Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: WR Justin Hardy
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
5-10, 192 pounds
Hometown: Vanceboro, NC
40 yard: 4.56 seconds
20 yard: 2.62 seconds
10 yard: 1.57 seconds
Bench: 11 reps
Vertical jump: 36.5″
Shuttle: 4.21 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.63
News and Notes:
At first blush Justin Hardy is a nondescript receiver physically who puts up big numbers at a little bit of a smaller school. With 387 career receptions Hardy set the all-time FBS record for receptions in a career and with 4,541 yards he has the third most receiving yards in a career. Both stats can be skewed due to targets per game and competition, however it is impressive nonetheless, especially for a walk-on. Hardy put up over 1,100 yards in each of his last three seasons at East Carolina, culminating in almost 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, as well as a combined 29 receiving touchdowns over the last three seasons.
Hardy is on the smaller side at 5’10” and ran an unremarkable 4.56 in the 40 yard dash as well as putting up a slightly above average 36.5″ vertical. While his 40 time is not bad, I do feel the 40 yard dash is terribly overrated. It is really cool to see someone run very fast in a straight line, but it’s not very practical. My personal favorite measurement for receivers is the 3-cone drill, followed closely by the vertical. The reason I chose Justin Hardy to write about is that I saw a player who ran the fastest 3-cone drill at the combine this year among all wide receivers and set the FBS record for receptions in a career being graded with a 3rd to 4th round grade.
While Hardy does not have the height, he does have the hands. At 10 inches, Hardy had the 5th biggest hands among receivers at the combine this year and used them regularly to make tough catches during his career. Despite lacking in upper body strength, Hardy is an aggressive blocker who gets physical with defenders on run plays.
Looking at the video, what stands out most to me is just how good Hardy’s hands are and how good he is at getting his body into a position where he can make the catch.
He also does a good job at showing quickness and ability to make plays. He obviously wouldn’t be playing there in the NFL but I think it says a lot about his talent that they were willing to line him up on the outside in redzone situations and just throw it up to him to make plays.
What they’re saying about him:
- CBSSports.com: “The FBS record holder for career catches, Hardy walked on at East Carolina and led the team in receiving each of the last four seasons, steadily improving his stats each year. He is a precise route runner and understands how to manipulate defenders in his patterns, ideally suited as an inside receiver to work underneath and the middle of the field. Hardy’s lack of suddenness and speed stand out, but so do his strong hands and quick adjustments to snatch throws with natural body control. Although his lack of explosive traits limit his big play ability and overall impact in the NFL, Hardy is never content and is always working to get open, projecting as a reliable possession slot receiver.”
- NFL.com: “Hardy consistently attacks his on-field responsibility with urgency and aggressiveness and he’s a very reliable target. With more teams running the ball out of three-WR sets, some coordinators will see value in the way Hardy gets after run-blocking assignments. Hardy must prove that he has the quickness to get separation out of his breaks.”
If drafted by the Packers:
Hardy would fit in nicely as a backup to Cobb and along side/opposite him in four-wide sets, but at his size he probably won’t be playing a ton on the outside. He has been an incredibly productive receiver at East Carolina and served as their punt returner, both things that help fill in for Cobb should he need to. I see him more as a high-upside depth move because you can never have too much depth at receiver and I’d prefer if Nelson didn’t have to be the guy who moves into Cobb’s spot if Cobb gets injured.
Hardy has great hands, good acceleration, is an aggressive blocker, and has a solid ability to adjust and get the ball while in the air. Being a smaller guy who is more of a solid, reliable, possession guy that can play the slot is something that makes him different from Janis, White, and Abbrederis. Make no mistake, he will not be replacing or competing with Cobb any time in the near future, he would be competing as his backup and a number four receiver. In the meantime if Hardy does have issues creating separation, running him out with Adams, Cobb, and Nelson will help with getting him the best match-up possible and that’s something that Rodgers knows how to exploit.
Mike Reuter lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. He is a mobile tech enthusiast, a 19 year Gopher Football season ticket holder and a huge Packers fan. Mike is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @uofmike.