After being active for just nine games as rookie in 2015, Justin Hardy should see his role expand in 2016. The former fourth-round selection out of East Carolina caught just 21 passes for 194 yards, but the Falcons released Leonard Hankerson during the season last year and parted with long-time receiver Roddy White this past offseason, so Hardy will see a bump in targets. Even though Mohamed Sanu was signed to a large contract to play opposite Julio Jones in Kyle Shanahan's offense, the slot position is Hardy's to lose. He should thrive in the short-to-intermediate game due to his excellent route-running ability, as well as his knack to isolate the ball in flight and separate it from everything (and everyone) else around him. Back in April, Matt Ryan said Hardy stood out at his players-only passing camp in Miami, so there's some buzz being created for the second-year receiver.
Atlanta's passing game will once again center on Jones, and the team didn't invest $32.5 million for Sanu to be an afterthought in the offense. Devonta Freeman isn't going to catch 73 passes like he did a year ago, but the backs will be involved in the passing game again this season. With Jones, Sanu, Freeman and Jacob Tamme all fighting for targets, how is Hardy going to put up enough numbers to be a viable fantasy option? Even if one of the starters is injured, Hardy needs to stay in the slot to be most productive. He's just not going to see enough targets to hold any fantasy value.
2016 Bottom Line
Hardy's final stat line in 2016 will likely resemble White's production in 2015: 43 catches for 506 yards with 1 touchdown on 70 targets. White finished as fantasy's WR82, which tells you all you need to know about Hardy's potential in 2016. Avoid him on draft night.