One preseason game, one play, 17 yards and one touchdown is all it took. Mecole Hardman has arrived.
If Tyreek Hill is the Cheetah, at the very least Hardman has to be the Springbok. At least according to my quick “worlds fastest land animals” google search. Give me some time and I’m sure I can find something more menacing. But with his 4.33 speed, no matter the nickname, dat boy fast.
The legend of Mecole has been growing ever since draft day. When you see the raw talent, you see the size, you see the speed, we all thought one thing. That’s the next Tyreek. The clips and videos from training camp have done nothing to dispel those feelings either.
Not only is Hardman fast, he also already has the trust of Patrick Mahomes. If there’s one thing cannon-armed quarterbacks love it’s speed and Mahomes can’t seem to get enough of it. Throughout training camp he’s been a big factor in Hardman’s development. Working with him in between plays and helping him get a better feel for the offense and what is needed from him. Much like Hill in his rookie year, Hardman’s route running and initial separation still need development and will rely a lot on his speed.
Or so I thought.
Granted, it’s only a 7 on 7 drill and he is being man covered, but it’s still starter Breshaud Breeland. The thing most overlooked in this video, though, is Hardman. Yes, the speed is apparent. Yes, Mahomes unleashed a 70 yard dime on the run off one foot. But watch Hardman at the snap. That move that he puts on Sorenson at the line of scrimmage to get that separation is….incredible. That is not a rookie move. In a league where speed alone is deadly, having the ability to separate at the line as explosively as that is the difference between good and great.
Not only does he have the tools to be great, Hardman has also landed in probably the best possible scenario for his skill set. The arm strength of Mahomes gives Hardman the ability to be the lethal deep threat that he is. He has Hill who can be an on field coach and help give him the advice needed to be great. And most importantly, he’s got Andy Reid. The mustachioed genius himself.
Getting the most from his players is something Reid has always done successfully, especially when it comes to speedy wide receivers. Tyreek Hill, Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Sammy Watkins. The list is pretty impressive. Hell, even legendary former Chiefs speed demon Chris Conley was able to snag five touchdowns last year.
The other aspect of Reid attributing to Hardman’s future All-Pro honors, will be his scheme.
Last year the Chiefs offense had Mahomes slangin the pigskin around more than Uncle Rico in the 80’s. This year will be no different. Although it seemed as if the Patriots figured out how to slow the offense down in last year’s AFC Championship game, that won’t be as much of a viable option this year. The downside of having to double cover someone like Hill is that it leaves someone else on the field in single coverage. That’s where Hardman will thrive. Not many corners in the league have the legitimate speed to keep up with Hardman. Although single covering him may work at times, with his speed and Mahomes’s rocket arm it’s only a matter of time before they connect on some huge plays.
Hardman showed just how much potential he had while at Georgia averaging 16.7 and 15.6 yards per catch in his 2 seasons as a receiver. Although his catches were limited (25 & 34) he was still able to turn that into 11 receiving touchdowns as well as another 2 touchdowns rushing.
So far after one game Hardman is at 2 catches for 31 yards and that explosive touchdown that put the league on notice. If Hardman can continue to soak up all the knowledge he can this preseason, watch for him to be a legitimate rookie of the year candidate. In an offense where chances will come in bunches, let’s hope he listens to Mahomes and “Just keeps running”.