Head 2 Head: Bowman vs. Hardy

Oklahoma State senior Adarius Bowman and Indiana junior James Hardy are among the top receivers in the country who are eligible to participate in next April's NFL Draft. But who's the better receiver? Scout.com's Chris Steuber weighs in with his analysis.

It's easy to say who's a better player at a certain position — but much tougher to prove it.

In this new Head 2 Head feature, I'll break down the positional attributes of a junior and senior prospect and match them Head 2 Head.

So let's get started with a comparison of of two of the nations' top wide receivers — Oklahoma State senior Adarius Bowman vs. Indiana junior James Hardy.

Who's the better receiver?


Advantage: Hardy

Bowman: At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Bowman has a muscular, compact build that gives him great strength and the ability to muscle-up defenders. He has excellent core strength and leg drive.

Hardy: At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Hardy has a leaner build, but has superb muscle definition. His frame allows for more bulk and a greater chance of improving his overall size.


Advantage: Even

Bowman: He’s been clocked in the mid 4.4’s to low 4.5’s, but plays much faster. Bowman possesses game speed; speed that doesn’t show up on stopwatches, but is noticeable on the field.

Hardy: A rangy, long-strider, Hardy has been clocked as low as 4.4, and as high as 4.5. He also plays at a higher level on game day and runs faster than his time indicates.


Advantage: Bowman

Bowman: Strong at the point of attack, Bowman gets a quick release off the line using his speed and strength. He’s excels against press coverage and is able to slip by the opposition with ease.

Hardy: Not very physical at the line, Hardy struggles in press coverage when matched up against a bigger defender. Corners usually play off of Hardy, respecting his game as a vertical threat. But when he’s challenged at the line, his momentum can be stalled.


Advantage: Bowman

Bowman: His quick feet and strength allow him to get into his routes quickly. He runs good deep routes and is a consistent threat, but has to tighten up his path over the middle. He tends to run soft routes inside where a physical defender can react and sneak in front of Bowman for an interception.

Hardy: Hardy runs excellent vertical routes and slants over the middle. The problem is that Hardy catches a majority of his passes on the outside on comebacks or go-routes and doesn’t show much willingness to run solid patterns over the middle.


Advantage: Hardy

Bowman: He has soft hands and can make highlight-reel grabs, but he tends to lose concentration and will drop easy passes. He’s been consistent the last two years, hauling in 60 receptions in 2006 and 61 this season for Oklahoma State.

Hardy: He has big, strong hands and can corral some of the most difficult passes. Since his freshman season at Indiana, Hardy has averaged 62 receptions for 897 yards and 12 touchdowns.


Advantage: Even

Bowman: He is a gifted athlete that has the knack to make acrobatic receptions between two defenders, leaping over the opposition or hauling in a one-handed catch over the middle. He’s a human highlight reel waiting to happen.

Hardy: He’s your classic vertical threat who adjusts well to errant throws and uses his height to his advantage against the opposition. Hardy is a phenomenal red zone threat who runs the fade route to perfection and hauls in overthrown passes effortlessly.


Advantage: Even

Bowman: He plays his best when pressure is applied downfield or over the middle and makes difficult receptions in traffic. He has a knack for the spectacular.

Hardy: He likes a different kind of traffic, as he displays incredible aerial receiving ability. Hardy likes to get vertical and challenge two defenders downfield to make a leaping reception, rather than challenging the opposition over the middle.


Advantage: Bowman

Bowman: His ability to go over the middle, snare a tough pass, make a defender miss, and pick up extra yards downfield make him special. He’s not a burner, but he’s quick enough to escape a defender’s grasp and pick up positive yardage after a reception.

Hardy: He’s a vertical threat that makes a lot of plays downfield, but doesn’t have the opportunity to gain yardage after a reception. His receptions go for touchdowns, get defended immediately, or get knocked out of bounds. 


Advantage: Bowman

Bowman: He’s probably one of the best blocking receivers in the country. His strength, quickness, and aggressive style of play are huge factors in the Cowboys' rushing attack.

“I guarantee you I could put together a highlight tape on nothing but his blocks, and it would rival any other great wide receiver in the country,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said referring to Bowman.

Hardy: He’s not much of a blocker, but his presence makes the Hoosiers running game effective. Hardy spreads out the defense due to his playmaking ability on the outside.


Advantage: Hardy

Bowman: He transferred from North Carolina to Oklahoma State halfway through his sophomore season due to a drug-related incident. He’s since shown a lot of maturity on and off the field.

Hardy: No off the field issues to report. 


Advantage: Bowman

Adarius Bowman and James Hardy offer multiple qualities to teams at the next level. They both possess great size, skill, and game-changing ability. But after analyzing them both, Bowman edged out Hardy. Hardy is still developing his overall game, but presents a mismatch against the opposition due to his towering stature. Bowman is a complete receiver who’s willing to make plays over the middle and downfield and contribute in the running game with his superb blocking. Hardy is an underclassman, and it’s unknown if he’ll declare for the draft, but his size and speed will intrigue teams selecting in the late-first or early-second round. Bowman, if he has a great workout and interviews well with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine, has the opportunity to be selected in the mid-to-late first round. Even though Bowman’s history is a bit sketchy, his talent is undeniable.


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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