by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of StateCollege.com.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Penn State, Cornerback, Daequan Hardy
Name - Daequan Hardy
Pos - CB
Team - Penn State
HT/WT - 5’9” 178 lbs.
Home – Pittsburgh, PA
Daequan Hardy was a three-time letterman at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, PA. During the 2018 PIAA Class 5A Championship game, he scored 4 touchdowns, including a 100-yard interception return and a 84-yard kickoff return, leading the Indians to their first state title since 1995. Hardy won several awards for this exceptional high school career, including Mr. PA Football Big School, named to the All-USA Pennsylvania Football Team, and collected Big 33 Honors as a senior. As a senior, he scored 22 touchdowns 5 different ways (receiving, rushing, interception return, kickoff return and punt return), this included 10 scoring plays of over 60 yards. 247Sports rated Hardy as a 3-star prospect and the #16 overall recruit in Pennsylvania. Hardy committed to Penn State over several other offers, including Cincinnati, Michigan and Michigan State.
In 2019, Hardy took a redshirt after only playing in 2 games. He was named the Penn State Developmental Squad’s Defensive Player of the Year, so it was not a total loss for Hardy and it opened the eyes of the coaches for the 2020 season. He saw his playing time improve in 2020, playing in 9 games for the Nittany Lions, collecting 10 tackles, 3 pass breakups and 1 sack in his limited time, playing mostly late in games.
In 2021, Hardy began seeing the field regularly and was Penn State’s nickelback throughout the season. He played in 13 games, including 1 start and made 16 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups. 1 of his 2 interceptions were returned for a touchdown. The 2022 season saw pretty much the same from Hardy. He appeared in all 13 games as the starting nickel corner and tallied 13 tackles, a half sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception and 4 pass breakups.
This season, Penn State finally used Hardy in the return game and it paid off. He averaged 14.6 yards per return and took 2 of his 17 returns to the house. Beside punt returning, Hardy had his best season on defense. He played in 10 games and collected 15 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups.
Hardy is a playmaking nickel corner who has the athleticism and speed to mirror wide receivers well. He does an excellent job of anticipating routes and has the closing speed to defend the passes. Once the ball is in the air, Hardy turns into a wide receiver and high points passes. He has no problem getting his head turned around at the precise moment he needs to. HIs hands are reliable and he has the ability to take interceptions to the house. His return ability is something special, though Penn State just tapped into it this season.
On the downside, Hardy is undersized, projecting as a nickel corner in the NFL. He is very slender and lacks the strength he will need to compete with the larger receivers at the next level. He can be overmatched on 50/50 balls and although he has the speed to keep up, he just doesn’t have the body strength to compete for the ball. Penn State kept him off the field on early downs as he’s not a reliable run stopper. He is a willing competitor but just too undersized, a fact that will be exploited in the pros. He loves making big plays but consequently takes risks and can get beaten time to time on double moves.
Draft 412 was reminded of Myles Bryant, an undrafted free agent who signed with New England in 2020. Both are undersized, but Bryant has proven to be a fit as a nickel corner in the NFL. Draft 412 thinks Hardy’s big play ability and return skills will get him drafted.
Big play ability
Daequan Hardy has the tools to be an effective nickelback in the NFL. His return ability is special and will add to his draft stock and potentially save a team a roster spot. He makes big plays from time to time and should make a 53-man roster in the NFL.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 6th or 7th round