FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots spent their lone pick of the first round of the NFL draft getting Tom Brady a fresh pair of hands to throw to.
New England used the 32nd pick of Thursday’s opening round to select receiver N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State.
He is the first receiver selected by the Patriots in the first round since they chose Terry Glenn seventh overall in 1996. Harry is the first receiver taken in the first round under coach Bill Belichick.
“It means the world to me,” Harry said. “For him to have that much faith in me and to have that much trust in me it just makes me want to work that much harder.”
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio described Harry as big, strong receiver with good hands that is good with the ball after the catch.
At 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, Harry has questionable speed after running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. But he was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a junior, catching 73 passes for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns.
“There are some other good players that are out there as well,” Caserio said. “We just thought this was the best player that made sense for us at the time.”
Harry’s selection brings instant energy to a receiving group that entered free agency in need of a youth injection.
Receiver Julian Edelman is Brady’s most experienced returning pass catcher. But he will be 33 when the regular season starts.
Chris Hogan signed with the Panthers in free agency, leaving Brady with Phillip Dorsett as his No. 2 receiver behind Edelman. The signing of Demaryius Thomas gave the Patriots another proven veteran. But Harry’s addition is a sign they want to remake the group further.
Originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Harry watched the draft unfold in Scottsdale, Arizona, with about 50 members of his family.
He said he doesn’t have a preference of whether he plays on the outside or in the slot.
Harry described his game as “very passionate.”
“When that ball’s in the air I’ll sacrifice anything to go get it,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
The Patriots entered the draft with 12 picks, including seven in the first four rounds. The No. 32 pick was their lone selection in Thursday’s first round.
New England still has several needs, including finding a long-term replacement for tight end Rob Gronkowski following his recent retirement, as well as filling holes on the offensive and defensive lines created by free agency departures.
Two of the most highly rated tight end prospects were taken early in the first round after the Iowa tandem of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were chosen by the Lions and Broncos, respectively.
There was also a run on defensive linemen, with 13 players chosen in the first 32 picks.
Day 2 of the draft is set up to be busy with the Patriots holding five picks in Rounds 2 and 3.
The offense needs a new starting left tackle to replace Trent Brown, who signed a lucrative contract with the Raiders at the start of free agency.
There’s also the possibility that the Patriots may select a quarterback, with Brady set to turn 42 years old in August. Brian Hoyer is solely Brady’s backup and not their quarterback of the future. They did select Danny Etling in the seventh round of the 2018 draft, but he spent last season on the practice squad and still needs a lot of development.
One player still on the board after Thursday night is former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, who is big at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. A four-year starter with the Tigers has the big arm to match, throwing for 28 touchdowns and completing 63 percent of his passes as a senior.
Caserio said he is expecting some opportunities to move around on Day 2 with five picks.
“We’re off to a decent start and we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We do have a little flexibility relative to the picks, so we’ll evaluate the board, we’ll evaluate the situations and opportunities that are there and we’ll try to make good decisions over the next couple of days.”