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FANTASY FOOTBALL nfl draft coverage

NFL Draft: Player Profile - James Hardy
John Tuvey
April 18, 2008
Wide Receiver - Indiana

Combine Height: 6-5
Combine Weight: 217
Combine 40 Time: 4.47

Caught 79 balls for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. Finished his three-year collegiate career with 36 touchdowns in 33 games.

Skill Set:
As you might expect from an athlete who began his career at Indiana as a basketball player, Hardy has soft hands and good hops. At 6-5 he’s a head taller than most defensive backs, and the 4.47 he clocked at the Combine is speed enough to run by plenty of defenders as well. He’s still a bit raw and inexperienced, in part because he’s only been playing organized football since his junior year in high school. But in the process of molding an NFL wide receiver, there are plenty of coaches who would be perfectly happy to start with a physical specimen like Hardy

Comparisons to Brandon Marshall are fitting on multiple levels; not only does Hardy have the same physical advantages, questions abound regarding his maturity. Scouts are concerned about Hardy’s lack of physicality, and he’ll need to learn how to beat press coverage to get separation in the NFL. Of course, he already has plenty of separation vertically, so he’ll always have a spot in the corner of the end zone. He has the tools to develop into a legitimate No. 1 pass-catcher… but he also could wind up as just another big possession type receiver.

Possible Destinations:
The more Malcolm Kelly stumbles, the better it looks for Hardy. Teams looking for a bigger receiver may be less inclined to deal with Kelly following his Pro Day performance and subsequent whine-fest, turning instead to Devin Thomas, Limas Sweed… and even Hardy. There’s a chance he goes off the board later in the first round; the Eagles at No. 20 seems early, but if a run on receivers hits before the Titans pick at 24 they may feel the need to reach for Hardy there. The Cowboys at 28 and 49ers at 29 are possibilities, or Hardy could slide into the early portion of Round 2—where the Niners (39th overall selection) might get another shot at him or the Bills (41st) or Bengals (46th) could fill a need as well.

Fantasy Impact:
It might be tempting to project Hardy’s hops into an immediate red zone role, but that would be flying in the face of voluminous evidence that rookie receivers rarely contribute at an elite fantasy level in Year One. If he lands in a pass-happy situation—Mike Martz’s Niners, perhaps, or a Bengals squad that has rid itself of Chad Johnson—there would be a compelling reason to take a shot with Hardy in a redraft league… just as long as he’s your fourth or fifth receiver and the inevitable rookie disappointment can be absorbed on your bench instead of in your lineup.

The key to Hardy’s long-term value is in how he adjusts to the physical nature of the pro game. If he learns to separate, to absorb the abuse of NFL corners and even dish out some of his own, he has the physical gifts to cobble together a Muhsin Muhammad-like career. If he’s too soft, he’ll provide your dynasty league team with nothing but frustration.

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