The Cincinnati Bengals addressed an additional need on Saturday, selecting Arizona State defensive lineman Marcus Hardison with the No. 135 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft. This is Cincinnati's second selection in the fourth round, thanks to the compensatory pick received from Anthony Collins' departure last year.
- Who is Marcus Hardison and how will he impact Cincinnati's depth chart on the defensive line?
- Cincinnati hosted Hardison on April 20.
- Hardison is versatile enough to play several positions on the defensive line, but Marvin Lewis projects him as a defensive tackle in Cincinnati's system.
- If Hardison's final season in college translates into the NFL, his production would combine with Geno Atkins, who is Cincinnati's best interior rushers.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters on Saturday that, while he likes Hardison's versatility, he'll primarily play defensive tackle in Cincinnati's system. Cincinnati's defensive tackle position is one of the weaker classes in terms of depth. After projected starters Domata Peko and Geno Atkins, the Bengals depth includes Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, Pat Sims and Kwame Geathers. Sims was a low-dollar free agent, Geathers is more of a camp body (until proven otherwise) and Still faces a very difficult road if he wants to remain on the roster.
Hardison spent two seasons at Arizona State after transferring from Dodge City Community College, breaking out in 2014 with 10 quarterback sacks, 15 tackles for loss, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and 53 total tackles. His predraft numbers helped his draftability. At his Pro Day, Hardison clocked in 4.8s in the 40-yard dash, and ran the short shuttle at 4.65 seconds and a three-cone drill in 7.29 seconds.
ESPN draft expert Todd McShay was impressed with Hardison during the Senior Bowl. "He really impressed us with his explosiveness and power," writes McShay. "We hadn't seen much of that previously with him on tape, but we'll have to go back and study more of him. He has some improvements to make, including his ability to finish plays, but his combination of size and quickness is very intriguing, and he was a productive player for the Sun Devils."
"Arizona State's Marcus Hardison helped his cause Tuesday by measuring in bigger than expected at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds (and 33.5-inch arms) and Wednesday he proved the North's best interior pass rusher, blowing past would-be blockers with a quick burst," Rob Rang wrote during the Senior Bowl. "Hardison can get ahead of himself, getting his shoulders too far past his knees and leaving himself off-balance and prone to being knocked to the turf, but scouts could see his disruptive potential as worthy of top 100 consideration."
Could there be concern that he was a one-hit wonder in college, playing for a school that "bloated defensive numbers?" Frank Cooney with NFL Draft Scout (via CBS Sports) thinks the concern is warranted. "Although Hardison explains his slow progress at ASU well enough, there should be lingering concerns that he was a one-year wonder and played in a system destined to bloat defensive statistics," writes Cooney.
Last point: If Hardison's final year in college translates (numbers-wise) into the NFL... the combination of Hardison and Geno Atkins would frighten the world 10 times over.