Who Is The Best WR Prospect In The AAC?
The newly minted American Athletic Conference was founded out of desperation. Comprised of remnants of the Big East and Conference USA, with a few other nomadic schools added in who were looking for a way to get into the BCS dance party. The AAC was viewed as a second class conference in its first year, despite having an automatic BCS bid. Everything changed when UCF upset Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, legitimizing the conference as more than capable of matching up with the traditional powers. Though lacking in individual school name recognition, it is heavy on talent. Last year the 3rd pick overall, Blake Bortles (Jaguars) helped lead Golden Knights in its upset over Baylor. Former AAC member Louisville, had QB Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings) taken in the 1st round as well in 2014. This season the conference again has a number of top flight prospects that NFL scouts will comb through. Two of the best in the league are WR’s, Justin Hardy of East Carolina, and Houston’s Deontay Greenberry, two players who could find themselves on the main stage during the first two nights of the draft.
Justin Hardy WR, East Carolina
Hardy has earned his opportunities for the Pirates. The former walk-on earned his scholarship and in 2011 had a breakout season with 64 catches for 658 yards and six touchdowns. In 2012, Hardy established himself amongst the nations best with 88 receptions for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hardy showed his versatility that season serving as the Pirates main punt returner averaging 8.75 yards per return. In 2013 his numbers exploded, snaring 114 catches for 1,284 yards, along with eight touchdowns. He also averaged 11.2 yards per punt return on the season. He has reported 4.43 speed which will help overcome his listed height of 6'0''. He has soft hands and shows great athleticism and elusiveness in space. Hardy fits the mold of an ideal slot WR in the NFL.
Deontay Greenberry WR, Houston
Greenberry was the opposite of Hardy. A 5 Star Phenom out of California who at the 11th hour de-committed from Notre Dame and chose to play for the Houston Cougars. The decision has proven fruitful for both Greenberry and the Cougars. As a true freshman, Greenberry had 47 catches for 569 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2013 he broke out and led the Cougars with 82 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Greenberry established himself as a clutch performer and consistently lit up opposing defenses. Listed at 6’3’’ and 198 pounds, Greenberry has the prerequisite measurements NFL scouts find enticing. Greenberry is one of the top five returning WR’s in the country statistically, and how he improves during the 2014 season will go a long way in determining whether he declares for the draft. Greenberry shows good hands and the speed to challenge deep coverage. Greenberry has the ability to beat defenders for balls in flight and adjust on poor throws. His NFL caliber tools still need to be refined in regards to his route running and downfield blocking, but he is only entering his third year and he has a huge ceiling from which he can develop.
Who’s the Best in the AAC?
Greenberry has the skill set to become an elite WR in the NFL. Hardy has the gaudy stats to help his case, but his numbers will be scrutinized due to the nature of the Air Raid offense that the Pirates employ. Greenberry has a higher ceiling for the future, but still needs to show he can be consistent with another big year. Hardy has proven his doubters wrong at every corner, showing he is a consistent big time performer up to this point. Hardy is not a player I would look past and given the opportunity will make one NFL team very happy (look what happened when teams passed on Wes Welker who played in the same offense). The edge in being the best WR in the AAC goes to Greenberry. Not only does he have the tools, but has thus far lived up to the hype coming out of high school. If Greenberry does declare, it may be a sign that a few NFL teams think he is a first round talent that merits early entry into the 2015 draft.