The smoke has cleared from the 70th annual Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Every year there are a handful of players who take full advantage of one of the biggest pre-draft events. The eyes in the sky are everywhere at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium where the likes of Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Rashaad Penny have all made some serious money in past years.
Having said, that these players were all household names and already generating plenty of buzz before ever stepping off the plane in Mobile. The real interesting story lines from Mobile each and every year are the players from smaller schools that emerge during the week of practices. This year Penny Hart from Georgia State was the player turning all the scouts, coaches, Draftniks and beat writers heads.
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It didn’t take long for Penny Hart to flash and on Day 1 during North team’s one-on-one drills. He consistently beat opposing corners in press coverage off the line. By utilizing his track speed and nuanced route running technique Penny was able to gain separation from pretty much any corner he matched up with. As Daniel Jeremiah coined him best, “Penny can cut on a dime.”
He also noted how explosive he was at the top of his route. It’s even more amazing if you consider his small frame measuring in at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds soaking wet. Where he makes up for his lack of size is with track speed, crafty footwork, and explosiveness after the catch. In today’s NFL, one can easily pigeonhole a player like Hart into an exclusive slot wide receiver category. In Harts’ case I think that would be a lazy and ignorant assumption.
Adderley is one of the best DBs in Mobile and WR Penny Hart got him pretty good with that controlled burst.
Twitchy + Crafty = Hart pic.twitter.com/6P6B9RLINY
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 24, 2019
Scouts Taek on Hart:
Speaking with one scout he told me that Hart reminded him of a poor man’s Tyreek Hill. Hill is proof that these specific labels or stigmas given to certain players due to size alone aren’t accurate and fair to them. Hart also has something else in common with Tyreek in regards to being a special teams standout.
In 2018 he averaged 17.6 yards on nine punt returns while setting a GSU season record with 158 punt return yards. Hart also averaged 19.9 yards on kick returns finishing the year with 93 all-purpose yards per game. Brad Kelly with
@DraftNetworkLLC points out there is more to Harts’ game than quick-twitch which Tyreek also possesses.
There’s more to Penny Hart than quick-twitch:
•Cut off and contacted, Hart disengages by pressing the DB’s shoulder
•Jab steps with a head fake to open the DB’s hips
•Threatens space that requires the DB to overextend his his flip and shift his weight opposite of Hart’s break pic.twitter.com/N52v5EVDIy
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) January 25, 2019
As it goes with every NFL prospect there are pros and cons so let’s address the latter now. Ideally scouts and coaches want to see consistent production throughout a players collegiate career. In addition to that the ability to stay healthy is key to a player’s success. Playing in the Sun Belt Conference as a Freshman in 2015 Hart balled out recording 71 receptions for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns.
His coming out party garnered him the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year award. During his sophomore campaign in 2016 Hart suffered a foot injury that limited him to two games. In 2017 a fully healthy Hart bounced back in a big way by registering 74 receptions for 1,112 yards and eight scores.
In his Senior year in 2018 Hart experienced a dip in his numbers across the board. Hart registered 49 receptions for 669 yards and two touchdowns. You can be certain that questions surrounding his production will be raised but when healthy he’s played at a very high level.
I don’t have the answer as to why Harts’ numbers dipped so much in 2018 but the player I witnessed this past week on the hoof looked every bit like the 2015/2017 version. The buzz on Hart is warranted given his strong performance this past week in Mobile.
Depending on how coaches, scouts, and front offices view him I wouldn’t be surprised to see him creep into Day 2 conversation. That’s all contingent on him being able to build on this momentum and test out well at the NFL Combine. Slot wide receivers don’t typically go early in today’s NFL but guys like Julian Edelman and Cooper Kupp have proven to be worth their weight in gold. Hart has the potential to be a steal for some lucky team and could prove to be someone who can also win on the outside.
While he still might be flying under the radar he shouldn’t be for much longer. If I was in the room I’d be pounding the table to draft a player with the unique skill set that Hart showcased this past week in Mobile.