Why Pats rookie WR Ja'Lynn Polk isn't the next N'Keal Harry

Why Pats rookie WR Ja'Lynn Polk isn't the next N'Keal Harry originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Given their recent NFL Draft history, New England Patriots fans are rightfully wary whenever the team selects a wide receiver in the early rounds.

N'Keal Harry, a first-round pick in 2019, was one of New England's worst selections of the Bill Belichick era. Three years later, the Patriots took speedy wideout Tyquan Thornton in the second round. While Thornton remains on the roster, he hasn't made much of an impact over his first two seasons.

Ja'Lynn Polk, the Patriots' No. 37 overall pick in the 2024 draft, hopes to put that trend to an end. The Washington product projects as a versatile wideout with great hands who won't wow anyone with his athleticism, but has the potential to be a go-to target in an NFL offense.

While there's no doubt the Patriots needed to address the receiver position in the draft, the infamous Harry pick already has some wondering whether Polk is another bust waiting to happen. On a new episode of the Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry, ESPN's Field Yates explained why the Harry/Polk comparisons are unfair.

🔊 Next Pats: Field Yates on Ja'Lynn Polk’s high ceiling and when to start Drake Maye | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I know Patriots fans, I've seen one of the pushbacks has been like, 'Did we just draft N'Keal Harry 2.0?' I think he's a better athlete. I do think that," Yates said of Polk. "One thing is clear, Ja'Lynn Polk's mentality is a different stratosphere than N'Keal Harry, a guy who I think needed to kind of be pushed consistently at every juncture. I don't think you're going to have to worry about that with Ja'Lynn Polk.

"There's definitely some dog in Ja'Lynn Polk that I think really serves him well to maybe make an immediate impact, because while the Patriots kind of have a strength-in-numbers approach at wide receiver, there's not -- at least in my estimation right now -- a clear-cut No. 1 guy who's going to be the target king for New England. And I think there's a chance that Ja'Lynn Polk, with some things breaking in his favor, could have a pretty prominent role right away."

Perry mentioned ex-Patriot Jakobi Meyers and longtime Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd -- now with the Tennessee Titans -- as popular NFL comps for Polk. Yates agreed with the Meyers comparison -- but the Las Vegas Raiders version of the undrafted wideout.

"Maybe last year's version of Meyers that we saw in Las Vegas, which I thought was more explosive than we saw in New England," Yates said. "But going 37th overall I think is indicative of a guy that I do think the Patriots believe has a bit more juice."

Also in the episode:

  • Field Yates’ favorite Patriots pick.

  • What would it take for Drake Maye to start next season?

  • Can this draft class be a turning point for the Patriots’ future?