Fighting Irish Forecast: Cam Hart

With the NFL Combine taking place right now, a new crop of NFL stars are putting their skills on display in Indianapolis. Eight Notre Dame players are participating in the annual event, and each hope to hear their names called during the draft in April. Through the 'Fighting Irish Forecast' series, I will preview their status as NFL hopefuls and examine where they might get selected. Joe Alt is definitely the group's headliner, but a few other Fighting Irish, including cornerback Cam Hart, are also squarely on the radar of front offices around the league, and he performed extremely well in defensive back drills yesterday.

At 6'3" and 202 pounds, Hart boasts rare size for the cornerback position. However, he also has more than enough speed to keep up with receivers stride-for-stride, and he proved that yesterday, running the 40-yard-dash in 4.5 seconds flat. That speed was evident throughout his career with Notre Dame, and he was a major reason the team's defense was one of the best in the nation for many of his 32 career starts in the Blue and Gold.

His speed wasn't the only thing on display at the Combine, as his explosiveness was evident in virtually every drill he took part in. His 10'10" broad jump and 39.5" vertical jump were both in the top ten among cornerbacks. He also finished in the top ten in the three-cone drill (7.12 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.24 seconds). It was an overall incredible performance for the 23-year-old.

Hart's impressive showing should come as no surprise. When the lights were at their brightest, he always seemed to play his best. That fact was most evident in Notre Dame's week four matchup against Ohio State, where he matched up with one of college football's best collegiate receivers in Marvin Harrison Jr. Despite the tough matchup, Hart completely shut down the future top-5 selection, holding him to only three catches for 32 yards in the contest. He also held fellow NFL hopeful Brenden Rice to only two catches for 18 yards in their 48-20 win over USC.

Many corners only play well in either man or zone, but Hart has shown the ability to thrive in either coverage. He had a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 84.2%, which ranked 23rd amongst cover men this season. His size-speed combination allows him to track receivers in man situations, while his instincts appear to be a strength in zone. His ability to make plays against the run also stands out, as he is a willing tackler who has no fear of laying a hit on opposing runners.

While he has a lot of redeeming qualities, there is a reason Hart will probably have to wait until the second draft's second day to hear his name called. For starters, despite being a converted receiver, he only nabbed two career interceptions and did not display much playmaking ability at the collegiate level. He also struggles with his technique at times, especially when trailing a receiver, as he struggles to get his head turned around in coverage, which can often result in him giving up big plays. Nevertheless, no prospect is a finished product right now, and he can effectively eliminate those weaknesses with quality coaching in the pros. 

Hart has shown the ability to play in any scheme, but he would probably be a better fit for a team that runs a lot of press-man, as that would allow him to get his hands on receivers and use his unique size to his advantage. He has one of the highest ceilings of any cover man who will get selected on day two of the draft and has more than enough talent to drastically exceed expectations if he lands in the right situation.

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