Few teams underwent an offseason overhaul like the Chicago Bears. Sure, the biggest moves came with hiring a new general manager and head coach. But the Bears turned over their roster and brought in waves of new players. And by doing so, the team has created a dozen or so worthwhile camp competitions. We began profiling the most high-profile additions during free agency and after the NFL Draft. With NFL training camps opening later in July, what better time to get to know some more new Bears?
Draft Picks: CB Kyler Gordon (Round 2, Pick 39), S Jaquan Brisker (Round 2, Pick 48), WR Velus Jones Jr. (Round 3, Pick 71), OL Braxton Jones (Round 5, Pick 168), DE Dominique Robinson (Round 5, Pick 174), OL Zachary Thomas (Round 6, Pick 186), RB Trestan Ebner (Round 6, Pick 203)
- Position: Wide receiver
- College: Arizona State
- Previous team: New England Patriots (2019-21)
- Height, weight: 6-4, 225 pounds
- Accomplishments: First-team All-Pac-12 (2018, 2019); 1st-round pick (32nd overall, 2019)
- 2021 stats: 12 catches (22 targets), 184 yards (15.3 yards/catch), 0 TD in 12 games (4 starts)
- Career stats: 57 catches (103 targets), 598 yards (10.5 yards/catch), 4 TD in 33 games (18 starts)
- PFF grades: 69.1 (2021), 57.8 (2020), 66.6 (2019)
In his three years as a pro, Harry has been unable to showcase the skills that made him a first-round pick in 2019. On top of that, he didn’t finagle his way back into some playing time despite competing against an underwhelming cast of receivers.
Harry was in on a grand total of 1,130 snaps over there seasons, appearing on less than 50 percent of offensive plays in two of his three years with the team. I don’t imagine it’s easy getting out of Bill Belichick’s dog house once you’re in it. Hence, I understand why the Patriots — who made Harry their first first-round receiver during the Belichick era — sent him to Chicago in a trade for a 2024 seventh-round pick. The production simply wasn’t there at any point of Harry’s time with the Pats.
Somebody has to line up opposite of Darnell Mooney as a starting wide receiver. And because NFL rules state that offenses have to play with 11 players in order to have a legal formation, why can’t it be Harry?
Harry’s size and ability to make contested catches along the boundary make him an ideal “X” receiver. Line him up outside, get him in a one-on-one situation, throw the ball in his general vicinity, and hope he comes down with more than his fair share of balls. When Harry was starring at Arizona State, his 19 contested catches were the third-most in college football during the 2018 season. More of that, please.
In a perfect world, Harry would slot into that Allen Robinson II role. And in a more perfect world, he would out-perform Robinson’s 38-catch, 410-yard, 1-touchdown 2021 season. At minimum, Harry could be useful in a role where the team leverages an 84.8 run-blocking grade from PFF that was third best among receivers (min. 100 run-block snaps) to its advantage.
For what it’s worth, Kevin White was thriving in that type of role in 2018. That aided him in getting a few looks, practice squad stints, and contracts from teams around the league since 2019. It ain’t much … but it ain’t nothin’.
The Final Word
I’m not sure if Ryan Poles or N’Keal Harry needed this trade more. But I am certain both were in need of each other. Harry needed a fresh start after getting buried on the Patriots depth chart. And after not diving into the deep end of the free agency pool and avoiding the high-price trade market, Poles picking up a handful of lottery tickets (with Harry being the latest) is exactly what he needed.
Building a receivers room with one-year fliers isn’t ideal. And I’d feel a lot better about the state of the receivers room if there was one more established body in the mix. But the Bears certainly did well in cornering the market on change-of-scenery candidates who had flashes of success at previous stops. If one of the lottery tickets cashes, it will be a net win for Poles. And if it doesn’t, I hope it serves as the lesson that nudges him toward making a bigger splash to reel in a more established receiver next offseason.