LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- There’s an enhanced spotlight that follows a first-round pick in the NFL. Beyond that, there’s great scrutiny for those who fail to meet their potential. New Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry knows that all too well.
Harry never lived up to his billing with the Patriots over the course of three seasons after New England selected him at No. 32 overall in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He requested a trade last summer but was forced to play out one more season in New England, recording just 12 catches in 2021 after completely falling out of favor with coach Bill Belichick.
With that as context, the 24-year-old Harry cried tears of joy when he learned in mid-July that he was being traded to the Bears. No longer would he simply be associated as being a first-round failure with the Patriots. He saw a new opportunity ahead.
“It really is a much-needed fresh start for me,” Harry said Wednesday after his first practice with the Bears.
The receiver-needy Bears were willing to take a chance on Harry, who could prove to be a fit in several ways. He'll have a chance to carve out a role in the Bears' mix of mostly unproven receivers. He also can offer an excellent run-blocking presence on the edge of Chicago’s new scheme. Beyond that, Harry is the type of player who fits the profile of what the Bears want this season.
Harry is hungry to change the narrative about himself.
“He has a really good skill set, great physical traits and I think he has something to prove, for sure,” first-year general manager Ryan Poles said.
Added Bears quarterback Justin Fields: “I’m very excited to see what he can do on the field.”
Harry is in a similar situation as fellow receivers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, who each joined the Bears after failing to solidify their roles with successful teams in their previous stops. There will now be competition to land a roster spot and earn a role in the offense. Poles and the Bears hope to see a complementary target emerge alongside top receiver Darnell Mooney.
Harry stands confident in his work this offseason. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he certainly has the frame and athleticism to be successful. It’s just a matter of reaching that potential.
"I just want to show how dominant I can be as a player in the NFL,” Harry said.
Of course, skepticism regarding Harry's outlook is warranted. It’s rare that Belichick is proved wrong when he parts ways with a player. In this case, all it took for the Patriots to trade Harry was to receive a 2024 seventh-round pick in return.
Harry isn’t looking back at his disappointing past with the Patriots. He sees a new chance with the Bears and is motivated to reward their belief.
“This is a reset,” Harry said. “A much-needed reset.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.