The Atlanta Falcons selected East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy in the fourth round (107th overall), Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth round (137th overall), and Eastern Washington tackle Jake Rodgers (225th overall) and San Jose State cornerback Akeem King (249th overall) in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Atlanta traded the 146th and 184th overall selections to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the 137th pick, which the club used to acquire Jarrett.
Hardy, 6-0, 188 pounds, played in 63 games for the Pirates and set school records with 387 receptions, 4,541 yards, and 35 touchdowns during his career. He caught more passes than any player in Football Bowl Subdivision history, passing former Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles record of 349. Hardy is the only player in school history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and 16th player in FBS history to tally 4,000-plus career receiving yards.
The Vanceboro, N.C., native capped his career by winning the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the nation's most outstanding player who began his career as a walk on. Hardy set single-season school records, ranking second in the nation in receptions (121) and fourth in receiving yards (1,494) last season. He became the 11thplayer in ECU annals to earn Associated Press All-America honors (third team) and was a three time all-conference selection. He also served as a team captain during his senior season.
In 2013, Hardy started all 13 games and set single-season school records for receptions (114) and receiving yards (1,284), which he would later break, while also pulling down eight touchdowns. He was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy. Hardy ranked fourth nationally in receptions per game (8.8), 15th in receiving yards, 17th in receiving yards per game (98.8), and 23rd in punt return average (11.2).
Hardy was a first-team All-Conference USA selection as a receiver and second-team choice as punt returner during his sophomore season in 2012. He became the fourth receiver in school history to reach 1,000 receiving yards (1,105) in a single-season while also recording 88 catches and 11 touchdowns. A freshman all-conference choice and ECU's offensive MVP in 2011, Hardy saw action in 10 games including eight starts in his first year on campus. He set East Carolina freshman records with 64 receptions and 658 yards and Larry Shannon's (1994) Pirates' freshman record with six touchdowns.
Hardy attended West Craven High School where he earned all-area, all-conference and offensive player of the year honors after compiling 2,500 passing yards and 35 touchdowns as well as 1,500 rushing yards and 10 scores. He earned a bachelor's degree in sport studies in May, 2014 and is pursuing a second undergraduate degree in industrial technology.
Jarrett, 6-0, 305 pounds, was heralded as one of the Tigers' best leaders and named a permanent co-captain in 2014. He finished his career starting 37 of 48 games with 207 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 37 quarterback pressures, one pass defensed, two forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. Jarrett was named a third team All-American by Athlon and a first team All-ACC selection by the conference's media and coaches as well as Athlon, College Sports Madness, ESPN, and Phil Steele.
The Conyers, Georgia native started all 13 games as a senior in 2014, tallying 73 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 12 quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He earned honorable mention All-ACC honors from the media and coaches as a junior in 2013 after posting 83 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, 14 quarterback pressures, and two fumbles recoveries. Jarret was selected as an honorable mention sophomore All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com, an honorable mention All-ACC pick, and the co-defensive player of the year by the Tigers coaching staff in 2012. He totaled 49 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 10 quarterback pressures, one pass defensed, and one fumble recovery.
The Falcons made seven selections during the 2015 NFL Draft. Here is a look back at the college careers of the Falcons 2015 Rookie Club.
Jarrett attended Rockdale County High School where he was a two-time all-state selection and the school's athlete of the year as a senior. He had 101 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a senior. Jarrett graduated from Clemson with a degree in Management in December of 2014.
Rodgers, 6-6, 320 pounds, started 14 games at right tackle for Eastern Washington in 2014, earning Football Championship Subdivision first team All-America honors for his performance. He played in 10 games in his first season at EWU in 2013 after transferring in from Washington State. Rodgers earned a varsity letter after starting all 12 games on the offensive line for the Cougars in 2012. He saw action at both guard and tackle during his time at Washington State. Rodgers played tight end, defensive line, and served as the placekicker at Shadle Park High School where he also played basketball and baseball.
King, 6-1, 212 pounds, played in 33 games, including 12 career starts as a senior. He was named to the 2013 Academic All-Mountain and 2012 Academic All-WAC teams as well as being a three-time San José State University Scholar-Athlete. In 2014, King was one of three Spartan defensive players to start in every game. He enjoyed his most productive season with 71 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two passes defensed. King saw action in 11 games as a defensive back and on special teams in 2013.
He appeared in eight games as a sophomore in 2012 and two games as a redshirt freshman in 2011. As a senior at Nipomo High School, he averaged 29 yards per catch and scored four times, while being credited with 30 tackles, and two interceptions. King also was a sprinter and jumper for the track and field team and set a school record clocking a 10.74 in the 100-meter dash. He graduated from San Jose State with a degree in business marketing in May 2014 and is pursuing his MBA.