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NFL Draft

Is Mecole Hardman Poised For Breakout Season?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 26, 2021
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For the Kansas City Chiefs, they’ve now reached a point in their franchise’s status—similar to the New England Patriots of old—where their consistent presence as one of the league’s elite units doesn’t accompany an afterthought. Although New England has slipped back into mediocrity, for now, the Chiefs’ stance as football’s most feared group is anchored in place. While talk of the Chiefs and how they can ultimately improve is a tiring narrative as Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have become household names, to remain as top dog, the Andy Reid-led unit has massive shoes to fill on the outside following the departure of Sammy Watkins.

Meet Mecole Hardman. Mostly known for his ability to blow by defenders with his world-class speed and change of direction ability, the Chiefs’ second-round selection just two years ago will now be tasked with filling the departure of Watkins as the de facto WR2 within Kansas City’s powerful offensive engine. A glimpse of Hardman’s savvy has come most recently during Chiefs’ offseason workouts, as the 2019 Pro Bowler hasn’t been one to mince words about skeptics who believe Watkins’ role may be too large of a shoe for Hardman to fit.

“Man, Coach EB (Eric Bieniemy) knows what he’s got in me,” he said. “I think it’s—people are just blinded by our offense and what we can bring to the table. It’s hard to come into our offense with the best tight end, the best receiver in the game, and people expect you to do so many big things.”

A multi-versatile talent during his time at the University of Georgia, the coupling of Hardman’s resourceful skill set and Bieniemy’s ability to brainstorm unique concepts to get his burners in space has aided Kansas City’s ability to achieve back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.

“I’m just doing my role, you know what I’m saying? But I think, with Sammy (Watkins) gone and that receiver spot opening up some more, I’ve got all the tools and ability to do what I need to do.”

On the heels of an outstanding rookie season, Hardman built upon his first-year totals, accruing an increased amount of receptions, receiving yards, and total touches, while progressing into one of the league’s top return specialists in 2020. And while his snap count on special teams could falter with his larger role within the Chiefs’ base concepts on offense, that unique versatility opens Pandora’s Box when eying his potential breakout entering his third campaign.

The Chiefs are a simple offense. No, really. They attack you via distinct formations at times, sure, but what they do foundationally doesn’t rewrite the rule book. They run a majority of their concepts out of base 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), but where they have found their leg up is the intricate process that has been the acquisition and schematic customization of each individual skill set.

For Hardman, the proof is in the pudding.

Although many pass-catchers are asked to run across the field on shallow concepts in front of the face of linebackers or work toward the hashes from the boundary, rarely will you see Bieniemy scheming the 187-pound Hardman to find his target share in the middle of the football field on short down and distance. Rather, Hardman will align all over the formation, similar to Hill, where he will be used in the backfield, in the slot, out-wide, and on designated touches where the main objective is placing the rock in Hardman’s hands, allowing him to do the hard work.

The onus on Hardman’s continued progression to keep a high-flying Chiefs offense above the competition is paramount. With potential targets coming in abundance working with Mahomes, Hardman seems primed to serve as one of the league’s biggest breakout stars come playoff time in Kansas City. 

“I’m definitely going to go in there and be a dog like I am—and when my number is called, I’ll take advantage.”

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