Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the 34th best player in wide receiver Justin Hardy.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 42.5/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 48/100
Teams he is starter: 1 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 24 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3
During Hardy’s days at East Carolina, he spent the bulk of his time working a lot of the shorter, underneath routes out of the slot. But he would on occasion go down the field, where his superior ball skills and hands made him effective despite lacking ideal size and vertical speed.
Hardy is not a receiver that is going to be described as “dynamic” in the way that he’ll be a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He’ll probably never be the caliber of playmaker that causes teams to devote extra coverage to him. But he is the type of receiver that should he see single matchups, he’ll be capable of exploiting them. He’ll likely be asked to play a similar role that he played at ECU, by spending the majority of his snaps in the slot where his size and lack of deep speed won’t hinder him as much.
Given the probability that Julio Jones will be lining up opposite him for many years to come in Atlanta, it’s very likely that he’ll see plenty of those one-on-one opportunities given Jones’ ability to draw defenses’ attention.
Most expect Hardy to become a security blanket for Matt Ryan in the years to come, a player capable of moving the chains in the short-to-intermediate game much like Roddy White has done in recent years. The only real question surrounding Hardy is how quickly he can become that player. It’s possible that by the end of 2015, he’ll already be a regularly featured part of the Falcons offense. Or it might take a year or two for him to get up to speed.
The positive for both Hardy and the Falcons is that they have other veterans in Leonard Hankerson and Devin Hester that can pick up the slack in case Hardy’s learning curve is steeper than expected. But they should have a good complementary player for many years to come with the young receiver and it’s very likely he’ll continue to climb these rankings in the future.