3 Wide Receivers Entering Their Prove It Years

  1. N’Keal Harry

As far as I’m aware, N’Keal Harry has always been entering his prove-it years since he first entered the league. The first-rounder for the New England Patriots has not seen much production on the field since he was drafted in 2019 out of Arizona State. Coming into the Patriots, Harry was looking to be used as a jump-ball receiver, capable of taking hits, and catching under heavy traffic much like Rob Gronkowski used to do. However, after amassing a disappointing 414 yards since his arrival into the league, Harry is entering his final straw of a prove-it year.

After his agent requested a trade on behalf of Harry, it seems like he won’t be a part of the Patriots organization for long. However, during his small production on the field, Harry seemed to show flashes of being able to play in an NFL offense. First-round picks bust all the time, but it seems like just because he was drafted to the Patriots, this shined a glaring spotlight at Harry.

Not known for drafting wide receivers, Belichick took a chance on Harry, passing over many notable pro-bowlers and top receivers still available at the Patriot’s draft slot. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Diontae Johnson were all notable receivers who could’ve been the Patriots’ next star. The situation on the Patriots at the moment isn’t quite ideal for Harry. A rookie quarterback, an aging veteran, and a “run-first” offense being set in play doesn’t look good for Harry’s future with the Patriots.

Whether it be on the team that drafted him or another team taking a chance on him in exchange for a lower-pick, Harry needs to step up or he could soon find himself outside of the league.

  1. John Ross

Coming into the league in 2017, John Ross was one of the most highly-touted prospects because of his college production and 40-time. Running a blazing, 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he set the record for the fastest 40-time at the combine ever. However, a slight quip that a caster delivered at his combine workout would predict how his career has been going so far.

“He just ran into an injury”

After being drafted ninth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, the pick wasn’t questioned as it looked like just another top receiver being taken by a team that needed a wide receiver. However, after just three seasons with the team, Ross only put up 700 yards and requested a trade. From the film, Ross didn’t seem to have any glaring issues that affected him severely. However, his injuries stemming all the way back since his time in college continued in the NFL, and Ross wasn’t able to produce with the same numbers that the analysts hyped him up to have.

Finally, now with the Giants, Ross is entering a prove-it year as well. He’s on his fourth season in the NFL, which means he should be familiar with NFL defenses. He’s had the ability to rest up and focus on therapy to avoid any more injuries to derail his career some more. And finally, he’s on a new team. It’s not easy to say, but maybe a change of scenery could’ve been all he needed. The Giants offense is a developing offense, and Ross’s presence, mental motivation could be all they need to become a team that can compete on a high level.

  1. JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Steelers have always been great at drafting wide receivers and that’s exactly what they did with JuJu Smith-Schuster. What analysts had on Smith-Schuster was a late first-round pick or an early second, and while no other team took him first, the Steelers decided to pull the trigger and draft him after his performance at USC. After a promising rookie year and an amazing sophomore year, Juju’s performance has declined since then. After putting up a 1400 yard season in 2018, Juju has only managed to put up 500 yards in 2019, and 800 in 2020. While it may not necessarily look like a big issue based on the statistics, Juju is in the hot seat in the Steelers depth chart.

Claypool, Johnson, Washington, and now Harris are looking to be the future of the Steelers’ offense. While Juju wasn’t necessarily written into the offense as a deep threat in the 2020 season (differing from his assignments in 2017-2018), he still played an important role in the Steelers’ offensive scheme. Primarily a third-down receiver, Juju did a lot of the dirty work and ran slants across the middle, took the hard hits, and did all of this without complaining. The problem is, the Steelers pretty much use him for this role exclusively. They don’t need to be paying a lot of money for someone doing one job, and with the new young guns coming into the locker room, Juju will be in for a surprise the next few seasons if he doesn’t produce more on the offense other than being a locker room guy and a short-yardage player.

Getting re-signed for a year despite getting other offers from other teams with more money is a strategic move from Juju’s position. He’s taking this offer to get the chance to put up more numbers in a system he’s used to, so next season, when he’s testing free agency, he’ll have the ability to choose from a multitude of other teams. It’s a bold move, but if it works out, he’ll be making way more money than he would have if he chose another team rather than resigning with the Steelers.