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10 possible Pats: Montario Hardesty

4/20/2011

In each of the 10 weekdays leading up to the NFL draft, ESPNBoston.com will identify one player who projects as a solid fit for the Patriots at various points of the draft. Read all of the profiles.

Player: Montario Hardesty

School: Tennessee

Position: Running back

Listed height/weight: 5-foot-11 3/4, 222 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: No. 6 at position (scouting report)

Draft projection: Third round

Why he’s on our list: Hardesty is one of the bigger backs in the draft who runs with a powerful style. The Patriots also hosted him on a pre-draft visit at Gillette Stadium, a likely sign that he is still under strong consideration late in the scouting process. If the team is thinking about grooming another running back, a player like Hardesty could learn from veterans Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk, all of whom are in the final year of their contracts. The Patriots don’t have a third-round draft choice at this time, which is a factor to consider.

Recommended link: Chris Low, who covers the Southeastern Conference for ESPN.com, had a Q&A with Hardesty, who talks about admiring the late Walter Payton and his injury history.

Key stat: He emerged in his final season, totaling 1,345 rushing yards and 302 receiving yards.

Workout stat: He posted a 41-inch vertical jump at the combine, the best mark at the position.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “Hardesty isn’t an elusive open-field runner who can break defenders’ ankles with any consistency and he runs a little too high, especially considering that there are some concerns about his durability. However, the 225-pound back has the balance, vision and lower body strength to develop into an excellent between-the-tackles runner in the NFL. In addition, he’s fast enough to turn the corner on occasion and he showed teams that he can contribute as a receiver out of the backfield by catching the ball well last year. He could be a steal if he can stay healthy.”

Read all of the profiles.