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Why is Atlanta Falcons WR Justin Hardy getting lost in the fray?

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Fact: Justin Hardy owns a pet squirrel named “Francois”

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy has an uncanny knack for flying under the radar. On the one hand, if you’re still on an NFL roster and still getting game checks, then maybe just count your blessings. On the other hand, if you’re being repeatedly overlooked as a viable WR3 candidate 12 months before you hit free agency, then maybe you’ve got something worry about.

Over three years as a pro, Hardy has 62 receptions, 618 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. Compare that to his final two years at East Carolina: 235 receptions, 2,778 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns. He caught 68 percent of passes thrown his way in 2016 and 69 percent of passes thrown his way in 2017. Then strangely, over two playoff games, he disappeared. (Two targets, a single three yard reception.) Pro Football Focus gave him a 2017 grade of 50.5. (That ranked 85th among NFL WRs. It also means he had a “poor” season, according to their metrics.)

As Hardy enters the final season of his rookie contract, I’m sure he’s looking for a bigger role and more opportunities. We know he’s in the running for the kick and punt returner jobs. But why isn’t he getting more consideration as the Falcons next slot receiver? What gives? Where’s the love for Hardy?

Your thoughts, Falcoholics?