East Carolina's Justin Hardy will go down as one of the most decorated receivers in college football history. Against Tulane in his senior season, Hardy broke Ryan Broyles' record for career receptions (349). The main target in East Carolina's pass happy attack, Hardy thrived in each of his four seasons. The senior finished with 1,494 yards receiving to go along with 10 TD receptions for the Pirates in 2014.
Finishing under 87 yards receiving just twice last season, the consistent wideout solidified one of the best QB-WR combos with Shane Carden. The stats were robust for Hardy, but scouts were eager to see how the 5'11" wideout would fare against superior talent in drills and competition.
Hardy stood out at Senior Bowl workouts.
"He checked in a little shorter than expected at 5-foot-10 1/2, 190 pounds during Tuesday's weigh in, but played bigger than his size during one-on-one drills and the team periods to turn a few heads. Just about every NFL Media analyst brought up Hardy as a player that had a good day," according to Bryan Fischer of nfl.com.
Maintaining his momentum in the offseason, Hardy posted a 4.56 40-yard dash time at the Combine and was the top performer for offensive players in the Three Cone Drill. As a prospect, Hardy's offseason has vaulted his draft stock from middle-of-the-pack to early round consideration.
Hardy does indeed play bigger than his 5'10" frame. His catch radius allows for acrobatic plays and confidence from signal callers to throw his way. Hardy experienced multiple looks at ECU including gadget plays, fade routes, and out routes. He creates separation with emphatic cuts and rarely gets knocked off his desired route. Hardy also is an unusual red zone target for his size, but routinely makes plays in goal line looks. His consistency is a plus for teams looking for a safe WR to target in the draft.
While Hardy rarely was phased by man coverage in college, he will have to bulk up in order to handle bigger corners at the next level. He struggled mightily in brutal conditions in Philadelphia against Temple last season. Can he handle tougher conditions than North Carolina in a 16 game campaign? Though Hardy's floor is relatively higher than most non-Power Five wideouts, he lacks enticing upside without top-end speed or height.
Hardy comes into the 2015 NFL Draft as a heralded college wideout. Though college statistics don't always translate into next level success, the ECU product should instantly aid a team seeking WR help. Currently projected to be a day two selection in the draft, teams like St. Louis, Kansas City, or Baltimore could be a destination for Hardy. He won't replicate rookie phenom Odell Beckham Jr., but Hardy has the potential to contribute right away at the next level.