Marcus Hardison is one of those players that appeals to teams using both types of base defenses. He has the size and gap skills to rush the passer from between the tackles, along with good range to chase down plays along the sidelines. He does a good job of shooting his hands and can quickly extend and maintain separation and while he's engaged maintain a good football position to hold his ground.
What Hardison displays is the ability to take on a block, locate the ball and disengage. He moves well for his size and thanks to his playing days as a quarterback and on the basketball court, he has the ability to quickly redirect when the ball carrier locates the cutback lanes. He's a big man who can finish when he gets his hands on a runner and even though he did not play defense until his senior year in high school, he’s become an efficient wrap-up tackler.
Hardison appears to be very comfortable making plays on the move. He has a nice flow to the ball, staying at a good pad level, which also helps make him effective on slants, twists and stunts. He shows a quick first step and will consistently penetrate and disrupt, doing a good job of using his hands to keep blockers off his body. He is not an explosive play-maker, but is more than agile enough to makes plays in pursuit.
With his overall strength, it is hard for teams to get him to yield ground when they try to run right at him and he shows that he can be a good fit in a gap-control scheme. He plays with a wide base, using his long arms and big hands when attempting to stack and shed. He’s a powerful hitter with good wrap-up skills in space, especially for such a big down lineman.
While Hardison can defend the run well, he is also a good pass rusher. If he gets a nice initial burst, he can quickly get up field and attack, as he is very active with his hands, using them like weapons to work past blockers. He will never be confused for being a great power rusher, but he does a good job of using violent hands to stay off blocks. He is still developing a solid array of pass rush moves, but he appears to be instinctive and closes quickly.
Hardison is also effective as an inside rusher, as he can win some battles with power moves. He has the ability to drive offensive linemen back into the quarterback and has some strong upper-body moves to get the blocker off-balance. He just lacks a consistent closing burst to consistently take advantage.
Playing Hardison inside on passing situations is better, as he is not really a threat to turn the corner with pure speed off the edge in the NFL. He just seems to be a better rusher working in-line than on the edge. For a player his size, he might not look the part, but when he slides in to play tackle, he is a very effective run-plugger.
Due to his experience playing quarterback in the past, Hardison displays above-average awareness to play action and mid-direction. He is the type that can find the ball quickly and does a consistently good job flowing to it. Some teams prefer him as a five-technique prospect, but he has more than adequate top-end speed for his size to be used in a variety of roles. While he may not have that explosive first step to be a threat when bending the corner as a perimeter pass rusher, he does show quick-twitch moves and does well in transition when changing directions.
Marcus Hardison Scouting Combine measurables
6-3/307 (4.86 forty)
33 1/2-inch arm length
10 3/8-inch hands
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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