd pick but thought tabbing the 21-year-old Harry was the better option, calling him “a big, strong receiver [with] good hands [and] good with the ball after the catch.”

Asked to describe his style of play, Harry told Patriots reporters late Thursday: “I play with a lot of passion. Whenever that ball is in the air, I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it.”

Harry joins Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman, five-year veteran Phillip Dorsett and newly signed veteran Demaryius Thomas atop the receiver depth chart. His arrival could help soften the blow of tight end Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, as Gronkowski was a target Brady often relied upon against tight coverage.

Harry appeared in 37 career games in three seasons at Arizona State, totaling 213 receptions for 2,889 yards and 22 touchdowns. He visited the Patriots’ facility before the draft, spending time with Bill Belichick.

“I feel like a lot of people just think of him as just an uptight person, but he was very relatable. We were in there smiling, cracking jokes, so I got a very good vibe from him,” he said.

Harry said Thursday night was special, as he watched the draft with about 50 to 60 family members and friends in Scottsdale. His family is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small island in the Caribbean. He grew up in Arizona with his grandmother and aunt and said he believed he wouldn’t slip past his hometown Arizona Cardinals, who hold the 33rd overall pick.

Perhaps that contributed to the Patriots’ decision to not trade the 32nd pick after the two teams picking before them — the Seahawks and Rams — dealt their selections.

“There were some phone calls at the end … there were some things we were working on … in the end, we decided the best thing for us was to pick, and that’s what we did,” Caserio said.

The Patriots entered the draft with 12 selections, which tied for an NFL high with the New York Giants, a haul that includes two second-round picks (Nos. 56, 64) and three third-rounders (Nos. 73, 97, 101).

That could set up a busy Friday for the Patriots in rounds two and three.

“There’s definitely some good players that are left here. We have some flexibility,” Caserio said. “If there is a player we think we need to target a little bit earlier, we could potentially go up and get him.”

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