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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
10 possible Pats: Montario Hardesty

By Mike Reiss

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.

Montario Hardesty
Montario Hardesty had 1,345 yards rushing and 302 yards receiving at Tennessee last season.
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.