Justin Hardy (Senior), WR, East Carolina
Height: 5’10.5” Weight: 190lbs.
DOB: 12/18/91 (23)
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Senior WR Justin Hardy is nothing short of an incredible talent. During his career at East Carolina he accounted for 347 total receptions for over 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Looking over his just a few of his 2014 game tapes, he jumps off the screen. He is easily QB Shane Carden’s favorite target. His most notable game came against Cincinnati where he went off for a 15-188-1 line including a single rushing attempt of 7 yards and a score. He included three catches of 20+ yards and that included his lone receiving TD.
If you watch even one game of Hardy, one of the first sentences that will come out of your mouth will be, “Wow. Amazing hands.”
He catches basically every catchable ball and in the film I watched, only botched maybe one or two total passes from Carden.
Shane Carden is a respectable QB, but he does throw many un-catchable balls in Hardy’s direction, so you cannot knock him for that.
Given his frame and size, he is able to catch well in traffic and can really adjust well to the ball. One play in particular came against Florida in the Birmingham Bowl where Hardy adjusted nicely to the ball, though it was incomplete (0:49 left in the first half).
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Again, another great trait of Justin Hardy. No matter the route, he runs it almost perfectly. He lines up all over the field with East Carolina, but is a true Y-receiver (slot receiver). He has great vision, and for an under 6-foot WR, can escape traffic and create separation at a high level.
Like I mentioned above, the Florida game offers a great sense of his ability to adjust to the ball.
There’s really nothing I can see on film that indicates poor route-running.
Obviously not one of the big things we look for in a WR, but blocking ability does increase snaps in the NFL, right?
Justin Hardy has very long arms and big hands and for his size, he blocks at an above average rate.
How will be able to block NFL defensive players? That I’m not sure of.
I think it’s safe to say teams and fans would love to have the big menacing 6’5” guy that can go up and catch anything over a 5’10” defensive back, but for a slot receiver, Hardy is basically the frame you’re looking for and actually appears to play above his height in most instances. His height does hinder his ability to catch some 50/50 balls in the air, but some of that I’ll put on Shane Carden. In watching film, he definitely plays bigger than his discouraging height.
This is an area that separates many slot-receivers. While Hardy’s “true speed” is unknown, he has pretty great agility. I recognized that after watching the Birmingham Bowl, on a screen pass he was able to take the ball from his own 30-yard line to the opposing 5-yard line. He’s also able to create solid separation at the line of scrimmage.
While his true speed is unknown, I don’t put a lot in to this. Sure, a receiver could have a 4.1 40-yard dash time, but how are his hands, route running and ability to create separation? As the below chart shows (courtesy of Bleacher Report and Matt Miller), speed isn’t everything.
Even if Hardy runs a 4.6 at the Combine, won’t make me think any less of him. If he comes out an runs at 4.3, will make me like him even more.
Overall, Justin Hardy appears to be underrated by many evaluators. The biggest negatives with Hardy is he could be a product of his system and his ability to catch the 50/50 jump ball could be slightly improved. While he didn’t jump off the field to most in the Senior Bowl, he definitely could have done better.
Justin Hardy was also the 2014 Burlsworth Trophy Winner which is given to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
He is the all-time leader in FBS history for receptions having secured 347 over his career.
Grade: Mid-late Second Round Pick