The Bengals drafted Arizona State defensive lineman Marcus Hardison in the fourth round, 135th overall today at the NFL Draft.
The Florida native started at Dodge City Community College in 2011, and played two seasons for the Conquistadors. He was ranked by ESPN as the No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country.
Hardison then played two seasons at ASU and had a breakout 2014 campaign, in which he led the team with 10 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. He also tallied 53 total tackles, two interceptions and two passes defended.
The 6-foot-3, 307-pound defensive lineman's draft stock may have dropped a bit at the NFL Combine, as he wasn't able to participate in any running activities. He had suffered a minor knee injury in the Senior Bowl.
Said NFL Media's Mark Dulgerian: "A junior college transfer, Hardison is an ascending player who showed steady progress as a 3-technique in 2014 and through the Senior Bowl. Bengals were poor getting to the quarterback and Hardison is the type of penetrating defensive lineman they can use."
Here is Hardison's NFL.com scouting report:
Selected honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2014 after leading team with 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Selected to play in 2015 Senior Bowl. Before enrolling at Arizona State for the 2013 season, spent 2011, 2012 at Dodge City Community College, where he had 96 tackles and 7 sacks. Played some quarterback in high school before moving to defensive line.
Strengths: Consistently times snap, and has the quick twitch to turn this trait into a quick penetration and win from inside. Has good arm length. Understands how to keep blockers away from his frame as pass rusher and brings force behind his hands. Rarely square as a pass rusher, using shoulder and hip turn to get skinny and turn corner. Good hand fighter. Comes out of stance with low pad level and looks to capture an edge against the run. Puts something behind his tackles. Showed rapid improvement from midpoint of season all the way through Senior Bowl week.
Weaknesses: Natural defensive end who is still learning new position and vantage point. Inconsistent knee bend at contact as interior rusher, causing pad level to rise and knocking him off balance. Lacks strength in lower body and gets pushed around by plus run blockers when asked to hold the point. Gets redirected a little too easily at times when stunting. Fires off ball with head low and doesn't see cut blocks coming. Leans into run blockers rather than bringing hips and feet with him.
Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3
Sources Tell Us: "Really, really quick for a big man. If you would have told me in October that he would end up with all that production and showing out at Senior Bowl practices, I would have thought you were crazy. It just started click for him." -- NFC area scout
NFL Comparison: Henry Melton
Bottom Line: A defensive end turned three-technique in a 4-3 defense with outstanding initial quickness off the snap and the hands and feet to be a disruptive, upfield player against plodding guards. Hardison needs more muscle in his lower body and is unlikely to fit defensive schemes looking for stack-and-shed interior defenders. Hardison has starting potential and might be able to come in as a situational pass rusher early on.