NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
I have moved away from the corner back position (for now) and refocused my attention to the defensive lineman in this year’s draft class. Hardison’s name has come up quite a bit in conversations with other draftniks as someone who might fit the profile of a Patriots-type player, so I decided to give him a look to see if I agreed or disagreed with their assessment. Read on to find out.
Name: Marcus Hardison
School: Arizona State (Sr.)
Weight: 311 Lbs
If you had never watched Hardison play and just looked at his measurables, you would assume he was a DT. You would be right and wrong though because Hardison plays everywhere. In the games I watched, he lined up in a 4-3 at both DT spots as well as both DE spots. In the 3-3 and 3-4 defense that ASU likes to play, he also lined up at DT, DE, and even OLB on a few plays. He is that versatile because of his explosive first step and speed. Coming off the line of scrimmage he looks like a pass rusher who is 40 pounds lighter but he is no slouch as a run defender either. He shows a good anchor, active hands, and good strength to disengage from his opponent and make the tackle. Hardison is an aggressive player with a unique combination of size, burst, and agility. He also has a good motor and seems to be effective throughout the game.
The majority of Hardison’s production came from the DE spot while at ASU. In the NFL, I think he will be kicked inside in a 4-3 or play the 5 tech in a 3-4. He relied heavily on his speed to win in college and must refine his technique in order to be effective at the next level. Hardison was handled if the offensive lineman was able to stop his initial surge so he needs to refine his pass rush counter moves. He also needs to work on his hands because they’re not as active as I would like to see especially if he is going to move inside. Hardison’s main responsibility was also to rush the passer so he will need to work on playing the run. He also tends to be over aggressive when it comes to anticipating the snap, which has led to a lot of off sides penalties.
It is pretty rare to see a guy run the arc as well as Hardison does at 311 pounds. He has a great burst at the snap and an explosive first step that rivals some of the pass rushers in this year’s draft. I think he could really excel as a 5 tech in a 3-4. He has to improve his technique and hand use though because he will not be able to rely on his speed all the time in the NFL. I really want to see him add some additional pass rush moves, especially to the inside so he can take advantage of his speed and agility. Hardison was not run at a ton, so the tape on him anchoring and setting the edge is somewhat limited. From what I saw though the raw skills are definitely there and just need to be developed.
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