Bill Belichick reportedly ignored scouts in drafting N’Keal Harry

Last week’s comments from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, covered extensively here and on PFT Live, included a blunt and candid assessment of the team’s recent failures in the draft.

“Really, the teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good,” Kraft told reporters last Wednesday. “I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year. In the end, it all comes down to what happens on the field and how people execute and you really don’t know how good a draft is for at least two years.”

Two years after the 2019 draft, we know that first-round receiver N’Keal Harry has not been good. Albert Breer of SI.com recently reported that coach Bill Belichick ignored his personnel department in picking Harry over players like Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown, both of whom were preferred by the team’s scouts. Belichick ignored that input and instead took Harry, based on Harry’s performance during a non-workout visit to the team and Belichick’s relationship with Harry’s college coach, Todd Graham.

Breer interprets Kraft’s reference to a “different approach” as reflecting an indication that Belichick is now listening more to those in the building who are setting the table for Belichick.

That said, Kraft also could have been referring to the fact that there’s a different person ultimately setting the table for Kraft, given the departure of former V.P. of player personnel Nick Caserio for the Texans. Although source-guessing is regarded by some in this business as a no-no, it’s impossible to ignore the reality that Breer interviewed Caserio just last week. Also, given that Kraft’s critique of the teams recent drafts and reference to a “different approach” easily could be interpreted as an indictment of Caserio, it makes sense for Caserio — who is no longer muzzled by Belichick — to be the one to tell the story of Belichick going off the board for a player who has become a bust, in order to deflect any criticism away from Caserio, especially as it relates to the ill-fated selection of Harry.

Regardless of whether the information came from Caserio, it’s undeniable that Caserio is mentioned nowhere in Breer’s 435-word blurb regarding recent draft failures in New England. Given his title and the fact that he’s the most significant change from recent years to this year, it’s impossible not to at least consider the possibility that Kraft was referring at least in part to Caserio when citing the different approach that the owner has seen.

And regardless of whether Kraft was calling out Belichick or Caserio or both, the team’s history of drafting and developing high- to mid-round receivers over the past 20 years has been largely abysmal, with players who ultimately busted includingHarry in 2019, Malcolm Mitchell in 2016, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in 2013, Taylor Price in 2010, and Chad Jackson in 2006.