The Buffalo Bills haven’t made a big splash in free agency this year, but they have made a couple smaller ones. One of these is especially small, with wide receiver Deonte Harty coming in at 5’6” and 170 pounds. For those of you wondering, that’s two inches shorter than Cole Beasley. Now that there’s a new player to refer to as “diminutive,” let’s take a look to see what skills Harty brings to the table.
Play 1 — Not what we want to see
We’ll start off with a play that’s honestly not my favorite. All things considered this play didn’t really matter anyway, but you’d like to have seen the New Orleans Saints at least pick up the first down here (the play ended with three seconds left in the game). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers conceded plenty of space, Deonte Harty is fast enough to get past the sticks, and the ball was delivered. Heading out of bounds was the right call, but one yard shy of keeping the drive going. At the very least, the first down would have stopped the Saints from watching Tom Brady take a knee.
Play 2 — Some YAC
Now this is what we want to see. Right after the catch, Harty needed to make a decision on where to go. He planted and made the right call. A little more wiggle in tight quarters and he’d have the first. Harty also lowered his pads at the right time to avoid the big hit. There’s a lot of little things that went right here, and it all started behind the line of scrimmage.
Play 3 — How the cookie crumbles
The first two plays were both of Harty’s catches in the 2022 season, so I had to dig deeper into the vault for some 2021 footage. I thought the most fun game to bring to everyone’s attention here would be a familiar “opponent.”
This was Harty’s first target of the game and the end result kind of stunk. The ball wasn’t uncatchable, but Trevor Siemian sure didn’t make it easy either. Harty would have had a little room for some yards too. The thing I really want everyone to see though is that Harty was wide open. Against Matt Milano. Harty set up the star linebacker with a sharp stop and cut to make Milano lean into air. Milano tried to extend and jam and Harty’s hands were lightning fast to swipe Milano’s away. You would be very hard-pressed to find a better rep against Milano.
Now to be clear, a single play isn’t a trend — but it does show a player’s potential.
Play 4 - More YAC
This is very similar to Play 2, to show that Harty’s elusiveness isn’t a fluke. That initial cut to force the miss was pretty nuts and there was some more subtle wiggle right after.
Play 5 - Scheme matters
While Buffalo was up big, they were still playing pretty normal on defense. The Saints set this play up looking like a deep shot and the Bills fell back to cover it. Deonte Harty was left with a lot of space if he caught the ball. The wild overthrow killed any chance, but this is a great play to show everyone — assuming you have a bit of imagination. Try to picture the burst of speed in the play right above this one with that much open field.
Play 6 - Hello and hello again
Harty was lined up against Dane Jackson and was fast enough to gain an initial step. Now watch that again. Harty was fast enough to not only get the step, but he cut off Jackson as he snapped his route to the sideline. Put differently, he’s so much faster than Jackson on this play, he’s able to cross over with no resistance. If this ball was placed deeper and to the sideline, there’s a good chance for a catch. Instead it was right into the hand of Jordan Poyer. See what I did there? I managed to work two of the day’s biggest free-agent signings into one GIF. Welcome back Poyer!
It’s highly likely that you’ve already seen some hype about Deonte Harty. Well, toss my name onto that pile. Harty’s quickness and acceleration are a great combo with his ability to change lanes in traffic. Fast hands are a welcome addition. Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s fair to question how Harty was buried for the most part on a Saints roster that could have used a little help scoring points.
Now that we’re back in a semi-cautious state of mind, let’s take a stab at how things might go for Harty in Buffalo. As a complementary receiver, there are plenty of ways to involve someone with Harty’s skill set. Imagine a well-thrown ball on Play 5 and arriving much faster than most quarterbacks can deliver it. Or Play 3, swiping away All-Pro opposition. Harty should be considered a gamble, but one with jackpot potential.