The above numbers and abbreviations stand for grades of Stoutness/Penetration/Pass Rush and positional grades of Weakside Tackle, Sub Defense, and Strongside End in Mike Pettine's defense. For more in-depth descriptions of these terms, look here.
- 6'3" 305 pounds
- very quick off the snap, explosive
- quick-twitch, very fast reaction time
- disruptive penetrator
- mediocre bend
- good agility
- best fit at 3-tech WT despite playing end in college
- 7/10/10 WT10/sub10/SE9 upside
Marcus Hardison played defensive end and tackle for the Arizona State Sun Devils, often at a 1-gap 5-tech position. He could play a similar position in the NFL, as some 3-4 defenses also ask their 5-techs to predominantly 1-gap. Mike Pettine and Jim O'Neil's defense is not one of them. Their 5-tech strongside end (manned mostly by Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn) has a lot of 2-gap responsibilities.
Hardison is among the very most explosive and quickest off the snap of this year's defensive tackle class. He consistently times the snap well and accelerates off the line, applying tremendous pressure on offensive linemen tasked to block him. He is a disruptive penetrator, capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield against the run and as a pass rusher.
Marcus Hardison is not more than an average knee bender. Consequently, he has only adequate Stoutness at the point of attack. As a result of both this and his impressive ability as a penetrator, he should not be asked to 2-gap often. It would simply be asking him to do something that he is only marginally suited for while forgoing the opportunity to play him to his biggest strength: firing off the ball and shooting through gaps.
Hardison has good agility to finish plays and is not easy to juke or elude. He often fires through the line with a full head of steam, but he has an above average ability to turn and correct his course at top speed. He possesses enough quickness and has adequate range but his agility, bend, and limited pass rush repertoire leave something to be desired in projections to a 4-3 defensive end position. Moreover, he is simply much more effective as an interior rusher.
At 6'3" and 305 pounds, Marcus Hardison possess the burst off the snap of a much smaller player. He currently grades 7/9/9 in Stoutness/Penetration/Pass Rush and as a 9 out of 10 at WT, SE, and in sub defense. At this point, his hand usage and ability to get back in the play after his initial efforts fail both need work. With further development in technique, he could reach an upside of 7/10/10 WT10/sub10/SE9.
For the Browns, Hardison's best fit would be at the 3-tech weakside tackle position, where he would be free to shoot his gap versus the run and rush the passer with reckless abandon. He could also carve out a large role in sub defense. Additionally, he could play the strongside end position at a high level, especially with his ability as an edge rusher, but he is much more suited to a 1-gap position.
I grade Marcus Hardison as a future starter, a potential impact player, and worthy of a high second round pick.
First off, let's look at Stoutness. Hardison grades simply adequate here with a 7. This is not a big part of his game but it doesn't have to be if he carves out a role as a 1-gap penetrator. On the rare occasions he's asked to 2-gap and attempt to anchor at the point of attack, he typically either holds his ground or gives up a yard or two.
Hardison (#1) takes on the center and an early chip by a guard in the following play. He absorbs the contact but is rather upright, which could result in him getting washed out and blown off the ball by more powerful linemen. He does not have a natural feel for 2-gapping at this point and should not be expected to do so effectively at the NFL level -- as an interior defensive lineman, at least. He may, however, be relied upon to set the edge when playing an end position.
Also take notice that even here in a rather unaggressive assignment, Hardison (left DE below) explodes out of his stance and into the fray.
Moving on to something far more important to his style of play: Penetration. Hardison has the quickness to beat his blockers right off the snap and make his presence felt behind the line of scrimmage.
On the following play, he's at right DE. We see him charge through the B-gap to bring down the running back in the backfield.
This time he's at right DE. Here he beats the center to his mark on a zone run, driving through the playside A-gap:
This time Hardison is at right DT. On this play, again a zone run, he almost catches the runner from the backside B-gap:
Below, Hardison is at left end. Here we can see an example of his potential impact in backside pursuit, using his quickness, agility, and range to catch the ballcarrier from behind from across the formation:
What about pass rush? Marcus Hardison is an effective interior rusher. Below he starts at a left DE position and is quick enough to beat the right guard through the A-gap:
Same play, different angle: We can see how much ground he had to cover and how quickly he was able to do so. It is also apparent how much lateral quickness and agility he possesses as well as flexibility in his torso for him to cut such a sharp corner to the quarterback after being shoved wide by the guard.
Hardison is at left end again. This time he comes on an outside rush. He has an effective speed rush but he is not the type of athlete that can truly bend and dip around the edge like Robert Quinn or Khalil Mack.
Here is another angle. Marcus Hardison could definitely contribute as an edge rusher if a team wanted him to, though he ranks much higher among the interior rushers of this class than the edge guys and is simply a better 3-tech prospect than 7-tech.
Hardison is at right end on this play. He tries to slip through the B-gap, being blocked first by the tackle and then the guard, and then redirects to the inside with a spin move to beat the guard. He doesn't often show much in terms of secondary moves, but the potential is there for him to hone and develop his bag of tricks to enhance his effectiveness as a rusher and penetrator.
So, Marcus Hardison is a dynamic pass rushing and penetrating 1-gap defensive tackle prospect with some versatility to play a variety of end positions, at least on a limited basis. He'll likely come off the board early on Day 2 and he would be a welcome addition to the Cleveland Browns defense.
He would likely split reps with Randy Starks at weakside tackle and have a large role as a sub defense (passing downs) pass rusher. Depending on how quickly the coaches work him into the rotation, his addition may see John Hughes, Phil Taylor, and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen all fighting for reps at nose tackle.