More than half of the teams in the NFL have already shown some interest in Indiana's exciting wide receiver, James Hardy, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to succeed at the next level after setting both single-season and career records by the end of his junior year.
"As long as I have a coach who's willing to stay long hours with me, I'll be there willing to learn," Hardy said during an exclusive interview with Scout.com.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound wide receiver is a playmaker who knows how to use his body to his advantage in tight coverage. And his timing and leaping ability make him deadly on fade routes and as red zone target.
Hardy told Scout.com that just a few of the teams that have shown interest in him are the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, and the Indianapolis Colts.
Indiana wide receiver James Hardy runs after the catch during a practice.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
The Vikings, of course, could use another receiver, a position that is considered a weak spot on the team. Bobby Wade led the team with 54 catches, and then Robert Ferguson (32 receptions) and rookie Sidney Rice (31) were the next leading receivers. Combined, their receptions barely eclipse the 100-catch mark while several receivers in the NFL had 100 catches on their own.
One of those was Denver's Brandon Marshall, whom former NFL scout Tom Marino compared to Hardy. Marshall was a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft and recently concluded a 102-catch, 1,325-yard, seven-touchdown season. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall emerged as the Broncos' top receiver this year after Javon Walker was injured early on.
Like Marshall, Hardy's size (6-6, 220) makes him an intriguing NFL prospect.
"A former basketball star and a physical enigma, Hardy has been one of the more consistent receivers in the country the last three years," wrote Scout.com NFL draft analyst Chris Steuber. "His size has scouts drooling and his potential is unlimited. He has a chance to be a premier receiver at the next level, but has to play more physically. He's still developing his game as a receiver, and his route-running, speed and hands will be critiqued harshly at the Combine."
But Marino said Hardy's size should consistently create matchup problems for NFL defenses.
"Football, like basketball, is all about match-ups," Marino told HoosierNation.com. "In a half-court 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 exploited those matchups in college. Over the last three seasons, he had 191 receptions for the Hoosiers and 36 touchdowns, including 16 in 2007. His season-record 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns helped earn him All-Big Ten first-team honors, and he left Indiana as its all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior season.
All that production has Hardy generally considered one of the top five receivers in the draft and has numerous teams interested in his potential. The Vikings are one of those teams, but we'll likely to have to wait until the first day of the draft, April 26, to gauge how serious their interest is versus many of the other teams that have also talked with Hardy.