NFP Prospect Focus: Chris Conley and Justin Hardy

Chris Conley – WR – Georgia One of the surprising workouts of the Combine in the wide receiver group was Chris Conley from Georgia. When you look at the numbers he posted, he had an outstanding workout. Conley measured 6’2 – 213 with 33 ¾” arms and 9 7/8” hands. That length allows him to play even taller than he measured. Conley also showed excellent speed running his first 40 in 4.41 and his second in 4.35. On top of being fast, he is very explosive with a 45” vertical jump and a 11’7” standing long jump. His 3-cone was also very good, timing 7.06. The only time that was disappointing was the 20 yard shuttle which was 4.30. Add to that, 18 reps in the bench and you have a tall, fast, explosive, and strong prospect! The problem I have with evaluating Conley is that you don’t see those numbers on tape. Granted, he plays in a run oriented offense, and Georgia did not have a top quarterback this year. Still, I felt he played more like a 4.50 type. Conley does not have the production that other receivers have, but that was due more to the Georgia offense this year. In 2014, he caught only 36 passes for 657 yards and a 18.3 yard average. He scored 8 touchdowns. In 2013, his numbers were 45 receptions for 651 yards and four touchdowns. I thought his route running was good, not great. He does a good job finding seams versus zone, but I was a little disappointed in his ability to get off a jam consistently. Once free of a jam, he can break down going into a cut, but I don’t see top explosion coming out of the cuts (slow 20 yard shuttle). Conley has very good hands and always catches the ball away from his body. He tracks the ball well and can adjust to the poorly thrown ball. After the catch, he is a good runner. Overall, Conley’s traits are outstanding, and because of that, he will get drafted high. He is still very much a developmental player in that he needs to become a better route runner and also has to improve his release. After a period of learning, I see him as a player who will be a much better pro than he was a college player. It just won’t happen right away. Justin Hardy – WR – East Carolina You seldom find receivers with more production that Justin Hardy. Over the last two seasons, he has caught 235 passes for almost 2700 yards and 18 touchdowns. Add to his production the fact that he had a good week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. With that production, you would think that he would be a premium round draft choice, but in this case, I don’t think that will happen. Hardy lacks the physical traits to go along with the top production. With wide receiver being a stop watch driven position, Hardy will probably be a mid-round pick. At the Combine, Hardy measured 5’10 – 192 which in today’s game is average size. He does have long arms (32”) which allows him to play a bit taller. What he lacks is speed. He ran 4.56 and 4.2 in his two 40’s. He had a good vertical jump (36”) but his long jump was average (9’6”). The best thing he did was the 3-cone, and that time was outstanding (6.63). As a receiver, the best thing Hardy does is catch the ball. He has outstanding hands and consistently makes the difficult catch. He is tough and courageous and has no problem competing for the ball in traffic. As a route runner, he is better versus zone than man. He is a smart instinctive player who finds the open seams. When playing versus man, he can get off the line and runs good routes. He can break down and get in and out of cuts but his burst out of a cut is average. He doesn’t consistently get separation. He also plays in a fairly simple pass offense. The route tree he runs is elementary compared to an NFL route tree. After the catch, he is a strong runner who gets what is there and then some. I see Hardy as a slot receiver in the NFL. He lacks the size and top end speed to play outside. With his instincts and hands he can be very effective in the slot. While he may not start right away as a slot, by his second year I see him as a good third receiver. He may not get drafted until the third or fourth round, but I believe he will outplay his draft position. Some team will be very happy with this selection. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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