Brandon Hardin is an interesting prospect with a high upside. Hardin was a marginal prospect after he sat out the entire 2011 season following shoulder surgery. However, he found a spot in the East-West Shrine Game in January and that got the ball rolling on his draft status.
What also makes Hardin an interesting case is that although he was a cornerback at Oregon State, he is being projected as a safety in the NFL. Hardin has a sprinter's background, as shown by his 4.36 40 time at his pro day. At corner, Hardin's numbers might not stand out among his peers, but when compared to other safeties, Hardin is a pure burner.
Hardin also quelled the notion that his shoulder was not yet at full strength when he put up 225 pounds in the bench press 24 times. Before his surgery, he was only able to do it 21 times.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Hardin rated as the No. 9 free safety in the draft and 221st overall.
CBSSports.com pointed out his value on special teams as well:
Excellent special teams defender. Tied for the team-lead with 12 special teams tackles in 2010 and led the Beavers with 11 in 2009. Also blocked an extra point in 2010 against rival Oregon.
However, CBS Sports also wonders if his sprinter's speed translates into game speed:
Doesn't play up to his timed speed. Possesses good change-of-direction skills for a player of his size, but only above-average mobility overall. Vulnerable to quicker receivers and is a step slow to close. Too often allows the catch to occur before making the tackle. Largely unknown ball skills. Has just one career interception and seven passes broken up.
According to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com, Hardin visited as many as 15 teams in the pre-draft process. Many were concerned about the condition of his shoulder, but it appears that everything checked out well.
Rob Rang of the Sports Xchange reported on Hardin's essential numbers at the combine.
Weighing in at 219 pounds Friday, Hardin was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to a source on the scene. Hardin also registered a 35.5" vertical jump and a 10'4" broad jump. He also lifted the bar 24 during the bench press drill.
EXPECTED IMPACT AS A ROOKIE
Hardin isn't likely to see a significant amount of time in the 2012-13 season, especially if he is shifted to safety. Aside from the fact that he would be learning a new position, Hardin has proven to be injury prone, so he would have to prove his durability before landing in the starting lineup.
Hardin's best chance to see extensive playing time as a rookie is on special teams. He had experience at Oregon State playing on multiple special teams units and can plug in anywhere. He has the skill set that special teams coaches drool over and can really find a niche there.
The Bears have myriad needs, but apparently couldn't pass up an option to upgrade their secondary. While you can argue there's other holes that should have been filled first, it's never a bad move to upgrade that facet of the team considering Chicago will be facing off against Aaron Rodgers for quite a few more years.