For the first time since entering the league, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman has a clear path to a starting role. Originally drafted during the height of the Tyreek Hill controversy, the second-round pick has largely been a gadget player behind Hill and Sammy Watkins. However, with Watkins in Baltimore and no replacement to be found, Hardman has a chance to win a starting job with a strong offseason. He appears to be well on his way to reaching that goal, as head coach Andy Reid and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu both said that Hardman is having an impressive minicamp.
Kansas City Chiefs Minicamp Notes: Mecole Hardman Impressing Early
Throughout the course of camp, Hardman has usually lined up against Mathieu. The three-time All-Pro reports that this isn’t a coincidence, saying that “each and every practice, [Hardman] is trying to find me – and I don’t know if that’s a compliment or disrespect.”
The safety also added that Hardman appears hungrier than ever and appears to have his head in a better place. Mistakes are inevitable in the game of football, and Mathieu said that Hardman is more willing to move on to the next play rather than hang his head and focus on the negative.
Hardman has also made a good impression on his coaches during the past few days of work. Speaking to reporters, head coach Andy Reid said that “years help improvement at [the wide receiver] position” and that “a whole lot goes into the learning process there.” Reid went on to add that he likes the receivers the team currently has, implying that the decision to not bring in outside help stemmed from a confidence in the previously-rostered players.
Hardman might have first dips at the starting position, but he still has a ways to go before earning a three-down snap share. During that same interview, Reid said that the wide receiver room “might be by committee” and that the Chiefs have “a good nucleus of wide receivers”.
What This Means For Hardman
Throughout his first two years in the league, Mecole Hardman has been one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands. His 16.4 yards per reception speaks for itself, and he has one of the highest passer ratings when targeted. However, getting him the ball in the first place has been something of an issue. The speedy receiver only has 67 receptions through his first two years in the league, with a good percentage of those coming of schemed targets.
If Hardman can truly take the next step and develop as a route runner, then Kansas City could have the most dangerous wide receiver duo in the league. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are simply uncoverable, and Hardman’s speed makes him a scoring threat every time he touches the ball. If he has finally learned the nuances of the position, then he could be one of the most effective third options in football.
Mecole Hardman averaged 47.8 yards per catch on his 6 TDs as a rookie
Highest of all NFL players with 4+ TDspic.twitter.com/iZSt6zkhqw
— PFF (@PFF) May 14, 2020
However, expecting him to be an every-down starter in Year 3 is a little unrealistic. Reid’s comments about having a committee approach to the receiver position suggest that Hardman will split time with Byron Pringle and the rest of the room. However, he’ll probably be the first guy in said rotation, which means we should expect career-highs in yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Assuming he stays healthy, look for Hardman to finish the season with roughly 60 receptions for 775 yards and seven touchdowns.
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