Bloomington, Ind. – James Hardy might be making the jump to the NFL at exactly the right time.
The Hoosiers' 6'6", 225-pound junior announced Friday he'd bypass his senior season in Bloomington and make himself eligible for the 2008 NFL Draft. According to long-time NFL scout and current Scout.com NFL analyst Tom Marino the timing could be right.
"I believe this is a very thin group (of wide receivers), particularly at the top," said Marino, who spent 30 years as an NFL scout, most recently with the St. Louis Rams from 2000-06. "There appear to be a good many (round) 3, 4 and 5 prospects, but I don't see a lot of bell cow guys out there."
Hardy, though, could very well be one of those top-tier receivers. While he'll have to run well at the combine and perform well at individual workouts, Marino said he currently sees Hardy as a player who will go in the first two rounds. Which round he's selected in will depend on how he performs in front of scouts over the next couple of months.
If Hardy does wind up going in the first round, he'd be the first Hoosier to do that since Thomas Lewis was the 24th overall pick in 1994.
While there are receivers in the '08 draft class that have more speed, Marino said Hardy's athleticism and size is what will stand out the most to NFL talent evaluators.
"Football, like basketball, is all about match-ups," Marino said. "In a halfcourt offense point guards' primary jobs are to look for switches where your 6'5" guy is caught in a switch and is covering my 6'11" guy. The good big guy beats the good little guy every time.
"In football we actually line up at the snap with major mismatches. The 5'9" corner covering the 6'6" wideout. There really is no way to defend that type of wide and slot receivers, particularly in the red zone."
Hardy made that abundantly clear during his Hoosier career. He caught a school-record 36 touchdowns in the last three years, including 16 this past fall. His career totals of 191 receptions and 2,740 yards are also new school marks.
Hardy figures to be among a group of wideouts that also includes LSU's Early Doucet, Cal's Desean Jackson, Texas' Limas Sweed, Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman, Michigan's Mario Manningham and Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly that are potential early picks when the NFL Draft is held April 26-27.
In addition to performing well on the stop watch, Marino believes NFL teams will also be looking closely at Hardy's ability to get off press coverage and if he can sink his hips and get in and out of a route.
Marino said Hardy's skills are a little reminiscent of Denver Broncos' wideout Brandon Marshall, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft and recently concluded a 102-catch, 1,325 yard, seven-touchdown season. The 6'4", 230-pound Marshall emerged as the Broncos' top receiver this year after Javon Walker was injured early on.
"Hardy has that athletic ability and rare size," Marino said.
Long-Time NFL Scout Talks James Hardy
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