After being the No. 1 offense in the NFL last season, the Kansas City Chiefs have added another impressive piece to their offense with rookie wideout Mecole Hardman, who continues to step up during training camp.
After trading away their first round pick for defensive end Frank Clark ahead of the NFL Draft, Hardman was Kansas City’s first pick when he was drafted 56th overall in the second round. With the departure of wide receiver Chris Conley, who started 13 games last season, the Chiefs are looking for his replacement and head coach Andy Reid likes what he sees in the rookie.
“I think you see consistency,” Reid said. “Just play, speed, consistency. He’s working his tail off. He’s actually had a couple of nice days here.”
After an impressive NFL Draft Combine where he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, the Chiefs are looking to have another fast vertical threat on offense. With Tyreek Hill serving as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league, and being one of the fastest players in the NFL, they hope Hardman can be a huge advantage for Kansas City’s offense.
“It definitely helps seeing a guy who has a similar skill set with speed and that compact body and able to go out there and make tough catches,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes II said. “I mean when you see a guy that’s at the top level of that and see how you have to work to get there, it’s definitely something that has impacted him in a positive way.”
While Hardman has been learning from Hill, he has also been taking advantage of having more reps in practice recently ever since Hill went down with a quad injury last Tuesday, as Hill sat out against Sunday for rest. Hardman is not only getting extra reps as a wideout, but also as a punt returner.
While Hill hasn’t returned any kickoffs since 2016, and his number of punt returns has gone down each season as well, the Chiefs could have a new man back deep this season.
“It’s too early to say, but he’s a work-in-progress,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “We have four preseason games that we have to see him in. We don’t know how he is going to react when the live bullets are coming down there. He’s got to build confidence in himself and we have to build confidence in him.”
Hardman is not only taking advantage of practice and making good plays, but he is also adjusting to the faster NFL pace and learning the new offense.
“So as he picks up the offense, where he needs to go each route and he’s able to recognize coverage based off stuff we’re doing pre-snap or post-snap,” Mahomes said. “He’s not making the same mistake twice so those are good because when you get guys like that who can play at a high speed and learn from their mistakes, those guys end up being good players.”
After three seasons at the University of Georgia, Hardman is coming off of an impressive junior season where he had 35 receptions, 543 yards and seven touchdowns. Hardman is looking to bring another dynamic playmaker to a top-tier NFL offense this coming season.